Full 2013 Toyota Prius Review
What's New for 2013
Apart from the debut of a new trim level ? the Persona Series Special Edition ? the Toyota Prius stands pat for 2013.
If we played a little word association with the general public, we're pretty certain it would go something like this: Copier: "Xerox"; Tissues: "Kleenex"; Hybrid: "Prius." These are all brands that have dominated their respective markets so greatly that their names have become the de facto way of referring to the product itself. The 2013 Toyota Prius continues that trend, though we would say hybrid shoppers enjoy a wider range of appealing choices than ever before.
Certainly, there are many reasons behind this Toyota's popularity. First and foremost is its incredible fuel efficiency -- the Prius' EPA combined rating of 50 mpg is topped only by the smaller Prius C and much more expensive plug-in hybrids such as the Chevrolet Volt. Yet it's also a pretty nice car to drive. The Prius' hatchback body style provides generous passenger and cargo space, and if luxury is your thing, Toyota's got you covered with a plethora of high-end options. Given all that plus its strong reliability record, it's no wonder that the Prius is used as a taxi in many cities.
But it's not all green lights for this green car pioneer. The materials quality within that roomy cabin is mediocre in places, and the driving position can be awkward for many people. While the Prius still easily outclasses its chief rival, the Honda Insight, it's a harder sell against the new 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, which is nicer inside and more refined to drive. The latest hybrid midsize sedans, including the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid, are also impressively good.
And then there is the price of going hybrid to consider. Today's standard compact cars (either gasoline- or diesel-powered) get excellent fuel economy while costing much less, meaning the Prius might not produce the savings in fuel costs that you think it will. Still, the 2013 Toyota Prius continues to validate its position as the quintessential hybrid. Its blend of fuel efficiency, practicality and handy high-tech features make it an easy choice in its segment.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Toyota Prius is a four-door hatchback available in five trim levels: Two, Three, Persona Series Special Edition, Four and Five. The "Five" is not to be confused with the Prius V, which is a larger wagon version of the Prius that's addressed in a separate review.
Standard equipment on the Prius Two includes 15-inch alloy wheels, heated power mirrors, a rear window wiper, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, an advanced trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a touchscreen electronics interface and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The Prius Three gains an enhanced keyless entry system, a rearview camera, a navigation system, voice controls, satellite radio, HD radio and Toyota's Entune system, which includes real-time information (traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports scores) and a suite of apps that connect the car to Internet sites like Pandora, iHeart Radio and Open Table through your smartphone.
The Prius Persona Special Edition is similar to the Three but includes 17-inch alloy wheels, charcoal/black "SofTex" (synthetic leather) upholstery with red stitching and dark chrome interior accents.
Stepping up to the Prius Four reverts back to 15-inch wheels but gets you automatic headlights, an eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats, SofTex upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a JBL sound system with eight GreenEdge speakers. The Prius Five features 17-inch alloy wheels, foglamps and LED headlamps with auto level control and washers.
An optional Solar Roof package for the Prius Three adds a sunroof and a solar-powered ventilation system that keeps the car cool to limit the burden on the air-conditioning system. It's also offered for the Four, and then includes a head-up display, Safety Connect emergency communications and an upgraded navigation system with a high-definition display and split-screen capability.
The Five's Advanced Technology package adds adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision alert system, a lane-departure warning system, Safety Connect, a head-up display and the higher-quality navigation display.
Available on all trims is the Plus Appearance package, which adds unique 17-inch alloy wheels and a seven-piece aerodynamic body kit. To this the Plus Performance package (availability depends on trim level) adds a sport-tuned suspension and unique badging.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Toyota Prius is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine combined with a pair of electric motor/generators. Together they send a total output of 134 horsepower through a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT).
In track testing, we clocked the Prius from zero to 60 mph in 10.1 seconds; that's about the same as the Insight, but slower than the C-Max Hybrid and other hybrid midsize sedans. The EPA estimates the 2013 Prius will return a very impressive 51 mpg city/48 highway and 50 mpg combined. In real-world testing, we found these estimates to be reasonably accurate.
Every 2013 Toyota Prius comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. The Prius Four and Five can be equipped with Toyota's Safety Connect emergency communications system. The Prius Five includes a pre-collision warning system and a lane-departure warning system.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Prius came to a stop from 60 mph in 118 feet -- very good for a compact or midsize car.
In government crash tests, the Prius received a perfect five stars for overall protection, with four stars for overall frontal protection and five stars for overall side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Prius the highest possible rating of "Good" in its frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2013 Toyota Prius features straightforward controls that jut out toward the driver in a "floating console" that provides a storage tray underneath. It's a nice design that helps maximize cabin space. The standard touchscreen operates many of the Prius' high-tech features and is, for the most part, smartly designed. The digital instrument panel also features a floating layer that displays audio, temperature and trip computer information when the driver touches those controls on the steering wheel, minimizing eye movement. Some drivers might find the overall design a bit too busy-looking, however.
Materials quality in the Prius is disappointing, with harder and cheaper plastics than other cars in its price range. The corduroy-like texturing on the climate and audio controls seems nice at first, but collects oil from the skin and causes circular dark spots on most buttons.
In terms of versatility, though, the Prius is still a champ. The hatchback body style provides more cargo capacity than a typical midsize sedan, and the backseat offers plenty of space. Sadly, taller drivers still have to contend with a steering wheel that's placed too far away. There's a telescoping column, but it doesn't come out nearly far enough.
Acceleration in the 2013 Toyota Prius is far from sprightly, but it'll likely be adequate for most buyers. Four driving modes -- Normal, Eco, Power and EV -- allow the driver to choose the optimum powertrain configuration depending on conditions. Eco is measured and sluggish, but returns the best fuel economy. Power is useful for entering freeways or driving on hills. EV mode locks out the gasoline engine, but only allows a maximum speed of 25 mph and requires at least a half-charged battery pack.
Around town, the Prius is an easy-to-drive runabout. The electric steering doesn't provide much feedback, but it's very light in parking lots and doesn't become overly boosted on the highway. The ride is comfortable, but nastier bumps can leave it a bit flummoxed. There is also an excessive amount of road noise that permeates the cabin regardless of speed, and the noises emitted by its smaller gasoline engine are hardly what we'd describe as sonorous.