New for 2020: Toyota has given the familiar Prius some useful tech upgrades, as well as some extra peace of mind down the road. The former comes by way of a new infotainment system with a 7.0-inch screen and the inclusion of Apple CarPlay as well as Amazon Alexa, as well as adding Toyota’s Safety Connect to all grades. The latter comes with the company’s offering of a longer warranty covering the hybrid battery. While the cars were already known for exceptional battery life, Toyota’s boost of coverage to 10 years, 150,000 miles is a useful increase over the eight year/100,000 mile offering that the car used to offer.
Toyota didn’t bring the first hybrid to market, but with the Prius, it didn’t miss it by much. And the company certainly had the most successful one by far. It refreshed the fourth-generation car just last year, with the addition of an all-wheel drive option for the first time as well as giving the Prius new styling inside and out. That means that there aren’t significant changes this year.
The changes that Toyota did make were more than enough to help keep the Prius front and center in the minds of eco-friendly buyers not yet ready to make the jump to fully-electric just yet. That’s for the best, as the name is nearly as synonymous with the word “hybrid” as Kleenex is for facial tissue.
For this year, the Toyota Prius is offered in four trims, plus two of those, mid-range LE and XLE, can be had with a rear-mounted electric motor providing all-wheel drive. The Prius starts from $25,280 for the basic L Eco model and runs to $33,455 for a top-spec Limited trim car. All prices include $955 in destination charges.
Pros/ The face of hybrid vehicles / Available AWD / Low price of entry
Cons/ That face / Weird shifter / Clunky infotainment
Bottom Line/ The car that put hybrids on the map remains an excellent transportation choice, with low running costs and high reliability.
Table of contents
Toyota Prius Powertrain
The hybrid system really is the heart and soul of the Prius, its entire reason for existence. The Hybrid Synergy drive system starts out with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that uses the Atkinson Cycle, a variation on the conventional gas engine that trades a few ponies for increased efficiency and less fuel use. That engine makes 98 hp, but it’s not working alone. The Prius pairs it with a 600V electric motor that delivers 71 hp and 120 lb-ft of torque, which combines to give the Prius a maximum of 121 hp.
The transmission is continuously variable, with electricity supplied by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack on AWD-e models and a lithium-ion pack on front-drive cars. The older-tech NiMH pack was chosen, Toyota says, because it performs better in the cold. It also has a 6.5 Ah capacity versus 3.6 for the L-Ion pack, because two motors need more juice. The all-wheel drive is provided thanks to a 7 hp, 40 lb-ft electric motor mounted to the rear axle.
Toyota Prius Features and Pricing
L Eco: Starts at $25,280
The L Eco model forgoes some features like a spare tire and intermittent rear windshield wiper to help shed some weight and raise the fuel economy. It’s still well-equipped though, with features like a 7.0-inch touchscreen display audio system with Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility. It also has a pair of USB ports for rear-seat passengers, heated mirrors, a 4.2-inch colour info display in the dash for the driver, a tilt and telescoping wheel, active grille shutters, LED headlights, and push-button start. The Prius comes with Toyota Safety Sense P, which features radar cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure alerts, lane-keep assist, and automatic high beams.
LE brings back the donut spare tire in place of the L’s inflator kit, as well as the cargo cover and rear wiper. It also gets some extra storage space with seatback pockets for the front seat. On the safety side, the LE adds blind-spot monitoring as well as rear cross-traffic alerts, and it gets parking sensors with Intelligent Parking Assist to get you properly parked up. All-wheel drive adds $1,400.
Stepping up in luxury, the XLE swaps the fabric seats for Softex faux-leather and eight-way power adjustment for the driver. Sorry passenger, yours is still manually adjusted. Both front seats are heated though, and the steering wheel is also trimmed in Softex. Wireless charging is added, but the spare tire disappears again. On the outside, the XLE model gets rain-sensing windshield wipers and 17-inch alloy wheels.
