The Toyota Prius wasn’t the first hybrid vehicle in the United States. That honor belongs to the Honda Insight. But the Prius, which debuted a few months later, has been the most successful alternative fuel car in the United States — by a substantial margin — since its unveiling in 2000.
In the past 15 years, many manufacturers have joined the gas-electric hybrid segment, some offering several varieties of environmentally “green” vehicles. Competition is keen, but the Prius still dominates the segment with Toyota expanding its hybrid offerings a few years ago.
The family of Prii (the plural of Prius was put to public vote in 2011) now also includes Priu plug-in hybrid as well as v and c models. The third and current generation Prius is available as a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback.
Here’s a look at the Prius family of cars since 2000:
First Generation (1997-2003)
When introduced in the U.S. market in September 2000 as a compact car, the Prius was marketed between the smaller Corolla and the larger Camry and the price was $19,995.
Prius owners were eligible for up to $2,000 federal tax deduction and the car quickly succeeded despite its less-than-handsome appearance.
Second Generation (2003-2009)
Resigned and classified as a midsize hatchback, the Prius became six inches longer, had redistributed mechanical and interior space as well as significantly increased rear-seat legroom and luggage room.
The Prius also became more “green.” It used an all-electric A/C compressor for cooling, an industry first. Beginning in 2004, the battery pack of 2004 was warranted for 150,000 miles and the Prius is classified as a SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle) and is certified by California Air Resources Board as an “Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle” (AT-PZEV)
Third Generation (2009-current)
When the third generation was unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Prius had a new more aerodynamic body design and manufacturer-touted reduced drag co-efficient.
As a result, the Prius’ 50 mpg EPA estimated was the best of any liquid fuel car in the United States. Only the first-generation Honda Insight (2000–2006), equipped with a manual transmission, had better fuel economy.
The Prius Plug-in Hybrid (PHV), which debuted as a global demonstration project, became available to the U.S. public in limited supply in February 2012.
During its first year in the market, global sales of the of the Prius PHV, reached 27,181, the second best selling plug-in electric car in 2012 after the Chevrolet Volt.
The extended hatchback wagon was unveiled in North America in October 2011 as a 2012 model. It featured more than 50 percent more interior cargo space than the original Prius design. The five-seat, two-row model used a NiMH battery pack, and it proved popular.
With Japan as the dominating main mark and the U.S. as the second most popular country for sales, the Prius v surpassed 500,000 in total global sales by the end of September 2014.
Sharing the same powertrain as the Toyota Yaris, its non-hybrid sibling, the smallest Prius debuted at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Prius c has a lower list price and is smaller than the current Prius hatchback.
The efficiency and compactness of the Prius c made it particularly popular. It’s Toyota second-best selling alternative fuel car.