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The First-Generation Toyota Prius Deserves To Be “Reimagined”


Image: Toyota

I remember when the first-generation Prius was launched here in 2000. It was unlike anything else available at the time, from a stylistic, technological, and sociological standpoint. It was an economy-focused penalty box of a subcompact, but the green-focused among us grabbed hold. It was an important touchstone in the automotive landscape, and while it was largely ignored by enthusiasts, it was adored by everyone from travelling salespeople looking to save bucks on fuel to Hollywood actors looking to cultivate an eco personality.

If you’ve been around the automotive world for a while, you’ve probably heard this question. It’s common fodder for automotive podcast listener questions, or for groups of friends hanging out at a cars and coffee. “If you could pick a not-a-911 to Singer-ize, what would it be?” Usually I answer C3 Corvette, which I continue to stand by as a good idea, but lately I’ve been thinking about the first-gen Toyota Prius.

The more well-to-do half of the Prius’ early adopters, the image conscious more than the dollar conscious, got me thinking way back then that it would be a great idea to retrofit these things with premium accouterments. That idea waned over the years, but now I’m convinced that it could work again. Stick with me here.

Imagine this compact eco-mobile, but actually good. In proper reimagined-by-Singer style, the car would be torn into its component parts and re-engineered with quality actually considered job one. Not only would the door latch click with authority, and the buttons press with a defining chik, but NVH would be given a money-no-object going through.

With paint as deep as the oceans and comfortable grand-touring seats that cosset your ass, the Prius could be a premium experience worth living with. Revamp the drivetrain with a more powerful yet also more efficient plug-in hybrid setup, and you’re well on your way. Ditch the heavier NiMH batteries for today’s energy dense Lithium jobs, and the car might even drop a few pounds.

Better wheels, better interior materials, active suspension, premium audio, radar cruise! With modern low-rolling-resistance tires, the reimagined Prius could get better fuel economy while still having more lateral grip. Oh, it would be so good to drive.

Of course, I’d want mine with adjustable coilovers, a manual transmission, and super lightweight wheels.

Instead of being an awful experience, you could actually have a nice highway cruiser. Of course, it would cost a fortune, but I could definitely see something like this being sold to San Francisco big shot granola types or those same Hollywood folks that bought them the first time!

This is a million dollar idea, folks. Of course, you might spend ten million on the R&D.

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