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Old Prius, new Prius put to the test

January 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Kate Houlihan drives 700 miles a week, so after buying a 2002 Toyota Prius from her mother, she's easily pushed the odometer past 207,000 miles."Fuel economy is the exact same as it has ever been, there have just been no changes as far as any driving differences," Houlihan said.

Consumer Reports' Rick Small tested the car to see how Houlihan's observations hold up to scientific scrutiny.

"We did our standard fuel economy tests," Small said. "We also did accelerations on the car."

Houlihan's Prius measured up surprisingly well with a similar Prius that Consumer Reports tested new 10 years ago.

Her Prius got 40.4 miles per gallon. The Prius tested in 2000 got 40.6 miles per gallon.

Houlihan said she hasn't really babied her Prius, but she has kept up regular maintenance, including oil changes.

When the Prius first came out, a concern was battery life since hybrid technology was new.

Toyota said the battery is designed to last the life of the car. And as it turns out, Houlihan hasn't had any trouble with hers.

"The good news is the cost of replacing the battery has come down several hundred dollars since the Prius first came out, but it still costs more than $2,000," said Jon Linkov, also of Consumer Reports.

Toyota said 900,000 Priuses have been sold in the U.S. So far, and at today's prices even moderate drivers can save an average of $750 a year in gas.

Or perhaps the satisfaction of lowering your carbon footprint is appealing.

"I would buy another Prius in a heartbeat," Houlihan said.