Full 2014 Toyota Prius Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Toyota Prius sees no notable changes other than the discontinuation of the Persona Series Special Edition.
For the past decade, the Toyota Prius has dominated the hybrid car segment. In its early years, the Prius faced little competition, but these days there are plenty of compact and midsize hybrids in this price range. The fact that Toyota's iconic hybrid hatchback has remained number one is a testament to its packaging. The well-rounded 2014 Toyota Prius hits all the targets for most consumers shopping in this class.
The big contributor to the Prius' evergreen popularity is its amazing fuel economy -- 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. The Prius is also a pleasant car to drive in the daily grind. No, it won't raise the pulse of driving enthusiasts, but it is an easy-to-park, comfortable and spacious vehicle. And then there's the Prius' strong record for reliability and longevity. Considering all these practical attributes, it's no wonder you see Priuses used as taxicabs in many cities.
Still, not all is perfect in Toyota Prius land. Some of the interior materials are subpar, and the driving position is awkward for taller people due to the steering wheel's limited range of telescoping adjustment. Furthermore, Toyota's hybrid faces much tougher rivals than in years past. While the Prius easily outclasses the Honda Insight, there is stiffer competition in the form of the recently introduced 2014 Ford C-Max Hybrid, which has a nicer interior and handles better to boot. If a versatile hatchback body style is not a must, midsize hybrid sedans like the 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid, 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid offer higher levels of comfort and refinement.
You should also factor in the higher up-front price of buying a hybrid car. Today's gasoline- and diesel-powered compact cars get great fuel economy and cost considerably less. When you weigh the Prius' higher price against its 50 mpg EPA rating, you should bear in mind that it might take years to realize a net savings over more conventional alternatives.
That said, the 2014 Toyota Prius remains the quintessential hybrid, and its blend of fuel efficiency, practicality, comfort and handy high-tech features makes it an easy choice in this segment.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Toyota Prius is a five-passenger, four-door hatchback available in four trim levels: Two, Three, 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 covered 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 6.1-inch touchscreen display 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 the ability to use apps like Pandora, iHeart Radio and Open Table via a connection with your smartphone.
Stepping up to the Prius Four gets you automatic headlights, an eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats, SofTex (leatherette) upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a JBL sound system with eight GreenEdge speakers.
The Prius Five features 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights and LED headlights.
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 7-inch 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 2014 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 to the front wheels 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 the aforementioned hybrid midsize sedans. The EPA estimates the 2014 Prius will return a very impressive 50 mpg combined (51 mpg city/48 highway). In real-world testing, we've found these estimates reasonably accurate.
Every 2014 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, which includes emergency and roadside assistance, collision notification and stolen vehicle location. All but the Prius Two come standard with a rearview camera, while the Prius Five includes a frontal-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 four stars (out of a possible five) 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 moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2014 Toyota Prius features straightforward controls that jut out toward the driver in a "floating console" that provides a storage tray underneath. It's stylish and also helps maximize cabin space. The digital instrument panel 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.
The standard touchscreen operates many of the Prius' high-tech features and is, for the most part, smartly designed. The Entune system in the Prius Three and above can be a hassle, though, since you have to install an app on your phone and register for an account; plus, you always need an active data connection to use Entune.
Materials quality in the Prius is also 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.
However, the Prius remains highly versatile. The hatchback body style provides considerably more cargo capacity than a typical midsize sedan, and the backseat offers plenty of space for passengers. Sadly, taller drivers still have to contend with a steering wheel that's placed too far away. Even though there's a telescoping column, it doesn't come out nearly far enough to enable a comfortable driving position.
Acceleration in the 2014 Toyota Prius is far from sprightly, but it should 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 steering doesn't provide much feedback, but it makes the car effortless to maneuver in parking lots without feeling overly light at highway speeds. The ride is generally comfortable, but nastier bumps can upset the suspension and disturb the car's occupants. There is also an excessive amount of road noise that permeates the cabin regardless of speed. Moreover, the noises emitted by the Prius' small gasoline engine under hard acceleration are not what we'd describe as sonorous.