First Prius[pushing car]| MOBY [モビー]

25 years ago, the first-generation Prius was too groundbreaking and had a strong sense of rejection

The fifth-generation Prius was stylish and looked like a 5-door sports coupe, but the first generation was like this.

Some say that “Japanese manufacturers such as Toyota are lagging behind as the electrification of automobiles such as EVs progresses worldwide.” is Toyota.

Some people think that it is a hybrid vehicle with an engine and is different from a purely electric EV. There is no difference.

The launch of the first-generation Prius in 1997 marked the beginning of a long journey of challenging the merits and limits of electric vehicles in collaboration with the internal combustion engine, which Toyota still retains its role and potential.

And that was also the beginning of the 21st century a little early, but at the time I didn’t think about such things at all, and it was a very nonchalant era, saying, “Some strange car came out.”

An eco-car that was not welcomed in the era of cheap gasoline

The design doesn’t give a “futuristic” impression at all, just like a new Corsa sedan…

The commercial with the slogan “Just in time for the 21st century” and the fact that it was “the world’s first mass-market hybrid car” certainly had a strong impact, but that doesn’t mean the world changed overnight.

After all, in 1997, when the first-generation Prius was released, the average regular gasoline price in Japan was dropping to 107 yen/L, and in 1999, when it peaked, it dropped to 99 yen/L. The lowest price is 79 yen/L in Hitachi City, Ibaraki Prefecture, and 80 yen/L in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture.

As of December 2022, the national average is 160.9 yen/L, so gasoline is much cheaper than it is now. , I thought only that “I can run for a long time without refueling”.

The Toyota Corona Exiv I was driving at the time had a good fuel efficiency if it ran 10km / L, and it was in a rather good category. , just a joke.

Because it was such an era, even if it was kept at a low strategic price, a 1.5-liter 4-door sedan starting at 2.15 million yen was too expensive. I was able to buy it from 1.212 million yen, but why is it over 2 million yen?

Although prices were different, salaries weren’t all that low compared to now, and everything was cheap in the Heisei era. Even if you take it, you won’t be able to make it until the car is scrapped.”

When a local taxi company introduced the first-generation Prius, it became a newspaper story.

The critics laughed and the wealthy bought it as a second car

When this first-generation Prius was introduced to local taxis, the end of Heisei Hitoketa, which decorated the local newspapers, was still “Showa”.

One of the episodes I remember well from that time is a project in which one of the current car critics, who was still a star racer at that time, talked with the developer of the Prius on a certain radio program.

As if to suppress a developer who wanted to talk about the significance of the Prius, a certain Mr. said, “It would be cool if you dared to lower this, put it in full aero, and put a roaring muffler on it!”

However, rather than saying it as abusive language, to put it bluntly, the Japanese people at that time were all like that.

After all, when the booth where the second-generation Prius and Insight were exhibited for the first time appeared at the Tokyo Auto Salon, I was asked, “Aren’t you going to do not only the suspension and aero, but also the engine and muffler?” I don’t know how wonderful low fuel consumption is.

Therefore, although the Prius became a hot topic, sales performance was not good, and it stopped being treated like a mini car as a second car next to the Mercedes-Benz E-class and S-class in high-class residential areas where the wealthy lived. But Hollywood stars lined up with the Hummer H1.

In short, it’s a car that users who drive luxury luxury cars with large displacement can say, “I’m also interested in environmental issues, Zamasu!” “Well, maybe in the 21st century.”

Even if I see it running occasionally, it would be cruising on the highway at full speed with the motor assist fully open. I didn’t do anything like “put it on.”

Of course, there was no one around me, so the first time I rode a Prius in the 21st century was the second-generation Prius 20.

Rather focus on the package as a 4-door sedan

Even looking at it now, it’s amazing in a way that I can’t believe that this was a revolutionary car that was cutting edge at the time!

As an eco-friendly car, the first Prius was dismissed as “It may be new, but it’s expensive!”, but the only thing that received high praise was the 4-door sedan package.

At the time of 1997, the 4-door sedan had already become a category that had largely fallen out of the market due to the influence of the RV boom.

In the 5th generation Vista (1998) and the 9th generation Mark II (2000), the roof height was raised to increase the cabin space. It stands out and the overall balance is not good.

However, looking back, the first Prius had a shorter overall length than the Corolla and had more interior space than the Corolla, and although it was not as one-motion form as the 5-door fastback sedans of the second and subsequent generations, the design was well balanced.

In particular, the late model, which underwent a minor change in 2000, gradually attracted public attention, partly because the appearance of the previous model was less cheap and cost-down, and partly because gasoline prices had stopped falling. am.

The Prius became a full-fledged hit from the third generation (2009), and Toyota’s hybrid system THS was installed in ordinary cars as a matter of course, and it was in the 2010s that “hybrids became the norm”.

However, the reason why we got there was because Toyota made steady efforts to continue and popularize THS-equipped vehicles, including the Prius. It wouldn’t have been possible to resist EV conversion with engines and so on.

However, even if the author traveled back in time 25 years ago and preached to himself at that time, “This is not normal in a quarter of a century, EVs will be running normally?!” I think I’ll be treated like an annoying old man.

* The author information of the images used in this article is as of the publication date.

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