2002 Toyota Prius 1.5 from North America
It does what it does: Gets you around cheap and reliably
The computer sometimes has a funny glitch in cold weather. Goes away after the car warms up.
Tires are pretty expensive, and don't last more than 50,000 miles.
We inherited this car about 5 years ago. At the time, I was somewhat worried about the situation with the main battery, as well as the other various electrical systems, especially as this is the first generation of Prius.
The first generation is very different from the generations afterwards. It looks more like a ordinary economy car. It's also rather small. The interior is surprisingly spacious, despite the smaller size. Overall the interior is not exactly exciting. Perhaps a bit more utilitarian than most, but that's OK. The seats are actually quite comfortable and supportive. The speakers for the stereo system sound really good, even though they're more or less anonymous looking and plain.
Performance-wise the car is decent. It's not going to win any races at the track, but that's not why you'd buy one of these anyway. From 0-30MPH the car will probably be quicker off the line than any other ordinary car. But after that, the acceleration is pretty anemic. It doesn't have any issues on the freeway, and with the CVT transmissions, it's a nice, smooth ride as well.
Fuel economy is typically around 46-48MPG, depending on how I drive. To get really good fuel economy, as in around 50MPG, then I have to be fairly conservative. At first I did this, being easy on the gas and seldom driving over 60 MPH. But as time went on and the novelty wore off, if you drive it like a 'normal' car, expect to get something like 46MPG or so. I can drive all week on less than a tank.
Once I got used to doing the maintenance, it's not terribly different from other cars. Changing the oil, transmission fluid, engine coolant, spark plugs, belts, and air filter are all straightforward. The only regular maintenance item that is tricky is the inverter coolant. The inverter converts the battery power into high voltage for the electric motor and has to be cooled. The coolant is vacuum-sealed, and thus you cannot get air pockets in there or you could damage the inverter. So for that I take it to a shop for them to do, as they have a vacuum system.
The reliability has been the same as I've had out of other Toyotas: very good. The car now has around 150,000 miles, and so far we have yet to have a serious issue. The one and only problem it has is the computer will on occasion throw out a battery warning on cold days. This happens about once a year, and the light goes off within a minute. The fact that this was the first version of the Prius and it is now going on 11 years old is promising. The battery is still working fine, despite the age and miles. I assume that in that time battery technology has only gotten better and thus more durable. I'd have no qualms about buying another Prius with regard to the battery longevity.
My single biggest gripe is that this generation of Prius came with a odd size of wheel. As such, only one manufacturer makes the tires, and the tires themselves aren't very good. They wear out prematurely. If we're lucky we can squeeze out 55,000 miles on a set. They aren't cheap either. About $100 each. A minor gripe is that the plastic headlight lenses started fading and hazing about 2 years ago. I have to buff them out with a polishing compound made for these lenses about every 4 months. The lenses face upward, taking the full brunt of the sun. On the other hand, it seems like most cars this age have the same issue.
All in all, it's been a very good, no-nonsense, get you there type of car.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 8th November, 2012
Still going strong. Honestly, I secretly wish the car would wear out or something, because it is a fairly boring car to drive. But it just does what it does, which is get me back and forth on my long and drudgerious commute day after day. It's now got about 170,000 miles. I was told the main batteries in these fail at around 150-200k. I've found a battery re-manufacturing company, but I'll just wait to see if this one actually goes out.
I've found that the MAS airflow sensor is very sensitive to dirt. About every 20,000 miles or so I have to clean it with an airflow sensor spray. That takes about 2 minutes to do and the car will run perfectly after that.
The other thing that is a tad annoying is that perhaps due to the angle of the windshield, it's very prone to getting nailed with rocks. The original windshield was peppered with chips and finally got a crack that ran along most of the front. So I replaced it, only for it to get nailed by another rock two weeks later. The windshield seems to be like a sort of "rock magnet".
The rubber covering of the steering wheel seems to be starting to disintegrate - the top part exposed the sun. Otherwise the rest of the interior is holding up well.
This is probably the case for a lot of newer cars, but the plastic headlight lens covers started to haze up when the car hit the 10 year mark. Ever since then I've had to use a buffing compound about every 2-3 months to keep them clear. I suppose once enough of the oil within the plastic evaporates, you can't stop that oxidation process.
But anyway, it does its job, and I guess you can't ask for anything more than that out of a beater commuter car.