At $4,995, Is This 2002 Toyota Prius Hybrid a Good Deal?



Today’s Nice Price or No Dice Toyota Prius is the only generation to have a trunk rather than a hatch. That may not be a factor in its desirability, but we’ll have to decide if its price is.

Older people are a blessing. I mean, just think about all the ways they improve our lives. One way is by having dinner at ungodly early hours saving plenty of tables for the rest of us when it’s really time to eat. They also tend to have neat cars that they rarely drive, but usually, keep in tip-top shape “just in case.”

That was the apparent situation with the 1987 Nissan Sentra Sport Coupe we looked at yesterday. The seller claimed it had long been owned by an “elderly woman who drove infrequently.” As such it looked to be in amazing shape for its age and station in life, making it probably the 1987 Nissan Sentra Sport Coupe for anyone looking for just such a ride. Unfortunately, that narrow audience didn’t translate into a broader appeal for its $6,900 asking price. That ultimately doomed the Sentra to a 60 percent No Dice loss.

At its most basic, yesterday’s Sentra was a no-frills economy car with a bit of added style thrown in so its owner wouldn’t feel like a total piker driving it. It represented what was par for the course for such cars up until about the turn of the century. These days, however, super fuel-efficient economy cars are typically represented by gasoline/electric hybrids and the first of those was Toyota’s wacky Prius.

Now, the Prius, along with the whole idea of hybrid cars have long been mainstreamed, but when this 2002 first-generation Prius debuted, it was purposefully designed to look different from anything else on the road. That was so that owners could tout their eco-warrior bona fides when driving through the hood.

These days, older Prius’ (Prii?) are better known for being catalytic converter theft attractants, but despite that downside, they still offer both excellent energy efficiency and the smug satisfaction for their owners that they are better than all the non-hybrid drivers out there.

The thing of it is, there’s only a few of the first-generation Prius models out there. In fact, there never were that many to begin with. In this car’s model year, Toyota only sold about 20,000 of the cars. It wasn’t until the model’s second generation debuted in 2004 that Prius sales really began to take off, with the 2007 model year being the pinnacle of Prius popularity seeing over 180,000 sold.

That makes this early model relatively rare and seemingly not all that used up with just 115,000 miles on the clock. These first editions don’t give up too much in the efficiency department to their later, better-refined editions either, seeing as the model was EPA rated at over 48 miles to the gallon combined in the then-used testing cycle. That’s still pretty darn good today.

That’s all made possible by the car’s combo, or hybrid drivetrain which is composed of a 1.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine that makes 70 horsepower and a 44-horse permanent magnet AC electric motor. The pair are bolted up to a CVT automatic, making up the remainder of the FWD drivetrain.

The electric motor gets its juice from a 1.78 kWh nickel-metal hydride (Ni-Mh) battery pack, and the whole thing is controlled by some clever electronics that switch between power and charge as needed. The current drivetrain status is shown on a dashboard-mounted display screen featuring graphics that look so dated today that they could have come from a 1960s middle school science class film strip.

This one is dealer-offered and comes in a fairly nondescript silver over a gray cloth interior. It looks clean and has been updated at some point with a heavy tint on all the windows save the windscreen. The interior is reasonably clean although the floor mats are stained a bit, evidence that they have done their job.

Everything appears stock inside including the hysterically long shift lever that when put in drive makes the steering column look like it’s fly fishing. The car offers power windows and locks, but manual adjustment of the seats. And, of course, there’s A/C.

According to the ad’s brief but shouty description (does this dealer post all its ads in ALL-CAPS?) the car runs and drives great. It also says that Wayne is waiting for our call, but not our texts. Geez, Wayne, have a little flexibility.

We now need to see how flexible we will be regarding this Toyota hybrid’s price tag. The dealer is asking $4,995 for the clean-title car, and that naturally will demand the extra registration and paperwork fees that dealers always pile on.

What do you think? Is this clever and rare first-gen Prius worth that sort of cabbage? Or, for that much, would you leave this Prius parked?

You decide!

Lincoln, Nebraska, Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to Glemon for the hookup!

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