For the first time in two decades, the Toyota Prius has been named MotorTrend’s Car of the Year. Toyota claims the coveted Golden Calipers award for the first time since the 2007 Toyota Camry, and 20 years after the trailblazing 2004 Toyota Prius earned the title.
The magazine has a set of six specific criteria it uses to judge its Car of the Year finalists, so it speaks to the complete, well-rounded nature of the 2024 Prius that it was able to take home this year’s top honors. It also does so in a year that marks the 75th anniversary of Cadillac claiming MotorTrend’s inaugural Car of the Year award in 1949.
To commemorate the moment, Lithia Toyota of Abilene looks back at 2004’s winner and where the Prius stands today.
When Toyota initially developed the Prius, their vision was to create the “car of the 21st century.” The fully realized version of the Prius arrived four years after the turn of the century, ready to claim that mantle. The 2004 Prius was a complete redesign of the previous generations of Kia, replacing the Toyota Hybrid System (THS) with the superior Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD).
The 2004 Prius became the first hybrid vehicle to claim MotorTrend’s year-end award – a bold choice at the time, and the magazine knew it. Then-editor-in-chief, Kevin Smith, wrote in 2004, “We realize the selection of a hybrid vehicle is going to stir controversy, but we believe the performance, engineering advancements, and overall significance of the Toyota Prius merits the distinction of Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.”
In presenting the 2023 award, MotorTrend notes, “It’s remarkable how much we wrote about that game-changing 2004 Prius that still applies to its Car of the Year-winning successor two decades later.” They’re not wrong; just as it was in 2004, the Prius remains the gold standard for the combination of fuel efficiency, ultra-low emissions, safety, and riveting performance.
MotorTrend is quick to point out that it in winning Car of the Year, the 2024 Prius “has made a cultural impact far greater than its carbon footprint.” As we enter 2024, Prius drivers have certainly become associated with more than Toyota’s green-first initiatives: nerds, ride-hail drivers, virtue-signalers… even music snobs celebrated when the hybrid car got a shout-out in a certified Charli XCX banger from 2019.
But if your primary criticism of the hybrid is that it’s an entryway to chique hipsterdom, that means the vehicle itself is probably doing a lot of things right. MotorTrend praises the 2024 Prius for its design, boosted efficiency, and perhaps most importantly, the way it’s helped advance “the automotive state of the art without forcing drivers to change their deeply ingrained habits.”
It was the 2024 model’s newfound mesh of style and performance, however, that may have separated it from all-electric competitors like the Hyundai Ioniq 6 and the Tesla Model 3 Highland. For the first time since the 2004 model, Toyota designers and engineers had total freedom to completely reimagine the Prius, which led to a modern 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, larger motors and batteries, and all-wheel drive available at launch.
In claiming top honors, the 2024 Prius emerged from a competitive group of finalists: the 2023 BMW 7 Series, the 2023 BMW M2, the 2024 Lucid Air, and the aforementioned 2024 Hyundai Ioniq 6 and 2024 Tesla Model 3.
Get Behind the Wheel of a Prius Today
Clearly, there’s never been a better time to be a Prius owner. Lithia Toyota is Abilene’s number one dealership when you’re making the switch to hybrid or all-electric. Check out more info on the 2023 Toyota Prius and other hybrid/plug-in/electric vehicles, as well as our entire inventory of new and used Toyotas.
The Prius could very well take home its third pair of Golden Calipers 20 years from now, but for the time being, it’s established itself as the model of consistency in the automotive world. The only question remaining is how high the Prius’s ceiling can possibly rise. This New Year’s, make it your resolution to roll into 2024 with the best car on the market, the Toyota Prius.