On XLE, all-wheel drive is just $1,000 more. For $515, the Premium Convenience package adds a power moonroof, but swaps the wheels back down to 15-inch alloys. An odd choice, but one that likely improves fuel economy for those looking for just a bit more gas savings with a view of the sky they’re saving. For $800, the Advanced Technology package adds adaptive front lights that turn into corners and a color head-up display for the driver.
Top-spec Limited brings the adaptive front lights and head-up display from the XLE’s tech package, but also adds an upgraded audio system. That boasts an 11.6-inch screen and JBL branding. The Premium Convenience package is still available and adds the moonroof and 15-inch alloys, just like on the XLE.
Toyota Prius Recommended Trim
If you are buying the Prius, then your prime focus is probably fuel economy and not comfort. In that case, the base L Eco and the extra four mpg city, three highway, that it brings are probably going to be a pretty big draw for you. If you just want to use a bit less fuel while you roll in compact comfort, then the XLE AWD-e with its heated seats is an excellent place to be summer or winter. We’d pick the Convenience package to gain the moonroof and the better ride that comes with 15-inch wheels with plenty of sidewall.
Toyota Prius Fuel Economy
The Prius sips fuel at an alarmingly stingy rate. The L Eco boasts 58 mpg city, 53 mpg highway as the best in the line, but the others are nearly impossible to beat too, with 54 city, 50 highway, according to the EPA. Adding the weight of all-wheel drive to the mix will lower fuel economy as well, but again, it’s still excellent at 52 mpg city, 48 highway.
Toyota Prius vs Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
Hyundai is much newer to the hybrid game than Toyota, but it’s arrived with a strong entry. While the Prius, and most other hybrids, offer a CVT, Hyundai has put a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox in the Ioniq. It offers a much more conventional driving experience.
Adding that gearbox to the 1.6-liter four and 43 hp electric motor is good for efficiency, too. Total fuel economy is 55 city, 54 highway, a city number between the L Eco and remaining Prius trims and a highway number that beats them all. A combined 139 hp makes the Ioniq more lively than the Prius, but the Ioniq’s L-Ion battery has about half the capacity of the one in the Prius, meaning it can spend less time on solely electric power. Like the Prius, the Ioniq offers loads of space for a compact thanks to the hatch in the back’s massive opening.
Toyota Prius vs Honda Insight
Honda’s Insight was the very first hybrid on sale, back when it had a six-speed stick and just two seats. But since then the Prius has taken off while the Insight has been cancelled and revived in multiple formats. This time, though, it’s a much more conventional hybrid. And instead of Toyota’s from the future styling and hatchback body, the Insight looks like a slightly smaller Honda Accord. Underneath it’s largely Civic-based, but with a healthy dose of Accord interior bits to add some luxury to go with the fuel savings.
The Insight is offered in just three trim levels, but at $23,885 it undercuts the base Prius by $1,395. Top-spec Insight Touring starts from $29,295. It’s a larger vehicle for passengers than the Prius, but lacks the extra cargo space that comes with the Toyota’s hatch. Offering 55 mpg city, 49 highway, from a 1.5-liter four and pair of electric motors (with an innovative driveline that skips a transmission altogether) the Insight falls just behind the Prius for MPG.
Toyota Prius vs Kia Niro
Kia’s Niro offers impressive fuel economy in the now more popular crossover body style. While it might not seem like a Prius competitor at first glance, the $24,610 Niro hybrid undercuts the Prius by $835. A 1.6-liter four-cylinder and electric motor allow for 139 hp and 195 hp combined. Kia’s fuel-sipping FE trim manages an impressive 52 mpg city, 49 highway, and though that does trail the Prius some buyers might be willing to trade a bit more time at the gas pump for the sake of driving a crossover instead of a quirky hatchback.
Upping the level of luxury on the Niro comes at a fuel economy premium, the LX and EX offer 51 city, 46 highway while top S Touring and Touring trims offer 46/40, largely due to using 18-inch wheels instead of the 15s on the base model. Like the Prius Prime, Kia also offers a plug-in Niro and it also is available as a fully-electric model.
Toyota Prius Review
We love to hate the Prius. And sometimes we even love to love it.
