With the Toyota Prius dead, we remember the hybrids history forgot
With the humble Toyota Prius dropped from sale, we go over the hybrids left behind by history.
In a sad turn of events, it was announced this week that Toyota will stop selling the Prius after years of dwindling sales.
It’s a shame to see off the nameplate which paved the way for the electrification of mass-market cars in general, with the humble Prius arguably one of the most important cars of the last quarter-century.
It’s a sign of the times that the most important hybrid vehicles today wear SUV-shaped body styles. The popularity of pioneers such as the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Ioniq has waned in recent years, with their places taken up by hugely-popular high-riding alternatives such as the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.
Here’s some of our favourite hybrid vehicles which, too, fell into obscurity, and were dropped from sale in the Australian new-car market.
Initially offered in the seventh-generation Civic sedan in 2004 and 2005, the little Honda hybrid persevered in the car’s eighth generation until 2014.
The fact that it didn’t change all that much during its decade on sale (2011-2021) may be why the Lexus vanished only last year without so much as a tear.
The hybrid Pathfinder arrived in 2018 and was offered across all trim levels of the seven-seat SUV. It exited the market with the rest of the R52 Pathfinder lineup in 2020.
Unsurprisingly for a new Lexus launched in the last decade, the GS sedan could be had with a 450h V6 hybrid option. Like the entire GS line itself, rhe GS450h disappeared from showrooms in the last 24 months.
Whereas the original NSX was a naturally-aspirated V6, three-pedal icon associated with one particular video with F1 ace Ayrton Senna, the second-generation NSX opted for a turbo V6 hybrid system – but in its four years on sale here (2016-20), only nine were sold.
Launched as the M35h in 2010, before becoming the Q70 in 2014, the Infiniti Q70 range was axed globally in 2019 due to slowing sedan sales – and in Australia, the brand’s withdrawal from the local market.
While electrified S-Class limousines today all feature plugs, the S400h of the mid-2010s employed a plug-less hybrid system more akin to a Toyota model. Mercedes-Benz hasn’t built a ‘self-charging’ petrol-electric hybrid since.
Mercedes C300 and E300 BlueTec diesel hybrids
A small petrol engine wasn’t enough for Mercedes-Benz, turning to a small 2.1-litre diesel engine as the fossil fuel-powered component of its circa-2014 C300 and E300 BlueTec Hybrid models. The company has built a diesel hybrid since, albeit as a plug-in hybrid.
The Toyota Prius wasn’t the first hybrid car to be sold in Australia – rather it was the Honda Insight, which pipped the Toyota to market by around six months.
While the first-generation model pictured above has gained a cult following – and hasn’t been forgotten – its five-door, Civic-based successors never achieved the same status in the history books.
Like Mercedes-Benz, BMW’s first modern-era hybrid cars used ‘self-charging’ systems – including the awkwardly-named ActiveHybrid 3, sold between 2012 and 2015, before it was replaced by the longer-range 330e plug-in hybrid.
Toyota expanded its Prius hybrid family in 2012 with the Prius V seven-seater and the Prius C city hatch. The latter was axed locally last year, while the former died in 2019, ahead of the new Yaris Hybrid’s arrival.
Hybrids are known for impressive fuel economy and low CO2 emissions – which is why Lexus crammed a 5.0-litre V8 under the bonnet of the hybrid LS600hL, producing 290kW before the assistance of the electric motor.
Unsurprisingly, the Lexus LS hybrid in showrooms today has a more frugal 3.5-litre V6.
Are there any forgotten hybrids we’ve… forgotten? Let us know in the comments.