By Barbara Kessler

When the news broke last week that hybrid car sales were up an astonishing 50 percent for the first seven months of 2007 over 2006, we knew what we had to do: Test drive the Prius before that line graph zooms off the paper.

toyota_prius_hybrid.jpgThe Prius, which Toyota brought to the American market in 2001, has become the symbol of hybrid technology and the car to beat in this category. It accounts for about 50 percent of the current sales of hybrids in North America, followed not all that closely by Toyota’s own Camry hybrid with about 15 percent of sales for the first seven months of 2007, according to analysts R. L. Polk & Co.

Polk reports that American consumers bought nearly 110,000 Priuses during the first seven months of 2007, nearly twice as many as the 61,552 that were registered in the same period in 2006.