Toyota Prius
(2009 - 2015)

  • Typical excellent Toyota reliability
  • Highly practical for a smaller car
  • Retains excellent fuel consumption figures
  • Enjoyable driving experience
  • Average performance
  • Hard plastics in the interior can become rattly and noisey
  • Steering feels lifeless
  • Engine can sound pretty average when being pushed
Overview

“The Prius family is renowned for being a petrol-electric trailblazer in the latter 1990s and its name became synonymous with hybrid motoring throughout four generations. Today, over half of Toyota’s passenger cars sold in Oz are hybrids.

While the second-generation ‘XW20’ (2003-2009) is arguably the most iconic Prius, its XW30 successor, debuting globally in January 2009 at the Detroit Motor Show, built upon the mould effectively set by its predecessor. It launched locally in July that year.

And while its driving nature and frugality is largely mirrored in today’s Corolla hatchback, this third generation is a neat way to get into hybrid mobility on budget while still wearing your eco-sensibilities loudly and proudly on your proverbial sleeves. Further, its eco-credibility flaunts by way of its aerodynamically slippery form and that a good many of its components are derived from plant-based plastics and foam.

The heroic stats for “Australia’s greenest car,” as Toyota called the XW30 at the time, was its claimed 3.9L/100km frugality combined with a low 89 grams of CO2 per-kilometre emissions, improving on its forebear’s 4.4-litre and 109-gram figures.

Despite improved economy, the Prius swapped the old version’s 1.5-litre petrol engine for a larger Atkinson cycle 1.8-litre unit with 73kW and 142Nm. Toyota Australia quote electric motor power as 60kW (with 207Nm), though total system power for its Hybrid Synergy Drive was advertised as 100kW, or 20 percent up on gen two. But with 0-100km/h prowess of a leisurely 10.4 seconds, it’s hardly what you’d call quick.

This hybrid system is series/parallel closed-circuit (non-plug-in) format Toyota still adopts in mass production. Sitting on then-new front-wheel drive platform, the third-gen Prius features a CVT transmission. This was first Prius where drivers could select individual drive modes – EV, Eco and Power – and force its electric drive motor to do all the heavy lifting at speeds of up to 50km/h. EV range? Well, that depends, though Toyota originally quoted “one to two kilometres”.

Unlike plug-in hybrids, that typical fit more powerful lithium ion batteries, the regular Prius’s 27kW nickel metal hydride (NiMH) is recharged, via regenerative braking and surplus combustion power, largely at the vehicle’s whim. The benefits presenting themselves in low-speed EV propulsion and favourable fuel economy across balanced driving.

While its strut and torsion beam suspension is quite conventional, the Prius brought brake-by-wire technology, which was a first for Toyota at the time of this generation’s launch.

The rest of the five-door hatchback package? Its head-up only display and ‘Touch Tracer’ system, duplicating the read-out on the instrument panel, and “flying buttress” with central cluster brought a novel ‘space age’ point of difference for a small-segment-sized cabin that can fit five adults at a squeeze.

Two versions were initially offered in 2009: the base Prius, starting at $39,990, and high-grade Prius i-Tech, way up at $53,500. Pricing would tumbled in its lifecycle: by 2015, you could slip into the new base Prius for under $33k and the i-Tech would eventually list as low as a tenner under $44k.

While the former was ostensibly pitched as a fleet special, the nicer latter variant brought niceties such as leather accented trim, sat-nav, LED low-beam headlights, active cruise control, forward collision warning and automatic parking smarts. The i-Tech also adds solar cells on the roof to help power its remote controllable aircon system, enabling it to discharge hot cabin air while the Prius is switched off. A $5k cost-optional pack could add sat-nav, a rear-view camera and intelligent parking assist to the base versions.

Seven air-bags are standard while boot space is rated at a handy 446 litres.

The XW30 was less than seven years young when it was replaced by the fourth-generation XW50 that launched in Australia in March 2016. By that time the nameplate had expanded to include the pint-sized Prius C compact hatch and family-oriented seven-seat Prius V, while plus-in-hybrid (PHEV) versions of the regular ‘small’ Prius were offering in some global markets.

One thing to consider is that many XW30 Priuses – or ‘Prii’ as Toyota eventually coined it – exist today beyond the surety of the eight-year/160,000km battery warranty offered when new. “

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What goes wrong
  • There are a few reports of the paint peeling cracking however this seems the mainly impact earlier examples of this generation Prius.
  • The headlights are underwhelming in terms of providing an ample amount of light, the halogen bulbs can burn out and the light housing exterior can become faded and milky. These issues are relatively easily fixed with specific cleaning techniques and replacing the halogen bulbs with LED headlight bulbs.
  • The licence plate bulbs have a habit of over heating and burning out. Again, it’s an easy fix, simply fit some LED bulbs.
  • There are a few rare sporadic reports that the front door lock actuators are starting to fail, either not locking or not unlocking.
  • There are occasional reports that the centre console screen above the centre console can fail and the fuel gauge can also read inaccurately although, generally this just needs recalibration.
  • Also the infotainment screen can fail, it will most likely need an update to resolve this however on rare occasions it may just be faulty.
  • Mechanically, overall both the 2ZR-FXE engine and associated CVT transmission are proving to be extremely reliable, however there are rare sporadic issues with overheating and head gasket issues related to water pump failure. It should be noted that the Prius ECU will warn of these impending issues via fault codes.
  • There are occasional injector and EGR valve concerns and poor maintenance or regularly missed services can result in high oil consumption.
  • In terms of the battery and hybrid systems, again these are proving to be reliable with only sporadic reports of corroded connections or over heating, sometimes due to fan openings or cooling systems being clogged (again due to a lack of servicing and maintenance).
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Model range, pricing & features

Prius

  • Price when new: $32,490 - $45,500
  • Price used: $9,000 - $23,000

Released in 2009, the third generation Prius debuted with a comprehensive list of features standard on the base model including alloy wheels, 5-star safety rating, 7-airbags, auto headlights and wipers and an 8-speaker sound system with bluetooth connectivity.

