Is Toyota Prius Losing Popularity Among Green Enthusiasts?

Toyota Prius 1 photo
Photo: autoevolution
Being the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle in the world, the Toyota Prius soon achieved its reputation for the best green car, starting the eco-revolution among hipsters and ecologists possessing a driver’s license. Today however, this hype appears to slowly extinguish itself due to the automotive hybridization. At least in the US...
The car that started it all
When Toyota put out the first Prius model, they said it represents the future of transportation if we wanted to breathe cleaner air and save some dinosaur juice for our children. But at the time, gasoline was cheap almost everywhere, so no one really cared about that. Only tech enthusiasts and “hipsters” bought Prii at first to show how much they cared about the planet.

“Man, look at that hipster trying to ‘save’ us with his toaster by going so slow! YO, get a real car a**hole” That was probably the most used phrase when some one saw them driving around and trying to have an alternative lifestyle. Poor souls, they never knew who they were mocking, because those "hipsters" brought somehow those gillion-horsepower hybrid supercars everyone drools at now.

Hate only people who pose as hipsters

We know the term “hipster” has an opaque meaning, but leaving aside those who only pose as persons with alternative lifestyles but their main concern is to fill dozens of social media webpages with their filtered photos and stupid quotes they don’t understand, hipsters aren't that bad. Real hipsters like to read, listen to any other music than the crap it's on the radio, eat healthy and generally head in the opposite way the regular boring flock is going.

And because they made a choice a while ago helping automakers make hybrids "mainstream" now, you get more gasoline for your V8 pickup truck.

What appeared at first to be a reason to laugh at, now started to concern millions of customers wanting to save fuel and money. Time changed pretty quickly in the last 20 years, and with fuel prices and emission regulations now being more severe than ever, most people wanting a daily driver first look at fuel consumption.

The hybrid explosion

As a result, more and more automakers started making hybrid vehicles, the offer diversified and the Prius started to lose turf in its own game. It is still the leader when it comes to fuel consumption, offering an estimated 50 mpg (4.7 l/100 km) combined, while its closes competitor - the Honda Accord Hybrid - lags behind with 47 mpg (5 l/100 km), but people want more than that.

However, as International Business Times also reports, car buyers nowadays are seeing hybrid technology just as an optional powertrain for their regular sedan or hatch, a way to still enjoy their favorite car while consuming and emitting less.

And this is probably why the Prius started to lose ground. Don’t get us wrong, it’s still the best-selling hybrid in the US, but take a look at what the Accord is doing now in California, the Mecca of green vehicles, after Honda discovered on its own that copying an icon (i.e. the Insight, which will be killed this year) is not the way to make hybrids popular.

The rival company learned the hard way that customers don’t necessarily want to drive a weird-looking vehicle as a hybrid; the Prius is enough in that category. So they focused on the Accord hybrid, which clients appear to like more because of its non-hipster label.

It’s pretty funny how people are still afraid to be called hipsters, even though “hipsters” are pretty much influencing today’s way of dressing, eating and driving. Hipsters have existed since the history of forever, and anyone not sticking to “regular” can be labeled so. It’s only those who exaggerate and like to shove it into your face who managed to give “hipster” a bad reputation.

We want cooler Prius

Returning to our problem now, let’s see what Toyota can do to make the Prius cool again, as the fourth generation is expected to be introduced in 2015 with some interesting new features.

The 2015 Prius will wear the first Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), which provides a lower center of gravity and increased structural rigidity. Being a platform that will also be used on other models in the future lineup, also means that the Prius won’t feel like a washing machine on wheels. So with the ride quality appearing to be tick-marked, let’s see what else is on offer.

Improved hybrid system is next on the list. Every Prius generation came with 10 percent more mpgs over the outgoing one. The next one will feature improved batteries with higher energy density, more powerful electric motors and a gasoline engine featuring a thermal efficiency of over 40 percent (38.5% is in the current model). The new silicon carbide PCU technology is said to boost mileage by 10 percent alone, so the new Prius might be more efficient than we thought.

Let’s see, better handling... check... less fuel to run it... check... what else now... Oh, styling! Yeah, the Toyota Prius and its unmistakable design. While Toyota wasn’t the first automaker to use the Kammback body shape (a flowing profile that abruptly gets cut towards the end), its Prius turned it into a hybrid icon starting with the second generation.

All the Prii models now (classic, Prius c, Prius v) are wearing the liftback design to both get instant recognition and reduce drag. Due to the new architecture, the following models will also have a lower roofline which may reduce much of the electric iron design many can’t stand. Which will be great and maybe it will also offer a sedan version for those who chose the Honda Accord because of it’s normal appearance.

The new Prius will also be offered with a wireless charging system (Plug-in Hybrid only) so you won’t need to hassle with plugs and wires in you driveway or garage. But what we also want to really see is a more decent interior.

We can’t say the current Prius has an ugly interior, but apart from the nicely sculpted unconventional dashboard, the rest is dull as basalt. Come on Toyota, use your imagination, it’s your iconic hybrid, do something cool with it and make people feel like riding in a spaceship! Put some cool ambiental lights, make the seats look different, put more LCD displays and get rid of the 80’s style graphics.


For now, the Prius might look like it’s going down. It’s obsolete for today's style standards and this will reflect in its sale figures. However, the fourth generation sounds promising enough to redeem the vehicle’s status. Let’s just hope they’ll nail the design part. We hope it will look at least like our little sketch here.
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