2014 Toyota Prius Review
Mission-focused hybrid does what it sets out to do.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: July 21st, 2014
Some cars have just one mission in life. Mazda's Miata is meant to be enjoyed on a country road. A Bentley is meant to coddle passengers in extreme luxury (of course, some Bentleys are stupid fast, too), and so on. So it is with Toyota's Prius, a car that has had only one mission since the beginning — maximize mileage.
Some things don't change, and while the Prius has evolved over the years — even spawning other Prius models like the V and C — it still has the same basic shape, the same hybrid-only powertrain, and the same high-mileage mission.
On the Road
No one expects a Prius to offer much driving fun, and for the most part, it doesn't, unless fun for you involves monitoring fuel consumption and passing gas pumps. Hit the gas in any of the transmission modes (Eco, Normal, EV, or Power) and not much happens. Hitting the "PWR" button does hasten throttle response a little, but there's still noticeable lag. Jackrabbit acceleration is a fuel-sucker, so the Prius won't give into your shenanigans, no matter how hard you try. Plan accordingly for passing and merging.
One area where the Prius does surprise is in cornering. It's not great — there's body roll aplenty and the steering remains too light and disconnected — but it's friskier than one would expect. Did a rogue suspension engineer slip something past his or her boss at Toyota?
Ride quality is mostly acceptable, but thanks to low-rolling-resistance tires, it's a little on the stiff side at times. The brakes feel soft and offer too much pedal travel without enough bite — if traffic halts suddenly on the freeway and you need to slow the proceedings down in a hurry, prepare to get nervous.
Fuel misers will note that it's easy to keep the Prius in EV mode with judicious use of the throttle (and the air-conditioning), which only serves to save fuel. There's that Prius mission statement again.
The Prius also makes all sorts of odd noises as it switches between modes, so prepare to hear a variety of hisses and whirring sounds. Floor it and the hybrid system drones under the strain of the extra labor.
The elongated hatchback shape of the Prius remains as bean-like as ever, and it's not particularly easy on the eyes, but you find yourself getting used to it. Since so many of the damn things are on the road, you just sort of come to accept the shape.
Again, it's all about the mission. Aesthetics place a distant second to aerodynamics, which is why the Prius is in the shape it's in (thanks, Sam Cooke, for that paraphrase). Toyota doesn't give a damn about winning design awards with the Prius, it cares more about getting it into your driveway because you believe you'll save money on gas. (Never mind that you likely won't recoup your costs over the life of the car.)
It's as weird as it ever was (thanks, David Byrne, for that paraphrase). The speedo is in the center of the dash, the shifter is an odd little thing, and design is more about function than form.
Yet it mostly works. The head-up display is appreciated, the navigation/infotainment system is familiar to anyone who's spent time in any Toyota, and the switchgear, including the steering-wheel mounted controls, is laid out in a logical fashion. Nothing here is fancy, but nothing is hard to use, either.
Also appreciated is the tray below the shifter that makes for an easy place to stash cell phones, toll transponders, and other random crap.
The hatchback's utility comes in handy, making loading and unloading luggage a snap.
Perhaps the biggest drawback here is the noise — the Prius lets in a little too much of the outdoors, at least in certain circumstances. Tire noise on certain pavement types is intrusive, as are some of the aforementioned sounds from the powertrain switching between modes. And then there's the truck-like beeping that the car does when reverse is selected. It's meant to alert those around that you're about to back up — after all, hybrids are near silent in electric mode at low speeds. Unfortunately, pedestrian safety comes at the expense of occupant's sanity.
You know what you're getting when you buy a Prius. You're getting a mileage machine that exudes practicality instead of charm. Fun isn't the name of the game here — this is a car that indulges your inner adult, not your inner child. You don't get grins from fast acceleration or precise cornering, you get them from passing the local Shell station.
For a lot of people, that's just fine and dandy. Even if fuel costs aren't recouped over the term of ownership, getting 45 mpg on a consistent basis is nothing to sneeze at, and the Prius also offers hatchback utility and all the other creature comforts (such as nav) that people have come to expect. And there's no need to plug it in (unless you get the plug-in Prius, of course).
There's a reason that Toyota has sold so many Priuses, no matter how many jokes we make about smugness. That's just fine with Toyota.
Specs, Features, & Prices
Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine/electric motor
Transmission: Electronically Controlled Continuously-Variable Automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Power Output: 134 system horsepower /153 lb-ft of torque
Fuel Economy (mpg): 51 city/48 highway
Base Price: $30,005 (not including $810 for destination fee)
As-Tested Price: $37,267 (includes $810 destination fee)
Available Features: Rear spoiler, navigation system, USB port, cruise control, tilt/telescope steering wheel, keyless entry, push-button start, auxiliary port, Bluetooth, satellite radio, Advanced Technology Package ($4,320, adds premium navigation and EnTune app suite (includes Bing search and Pandora internet music streaming), rearview camera, head-up display, dynamic-radar cruise control, pre-collision system, lane-keep assist, roadside assistance, and automatic collision notification), illuminated door sill ($279), five-spoke 17-inch wheels ($1,599), first aid kit ($29), carpeted floor and cargo mats ($225).
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2014 Toyota Prius, click here: 2014 Toyota Prius.