The 2020 Toyota Prius is one of the most recognizable and well-known hybrids in the country. There was a time when it was something of a novelty, but now there are legions of hybrids from compacts to SUVs offering something for everyone. Despite that competition, the Prius remains a top choice for those in the market for a hybrid vehicle.
The big news for the Prius came last year with the introduction of all-wheel drive. It’s available only on two trims and makes Boston winters far less daunting. We had the opportunity to test the capabilities of the all-wheel drive Prius on a snowy track and it proved its worth in rutted snow that would have bogged down a lesser vehicle.
The system is called AWD-e with the “e” standing for electric and it runs a bit differently than the all-wheel drive in other vehicles. It has an independent, magnet-less electric motor rather than a center differential or front-to-rear driveshaft.
It automatically activates at speeds from 0-6 miles per hour no matter the road conditions. This helps when you need extra traction to get started. The all-wheel drive system then activates only as needed at speeds up to 43 miles per hour but isn’t available at higher speeds. The idea is to provide the benefits of all-wheel drive only when you’re most likely to need them while still maintaining great fuel economy.
Fuel economy varies depending on the trim with the best numbers coming from the L Eco. It gets an EPA-estimated 58 miles per gallon in the city, 53 on the highway, and 56 combined. The bulk of the Prius lineup gets 54 miles per gallon in the city, 50 on the highway, and 52 combined. The numbers take a dip for all-wheel drive trims to 52 miles per gallon in the city, 48 on the highway, and 50 combined.
There’s a definite fuel economy sacrifice for all-wheel drive compared to the most fuel-efficient trim, but the numbers are still quite good. The extra fuel cost might require more careful budgeting but is a fair trade for the added capability offered by the all-wheel drive system.
Power for the Prius comes from a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine with two electric motors paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission. It offers 121 net system horsepower with 105 pound-feet of torque, which doesn’t make it the fastest car on the block.
While the Prius isn’t a spirited drive, it gets up to speed without a fuss and is able to deliver enough power for high-speed passing. It doesn’t have the engaging drive of more performance-oriented vehicles, but that’s not why you buy a Prius. You buy a Prius for fuel economy, and on that front it’s a winner.
The interior is attractive with appealing — though modest — materials even on top trims. Seating is comfortable and roomy with space for three rear passengers. The fit is a bit snug for three full-size adults in back, but two will find plenty of room to spread out.
The Prius looks like a sedan, but it’s a five-door hatchback with great versatility for cargo. There’s a low load floor for easier loading of heavy items and up to 27.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats. Those seats also split-fold 60/40 increasing cargo capacity to 65.5 cubic feet.
New this year is standard Apple CarPlay, but no Android Auto. There’s also a larger seven-inch infotainment touchscreen that’s standard on all but the Limited, which gets an 11.6-inch touchscreen and an upgraded audio system.
Safety features are extensive with Safety Connect now standard with a complimentary three-year subscription. The Prius also features Toyota Safety Sense P that includes pre-collision with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, and full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control. Lastly, it’s an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety 2019 Top Safety Pick.
Pricing for the 2020 Toyota Prius ranges from $24,325 to $32,500. Those who want the added capability of all-wheel drive have the option of the LE at $26,935 or XLE at $29.375. The fuel-efficient 2020 Toyota Prius is now available at local dealerships.