While Honda was seeking conservation with its purpose-built, two-place Insight hybrid, Toyota was taking a more mainstream approach with a small sedan. Decidedly Japanese in its styling quirks, the original Prius was an excellent proof of concept: Hybrids were here to stay. Last year, with the second-generation Prius, Toyota raised the bar, creating a midsize car with fuel efficiency greater than that of most compacts. In addition to enabling the Prius' extreme performance and cargo-toting ability, the distinctive styling made an instant political statement.
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