2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e Review

Traction and visual tweaks to boost sales but not much else


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Improved traction, styling is slightly less offensive, roomy interior, excellent efficiency.
Negatives: Still looks like it got hit with the ugly stick, still agonizingly slow, still too polarizing to pump sales up by much, needs a redesign in the worst way.
Bottom Line: The Prius with AWD is a welcomed upgrade from the FWD version, but even with revised styling, the Prius can't pull off a beauty pageant anytime soon. It's great for those committed to the Prius mindset, but for anyone else considering an efficient hybrid, there are better options that won't hurt your eyes.
Almost everyone used to kinda like the Prius and either loved or tolerated its looks because of what the car represented, a class-leader and pioneer in hybrid vehicles. No more. Sales have dropped along with gas prices, and the car is reviled even by Prius devotees who find it hard to look at. So, Toyota saw fit to give the model an AWD option for better traction and tweak some of the looks inside and out to make it less polarizing and weird. We drove it in top-spec XLE AWD-e trim for a week to see if the changes warrant more attention from customers. Read on for our detailed review.
 

Driving Experience

6

 

Though we wouldn't call the Prius fun to drive, it's better than previous generations. Unfortunately, the AWD system doesn't up the fun quotient.

Ride Quality: T

Acceleration: It takes almost 11 seconds for the AWD Prius to hit 60 mph from a standstill. We can check email faster than that. The AWD system operates below 43 mph and is primarily useful for better off-the-line traction since it defaults to part-time AWD after it hits 6 mph. It really does nothing for overall acceleration. In fact, the extra weight slows it down by a couple of tenths of a second.

Braking: Regen brakes lack feel, and the ones on the Prius AWD-e are terrible in terms of stopping distances. The low rolling resistance tires don't help, either.

Steering: The steering lacks feedback but is fairly accurate. Turn in could be more responsive, but overall it's decent for a car like this.

Handling: .0.80 lateral Gs on the skidpad isn't terrible, but there's noticeable body roll that goes along with it.

Technology

7.3

 

The Prius is a bit of a mess when it comes to in-car tech. All the extra futuristic doo-dads to monitor efficiency convolute things and contrast starkly with the just ok infotainment system that feels dated.

Infotainment System: Entune in the Prius is acceptable, and it works fine. Just don't expect great visuals, good responsiveness to inputs, or intuitive menus. 6.1" inches makes for a small screen that compares poorly to the Prius Prime's huge 11.6" vertically oriented screen.

Controls: We hate the lollipop shift knob smack in the middle of the center stack. Why did it have to be so tiny? Audio knobs are also too small and hard to grip while driving.

Styling

5.8

 

The Prius adopts some of the styling elements from the Prime, which is a relatively better looking version. Too bad it doesn't adopt all of it because the Prius still looks weird from pretty much every angle.

Front: The front end ditches the triangular foglight housings for long vents, and Toyota moved the fogs to the lower grille. The headlights are shaped more or less the same except for the removal of the odd corner portion that dangled for no reason.

Rear: The once taill taillights now extend toward the center of the hatch in order to make hte back end look more conventional. We still hate it.

Profile: Now that the front end has changed, the side view is officially the Prius's worst angle. Not much is different from the 2018, and it still looks awkwardly bulky at the back end. The dinky 15" wheels don't help matters much.

Cabin: Darker cabin trim helps mitigate some of the interior weirdness, but it doesn't solve everything. Cars like the Hyundai Ioniq and the Kia Niro have more attractive and conventional interiors.

Comfort

7.7

 

The Prius has a solid amount of room for front row occupants

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: It's tight back there, and average sized adults can fit but not comfortably. Forget about six-footers. There simply isn’t much space in the back seat.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Prius is relatively quiet and well made. There's some hum from the electric motors, but nothing's disturbing.

Visibility: Front and side visibility is good. We still feel strange peering out of the split rear window since it kinda throws off the perspective.

Climate: The automatic climate controls work well, and we like the levers. It emitted ample cold air this summer. The heated seats are good, though we only tested them for a minute.

Safety

8.9

 

The 2019 Prius is a very safe vehicle, getting awards from both testing bodies. It also comes with a great set of standard safety equipment thanks to the Toyota Safety Sense P suite that's chock full of tech.

IIHS Rating: The Prius gets the Top Safety Pick rating thanks to "good in all crash tests other than "acceptable" in the small overlap front passenger-side.

NHTSA Rating: The federal government gives the Prius five stars in crash testing.

Standard Tech: The Prius comes with Toyota Safety Sense P and includes: Pre-Collision System w/ Pedestrian Detection, Full Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert w/ Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams, Blind Spot Monitor w/ Rear Cross Traffic Alert. You do get a lot for your money.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8.2

 

The Prius's back seat is small, but fold them down and the cargo hold is actually quite large for bigger gear items. It does a decent job of offering storage space, but the cabin limits small gear stowage.

Storage Space: The Qi-wireless phone charger occupies most of the center stack space, but you can toss keys there if you need to. Other than that, there's a fairly large armrest to keep valuable items out of sight.

Cargo Room: If you drop the rear seats down, you get a rather large 62.7 cubes and about 25 with the seats in place. We like the easy hatchback access, too. It's bigger than the Ioniq and the Niro in the cargo section.

Fuel Economy

9.4

 

The Prius was dethroned by the 58-mpg Ioniq in city driving, and the AWD version of the Prius drops a couple of miles per gallon due to the extra weight. It's still very efficient, however, and owners won't spend much time at the pump. Our numbers were pretty bad, admittedly, but we mashed the gas as much as we could and kept it Power mode exclusively. Other more conservative drivers will fare much better than we did.

Observed: 37.3 mpg

Distance Driven: 85 miles

Audio

6.8

 

We didn't have the JBL premium sound system but just a 6-speaker stock Entune system that was fine without delivering any mindblowing sound. It's relatively clear but lack the fullness of pricier systems.



Final Thoughts

It's hard for us to get excited by small hybrid cars. What should already get about 40 mpg if it was a regular combustion engine costs way more just to eke out another 10 mpg. The Prius is no longer the darling of the eco-minded set since they're turning to EVs. The Prius went too far with radical styling and rested too much on its laurels. The addition of AWD can't save plummeting sales, but it can help diminish the decline. There are better hybrid hatchbacks out there and better, still efficient, economy cars.
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