Despite starting a trend, there still aren’t a lot of vehicles like it and in many ways it’s not just a hybrid, but the hybrid.
And while the Prius does have it’s flaws, if we can focus for a moment on where it does stand out, it’s in the fuel economy department.
Prius Fuel Economy
It should come as little surprise that the car that gamified saving fuel does a damn good job at it.
Fuel economy is officially rated at 54 mpg in the city and 50 mpg highway, while Eco models up that to 58/53 mpg respectively. We’ve always found those numbers to be not just achievable, but beatable.
A relatively new addition to the Prius lineup, and something that makes it stand out in its segment is the option of available all-wheel drive. The AWD-e model is quite unique.
Toyota engineered a completely electronic setup. So rather than a driveshaft running the length of the car, there’s an additional electric motor built up and into the car’s multi-link rear suspension. One even more unique aspect is that while the Prius seemingly took forever to switch from a nickel metal hydride battery to a lithium-ion one, this AWD-e motor is the old fashioned nickel type – apparently because it’s better suited to cold temperates. And, well, people in warm climates aren’t the ones buying AWD Priuses.
In our testing, we saw 47 mpg from this setup, which, while amazing, isn’t quite the promised 52 mpg city and 48 mpg highway claimed.
Prius Driving Impressions
As for the drive itself, well, the Prius isn’t amazing. But we think you already knew that. It’s not that the steering is bad, but the car just leans a lot and groans when you put your foot into it. Mind you, the gas-to-electric switchover of the Prius has always been nearly indetectible. It’s the CVT that groans when you need some speed.
Which, of course, you never really get, with a 0-60 time of over 10 seconds. But again, you knew that.
Sitting behind the steering wheel you won’t love the view ahead. That’s because as Priuses have always done, the gauges aren’t in front of you but in the middle of the car. While an annoyance, this feature also highlights (obviously so) the massive swatch of cheap plastic dash, which gets you thinking more and more about cheap plastic. Which gets you realizing how much there is of it all over the place inside the cabin. John Stuart Mill would be proud.
As from the view from outside, that’s quite a matter of personal opinion. What was once controversial when the fourth generation (XW50) launched back in 2015, is now hardly even worth talking about. We live in a post-Cybertruck world after all.
Moving back to the interior, there’s some technology worth pointing out here. A 7.0-inch touchscreen sits in the middle of the dash with all the usual features and connectivity apps like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa compatibility.
Of note, Android Auto is new for 2021. However, it’s not available on the top-level Limited trim. Oddly, that model gets a fancier 11.6-inch touch screen. But apparently it and Google don’t play nicely together, so it’s not offered. Odd.
The Prius comes equipped with all of the latest safety features standard including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, land departure warning and lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control. Plus, for 2021 it also gains automatic high-beam headlights and pedestrian-and-bicycle detection.
The car received a five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and as of 2018 it earned a Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
As always, if fuel economy is your true priority in a vehicle you really can’t beat the Prius. That, and tremendously good reliability. In fact, the Prius consistently gets rated as one of the most reliable vehicles on sale, and is even above average for a Toyota. And that’s saying a lot.
The Prius gets critiques a lot as an appliance, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. With amazing fuel savings, modern looks, great safety, reliability and an attractive price, it’s a damn fine appliance!
|Price Range /||$25,280 - $33,455|
|Engine /||1.8L I4 plus electric motor|
|Power (hp) /||121|
|Torque (lb-ft) /||NA|
|Fuel Economy (mpg) /||58/53/56 / 54/50/52 / 52/48/50|
|Transmission/drivetrain /||CVT, FWD/AWD|
Our Final Verdict
The Prius is the heavyweight champion of hybrid cars, and this year adding an improved infotainment system makes it a more pleasant place to spend time. It’s also a boon for Apple device owners, getting the benefit of the CarPlay experience. Thanks to its fuel-sipping powertrain, the Prius is already a top choice for anyone covering large numbers of miles every year, and for those buyers, the extended battery warranty should be a big perk. For drivers who want to sip fuel as well as deal with winter, the AWD-e option is a simple choice: yes, please.