|Positives: More than respectable steering and handling, comfy front seats, good climate controls, a high-tech infotainment system with a huge screen, excellent fuel efficiency, better looking than the standard hybrid Prius|
|Negatives: If you don't like the funky styling, you won't like the way it looks; cargo space should be better, rear seats are a little small.|
|Bottom Line: The Prius Prime Advanced is great to drive, packed with tons of technology, frugal with fuel, and a little weird inside and out. If that sounds like something you're interested in, you're going to love this car. The electric torque is nice to have off the line, and the vehicle is very composed on the road. If you wanted something more conventional, look to the Hyundai Ioniq or the Chevrolet Volt.|
Plug-in hybrids are a unique breed because you can (in theory) drive your daily commute on electric only power and then use the gasoline engine only for longer trips. Having driven other plug-in hybrids -- like the BMW 330e and the two vehicles listed above -- we were interested to see just how good the Prius Prime is compared to the competition, so the good folks at Toyota let us drive one around for a week. Read on for the full review.
From talking with colleagues, we knew the Prius Prime would drive well. What we didn’t realize was how well. It’s honestly fun to drive when using electric power only. The CVT transmission diminishes the fun factor a little when the car operates in hybrid form, but only slightly. The car feels composed and precise on the road. It’s still no sports car. If you push it, you’ll find its limits but not as easily as you might expect.
Ride Quality: The Prius Prime’s ride errs on the side of comfort. The model’s suspension soaks up bumps and gaps in the road with ease.
Acceleration: There’s plenty of torque off the line and a decent amount of passing power at highway speeds. Still, the car’s 0-60 time is not impressive at just under 11 seconds. Once you get off the line, getting up to speed takes a little while.
Braking: Unlike a lot of hybrid cars, the brakes are not mushy. They’re progressive and strong with good pedal feel. You’ll have no issues slowing this car down.
Steering: The Prius Prime has much more precise steering than what we expected. The car goes right where you point it, and the steering offers an organic and natural feel. It’s actually satisfying on a curvy road.
Handling: Toyota tweaked the Prius Prime's suspension a little bit from the regular Prius and it shows. There’s little body roll and you can toss the car into a turn with more confidence than we expected.
There’s a lot of technology in the Prius Prime Advanced. Past Prius owners will likely feel right at home except for the 11.6-inch multimedia display. It takes a little getting used to. However, once you figure the system out, you’ll be swiping and tapping without issue. The system comes with Entune App Suite, Bluetooth, Siri Eyes Free, Sirius XM Radio, navigation, and a charging station map among some additional features.
Infotainment System: The large 11.6-inch screen displays high-quality graphics and has a slick and easy to use interface. It’s a robust system and takes some getting used to, but once you figure out how the system is laid out, you’ll have no issues.
Controls: The touchscreen handles most of the system’s functions. There are a few touch-based buttons to either side of the screen that make navigating to the home screen or the menu screen easier. It can be a little hard to use while driving until you get the hang of it.
Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing our Android phone proved to be fast and easy, and re-pairing upon re-entry was seamless.
Voice Call Quality: Calls were clear, and we experienced no issues.
The Prius Prime takes the model’s funky styling to a new spaceship level. The car looks like a futuristic bionic insect on wheels. It’s a polarizing style that will appeal to some and drive others away. One interesting element is the little dip in the rear liftback window. We thought this was just an odd visual trick, but it actually assists with rear visibility. It looks very weird, though. We get that Toyota's appealing to its die-hard Prius fans, but they'd pull in more new buyers with a less polarizing look.
Front: The front end has been restyled from the regular Prius. It features slim, quad-LED headlights and a low nose.
Rear: The rear is also different that the regular Prius, featuring an interesting wave in the middle of the liftback door. The taillights aren’t as angular as the regular Prius either. Instead, they’re horizontally oriented and almost create a long oval shape.
Profile: From the side, you see the interesting character lines down the side of the vehicle. The attractive 15-inch alloy wheels look a small for the car.
Cabin: The cabin is styled much like the previous Prius. With the same digital instrument and driver information center located in the center of the cabin atop the dash. The screen is integrated smoothly into the dash with a vertical orientation. Overall, it’s a modern look, but it almost looks like Toyota is trying too hard to be futuristic and different. This is our biggest complaint with the regular Prius’ interior, too.
The Prius Prime is a comfortable vehicle. While its interior is a little different from a styling standpoint, on the ergonomic side of things, it’s very good. Still, the vehicle comes with some caveats. As much as we liked how comfy the car is, we have to note the rear seat could be better. The slick roofline is a hindrance to anyone above average height.
Front Seats: The front seats offer plenty of support and a reasonable amount of bolstering and are clad in SofTex upholstery. There’s plenty of legroom and adjustment to get comfortable.
Rear Seats: The rear seats offer similar levels of support and bolstering, but anyone taller than about 5' 9'' will have trouble with headroom and possibly leg room. There simply isn’t much space in the back seat.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Prius Prime is a quiet and solidly built vehicle. We noticed no errant noises. You do hear a bit of electric motor whine with the audio system off, but it’s not obtrusive. When the engine kicks on, it's pretty quiet as well.
Visibility: Front and side visibility is good. Toyota tried its best with the rear, split window, but visibility still isn’t as good as it could be. The window feels too low to really see well out of.
Climate: The automatic climate controls are powerful and easy to adjust via the touchscreen. The heated seats are powerful as well, though we didn’t need to use them much.
The Prius Prime is a very safe vehicle. It received top honors from the IIHS. It has a long list of safety features. This comes as little surprise since the regular Prius received essentially the same score.
IIHS Rating: The Prius Prime is a Top Safety Pick+. The model received good ratings on all crashworthiness testing. It also got a superior rating for crash avoidance and mitigation technology and an acceptable rating for its headlights.
NHTSA Rating: Not Yet Rated.
Standard Tech: The Prius Prime comes with a lot of safety equipment standard in the Advanced trim level, including stability and traction control, ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist with smart stop, airbags, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beam headlights, full speed dynamic radar cruise control, blind spot monitor with cross traffic alert, and tire pressure monitoring.
Optional Tech: None.
The Prius Prime does a decent job of offering storage and cargo spaces for you to store your items. The spaces inside the cabin are easy to reach and use. The cargo space is also easy to use, but not quite as large as we expected or would have liked.
Storage Space: The space beneath the armrest is large enough for all your everyday carry items, but too small for a medium-to-large-size purse or bag. In front of the armrest are two cup holders, and in front of that, there's a small storage bin with a wireless charging pad for your phone.
Cargo Room: The cargo area features 19.8 cubic feet of cargo space. This is significantly less than the regular Prius, which has 24.6 cubic feet of space. The smaller cargo space can be attributed to the redesigned liftback and the larger battery that the Prius Prime uses. If you need to carry a lot of stuff, this isn’t the car to use.
If you’re after something that sips fuel or hardly uses it at all, the Prius Prime is an excellent choice. You can cruise up to 25 miles on electric power alone (we only got to about 20 miles), and then the car seamlessly switches over to a gas/electric hybrid power. From there it’s an estimated 54 EPA-estimated combined mpg.
Observed: 54.2 mpg
Distance Driven: 112 miles
Driving Factors: We drove primarily in the city where the electric motors could do their thing. There were only a few trips on the highway and they were not very long.
The Entune Premium JBL audio system featured ten JBL GreenEdge speakers. It was plenty loud enough and provided rich and clear sound to all areas of the cabin. This system is a step above the standard Entune audio system that’s in the Plus trim level of the Prius Prime.