All Prius models were powered by the same 1.8 litre 4-cylinder hybrid engine producing 100kW of combined power.

The Series II update released in March 2012 saw the base Prius model benefit from a resigned front end and daytime running lights and also included a reversing camera, electric folding and heated mirrors plus an 8-spekaer JBL speaker system.

The base Prius model has a comprehensive feature list, however the i-Tech model has a little more in the way of safety and tech features that makes the i-Tech more appealing than the base model.

Features:

15-inch alloy wheels
Body coloured bumpers, door mirrors and handles
5-star ANCAP safety rating (tested 2009)
7 airbags: Driver and front passenger, driver’s knee, front side and full-length (front & rear) curtain airbags
Lap/sash seatbelts for all passengers
Seatbelt pretensioners with load limiters for driver and front passenger
Height adjustable seatbelt for driver and front passenger
Active front seat head restraints
Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD)
Electronic/vehicle stability control (ESP/VSC)
Traction Control
Brake by wire
Emergency brake signal
Engine immobiliser
Halogen headlights
Automatic headlights
Front fog lamps
Rain sensing wipers
Cruise control
Remote central locking with proximity key
Tilt and telescopic reach steering wheel
Multi-functional steering wheel with audio controls
Climate control air conditioning
Electric mirrors
Electric windows – front and rear with global auto up/down
Trip computer
Headup information display
8-speaker sound system
CD player
Bluetooth connectivity
MP3 compatibility
AUX input
Sunglasses holder
Cup holders – front and rear
Front seatback pockets
Footwell lamps – front
60:40 rear folding seats
Cargo cover

XW30.II update (March 2012):
New front bumper
Repositioned front fog lights
LED daytime running lights
Reversing camera with 6.1-inch EGA monitor
Electric mirrors – heated and electrically folding
8-speaker JBL GreenEdge sound system

i-Tech

  • Price when new: $43,990 - $53,500
  • Price used: $12,000 - $35,000

The i-Tech is the top of the range model of the Prius and represents a safety and tech upgrade of the base model.

Additional features include pre-collision safety system, park assist, radar cruise control, LED low beam headlights, satellite navigation and a power sunroof.

The Series II model also added 17-inch alloy wheels, DAB digital radio and a 7-inch infotainment system.

Adds:

Pre-collision safety system
Park assist
Radar-guided adaptive cruise control
LED low beam headlights
Electrochromatic rear view mirror
Leather upholstery
Leather interior trim
Leather wrapped multi-functional steering wheel
Heated seats – front
Moonroof (sunroof) with solar cells
Remote air-conditioning system
Satellite navigation

XW30.II update (March 2012):
17-inch alloy wheels
New front bumper
Repositioned front fog lights
LED daytime running lights
DAB digital radio
7-inch infotainment system

Should you buy it?

While many traditional automotive fans have little to no interest in the Prius, with petrol now costing more than bitcoin and our authorities’ enthusiasm to stop us having any kind of fun when driving, the Prius just makes sense, and even now that they’re used, we highly recommend buying the Prius.

The Prius isn’t trying to be a performance car yet it is genuinely enjoyable to drive, (and yes that can possibly be due to knowing that deep down you are not haemorrhaging cash with each passing kilometre), it is equipped with a decent amount of tech and fitting an aftermarket head unit with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and you’ll have all the tech you’ll ever really need in a car, it’s still impressive in terms of its safety offerings, it’s incredibly practical for a car this size, with the larger wheel option it can look great and being a Toyota, if it receives the recommended levels of care and attention, it might just out last humanity.

You also won’t have to worry about the range anxiety that comes with electric cars and many argue that buying a used Hybrid is actually better for the planet than buying a new EV because, you’re essentially recycling an entire car,

However like any used car, make sure it hasn’t had an accident and check that it has a full and thorough service history but the right used Prius, especially these days, absolutely nails it.

Warranty & servicing

Warranty:

3 years/100,000km

Servicing:

12 months/10,000km

Tech specs

Body Style:

5-door liftback

Engines:

1.8 litre 4-cylinder petrol hybrid engine (2ZR-FXE) with a 650-volt nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery

Power:

73kW (petrol engine)
60kW (battery)
100kW (combined)

Torque:

142Nm (petrol engine)
207Nm (battery)

Transmission & drivetrains:

Continuously variable transmission (CVT), Front-wheel drive (FWD)

Fuel Consumption (combined):

3.9L/100km

Length:

4460mm

Width:

1745mm

Height:

1490mm

Kerb Weight:

1370-1420kg (depending on model)

Disclaimer

Information correct as of March 4, 2022.

The advice provided on this website is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

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