Being first, best, original and number-one is a rarity in the car world. The Toyota Prius is all of those at once. It is a true original - world’s first mass-produced hybrid model, introduced more than 20 years ago, and it is one of the world’s best-selling hybrids. The Prius literally invented the high-volume hybrid segment, and Toyota produces more hybrid models than any other carmaker in the United States.
The new model for 2020 is the fourth generation of the original. We have tested all four generations, and this new iteration is all Prius – and expands the builds upon the appeal of the model.
In addition to improvements across the model, the most remarkable is its economy, 58 city, 53 highway, 56 combined EPA-estimated mpg (L Eco grade). We tested the segment-exclusive AWD-e model, which features an electronic all-wheel drive system which, at speeds up to 43mph, helps give drivers more control when weather and road conditions are less than ideal. And during this winter test in Rocky Mountain region, it performed remarkably well in snow, ice, and high altitude.
Driving this new model is an improvement over the prior years, however more of an evolution rather than a revolution. The Prius has always had its own unique driving character and sounds, which the new model retains. This “spaceship” aura is cool – I love the way the Prius sounds and drives. This new model is built around the Toyota New Global Architecture, a platform that integrates a high-strength body structure, multi-link rear suspension and a low center of gravity. The platform endows Prius with a highly engaging driving character combined with exemplary ride smoothness and a quiet cabin.
Like the earlier generations, this fourth-generation Prius continues to be a leader in the hybrid world. Its Hybrid Synergy Drive system combines the output of a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine and two motor-generators through an electronically controlled planetary-type continuously variable transmission.
The front-wheel-drive Prius is a real fuel miser. The L Eco grade has 58 mpg city / 53 mpg highway / 56 mpg combined EPA-estimated fuel economy. The LE, XLE and Limited, which offer more equipment, have 54 mpg city / 50 mpg highway / 52 mpg combined.
The Prius front-wheel drive models use a lithium ion battery, while the AWD-e versions employ a nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery. The latter technology is inherently resilient to extreme temperature change to provide AWD-e models with excellent battery performance in cold-weather conditions. Speaking of cold weather, the XLE grade (both FWD and AWD-e) features upgraded SofTex-trimmed, heated front seats as standard.
In addition to exceptional fuel efficiency, something else all Prius models share in common is outstanding versatility. The front-wheel drive models offer up to 65.5 cu. ft. of cargo space with the rear seatbacks folded down, which is more than in some small SUVs. The Prius AWD-e models offer 62.7 cu. ft. of space, the small difference due to accommodating the AWD-e system.
Expanding carrying options, the Prius models offer available Genuine Toyota Accessory cargo crossbars for roof rack attachments, such as for carrying bikes, kayaks, snowboards, or a cargo carrier.
In 2019, Toyota introduced the Prius AWD-e, the first-ever Prius with all-wheel drive. While enhancing traction for drivers, the Prius AWD-e upholds the model’s penchant for outstanding efficiency, with 52 mpg city / 48 mpg highway / 50 mpg combined EPA fuel economy estimates. That easily makes Prius AWD-e one of the most fuel-efficient all-wheel-drive-equipped passenger cars available in the U.S.
The “e” in AWD-e is the key to offering the extra grip of all-wheel drive while still sipping fuel. The automatic, on-demand system does not require a center differential or other torque-apportioning device, nor does it need a front-to-rear driveshaft. Instead, the “e” in AWD-e stands for electronic.
All Prius models share interior features including the familiar central screen interface. The 4.2-in. color Dual Multi-Information Display with customizable screens includes Energy Monitor, Hybrid System Indicator and Eco Score, Eco Savings Record, Drive Monitor, Eco Wallet, Eco Diary, Climate Control, driver support systems, audio system content, and navigation system content. On AWD-e models, the display adds an AWD-e system indicator.
In addition to newly standard Safety Connect, 7-in. Toyota Audio with touch-screen display, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa for 2020, highlights of the LE include driver’s door Smart Key System, Push Button Start and remote illuminated entry, a rear wiper, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Intelligent Clearance Sonar with Intelligent Parking Assist.
The standard Toyota Audio system includes the 7-in. touch-screen display, AM/FM CD player, 6 speakers, auxiliary audio jack, one USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity and two 2.1-amp USB charge ports, advanced voice recognition, Bluetooth hands-free phone capability, phone book access and music streaming, Siri Eyes Free, and an integrated backup camera display.
The XLE grade adds 17-in. alloy wheels (15-in. on XLE AWD-e), SofTex-trimmed heated tilt/telescopic steering wheel, SofTex-trimmed seats including 8-way power and heated front seats, 3-door Smart Key system, and Qi wireless phone charging tray that accommodates larger phones.
The Prius Limited grade features top-of-the-line tech, including an Adaptive Front Lighting System with auto-leveling headlamps; Toyota Premium JBL Audio with navigation and 11.6-in. touch-screen display. A standard Color Head-Up Display shows the speedometer and Hybrid System Indicator in the driver’s line of sight.
Overall, the Prius is the legendary hybrid that started it all, and this new generation brings its A-game in all areas – driving ease, simplicity, comfort, utility, and economy. Pricing starts at $24,325 for the Prius Hybrid, and starts at $29,375 for our XLE AWD-e. For more information, see you local Toyota dealer or visit www.Toyota.com.