The Toyota Prius is the original hybrid. Though it faces a lot more competition now than when it first went on sale in 1997, it’s still on shoppers’ lists who want a practical and reliable car with excellent fuel efficiency.
The Prius was redesigned for the 2016 model year. Now for 2019, the Prius is available with all-wheel-drive for the first time, gets some exterior and interior styling tweaks, and the trim names change and are now similar to other Toyota models.
The five-passenger 2019 Prius is available in L Eco, LE, XLE and Limited trims. Gone are the old Prius One, Two, Three and Four trims. Starting prices range from $23,770 to $32,200. All-wheel-drive is available on the LE and higher trims.
The AWD-e system adds an electric motor to drive the rear wheels and provide better traction at low speeds up to 6 mph, and also as needed at higher speeds up to 43 mph.
The Prius is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gas engine and two motor/generators combined with a continuously variable automatic transmission. Total output is 121 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. The AWD models get a nickel-metal hydride battery which performs better in colder temps. The front-wheel-drive models have a lithium-ion battery.
The 2019 Prius drives like, well, a Prius. These cars are not known for their engaging performance, and that’s not why people buy them. The Prius doesn’t have the snappiest acceleration, but it’s fine once it’s up to speed so you’ll have no issues merging or passing at freeway speeds. The transition between the gas and electric power is seamless. Visibility is good all the way around. All in all, the Prius provides a smooth driving experience, but definitely won’t get your heart racing.
What is exciting is to think about the great mileage you’re getting. EPA ratings for my tester are 52 mpg city and 48 mpg highway for a combined rating of 50. I got 49 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving. Front-wheel-drive models have slightly better ratings.
The interior gets some updates for 2019. The old white plastic trim is replaced with piano black which gives the styling a more modern look. Seats are comfortable, even for long drives, and there’s a ton of room in the cabin. Even taller adults in both rows enjoy decent leg- and headroom. The cabin is quiet with minimal road and engine noise.
Standard features include proximity keyless entry, push-button start, rearview camera, cloth upholstery, six-way adjustable driver’s seat, four-way adjustable front passenger seat, automatic climate control, six-speaker audio system, 6.1-inch touch-screen display, voice recognition, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth, and three USB ports.
The Toyota Safety Sense P is a suite of driver assistance technologies which is standard on all Prius models. These include pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, and full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control.
Available features include faux leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated steering wheel wrapped in faux leather, moonroof, 10-speaker JBL audio system, 11.6-inch touch screen, navigation, satellite radio, HD Radio, and wireless charging.
Available driver assistance technologies include adaptive headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, head-up display, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, active park assist, and front and rear parking sensors.
The infotainment system is fairly intuitive and quick to respond to touch and voice commands. Graphics wash out a bit in direct sunlight. My biggest gripe with the system is that Android Auto or Apple CarPlay are not available; instead you have to use Toyota’s Entune app to pair your smart phone.
The Prius has a lot of cargo room for the class. There are 24.6 cubic feet in the AWD model with both rows of seating in place and a whopping 62.7 cubes with the second row folded. The 60/40 split-folding rear seats provide flexibility in hauling passengers and cargo. There are numerous cubbies and bins in the cabin.
Excellent fuel efficiency
Now available with AWD
Comfortable, quiet and smooth ride
Spacious and practical interior
Lots of cargo space
Meh driving dynamics
No Android Auto or Apple CarPlay
My tester starts at $28,820. The Advanced Technology Package is $800 and adds a color head-up display with speedometer, hybrid system indicator, and adaptive front lighting system with auto-leveling headlamps. Carpet floor mats and carpet cargo mat are $264. Alloy wheel locks are $65. 15-inch Alloy wheels are $899. Rear bumper applique is $69. Illuminated door sills are $299. Delivery fee is $930 bringing the grand total to $32,146.
Toyota knows how to make a hybrid, and the Prius stands the test of time. Consumers who want a vehicle that can deliver upwards of 50 mpg, a comfortable ride, and a roomy and practical cabin should still consider the Prius. And the addition of AWD means the Prius is now more capable in the inclement weather conditions we face in the Pacific Northwest.