2018 Toyota Prius Prime

2018 Toyota Prius Prime Review

The Prius Prime is impressively efficient. But from a daily-use standpoint, it's disappointing.
7.0 / 10
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Travis Langness
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

The 2018 Toyota Prius Prime is a plug-in hybrid version of the regular Prius. It has a bigger battery that you can recharge with an external power source. Doing so gives you the ability to drive about 25 miles on all-electric power before the car switches over to regular hybrid operation. After that, the Prime returns an impressive 54 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

Like a standard Prius, the Prius Prime can operate without ever being plugged in. Simply refuel as you go and enjoy the long legs of your journey between fill-ups. Or, if you're able to recharge frequently, you can use the Prius Prime much as you would an all-electric vehicle.

The Prime's styling is a bit different from the regular Prius' (we'd argue it's less goofy-looking, actually), and the seating capacity is down from five passengers in the standard Prius to four. But the driving experience is similar. Still, the bigger battery adds weight, and that has a detrimental effect on handling and acceleration. The battery also reduces maximum cargo capacity compared to the regular Prius.

You'll want to look at a couple of rivals if you're shopping for a plug-in hybrid. The Chevrolet Volt is sportier to drive and has a longer electric range than the Prime, but overall fuel economy with the Volt is lower and the price is higher. Honda's new Clarity Plug-In Hybrid is another top contender. Overall, the 2018 Toyota Prius Prime is a solid pick if you're shopping for an efficient and affordable plug-in hybrid.



What's new for 2018

The 2018 Prius Prime is unchanged from the previous model year.

We recommend

For all-around value, we recommend the Premium trim level. Like every Prius Prime, it has an impressive electric-only range and top-tier fuel economy. But it comes with features that you'll appreciate having, such as the large 11.6-inch touchscreen, upgraded cabin materials, a power-adjustable driver's seat, keyless access and start for all four doors, and wireless smartphone charging.




Trim levels & features

The 2018 Toyota Prius Prime is available in three trim levels: Plus, Premium and Advanced. All share the same hybrid powertrain and perform identically, so the differences among them boil down to features. That is, the Plus is obviously the value play of the range, but it has a decent list of standard features. The Premium, meanwhile, brings a few key comfort-oriented items. The Advanced trim level adds a lot of features that will surely appeal to tech-savvy buyers, though they come at a big increase in price.

All Prius Primes have a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine paired to a plug-in hybrid system. Total system output is 121 horsepower, which drives the front wheels through a specialized continuously variable automatic transmission. The EPA estimates the Prime can drive up to 25 miles using pure electric power. Fully charging the battery takes 5 hours and 30 minutes using a 120-volt power source or a little more than 2 hours with 240 volts.

The Plus trim level starts you out with 15-inch wheels, LED headlights, automatic climate control, keyless access (driver's door only) and start, heated front seats, a 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, a USB port, and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio. A suite of driver safety aids, called Toyota Safety Sense P, is also standard and includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, and automatic high beams.

Stepping up one rung to the Premium trim level puts you into the Prius Prime's sweet spot. It includes a power driver's seat, an 11.6-inch central touchscreen and upgraded infotainment system, simulated leather (SofTex) upholstery, keyless entry on the other three doors, satellite radio and wireless smartphone charging.

The Advanced trim level adds on a premium audio system, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a heated steering wheel, an auto-dimming mirror, a head-up display, a smartphone app with a charge management system and remote-control climate operation, automatic wipers and a semiautomated parking function.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime (1.8L inline-4 hybrid | CVT automatic | FWD).

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall7.0 / 10

Driving

6.0 / 10

Acceleration5.5 / 10
Braking6.0 / 10
Steering6.0 / 10
Handling6.0 / 10
Drivability7.0 / 10

Comfort

8.0 / 10

Seat comfort8.0 / 10
Ride comfort7.0 / 10
Noise & vibration8.0 / 10
Climate control7.5 / 10

Interior

7.0 / 10

Ease of use6.0 / 10
Getting in/getting out8.0 / 10
Driving position7.0 / 10
Roominess8.0 / 10
Visibility6.5 / 10
Quality8.0 / 10

Utility

6.5 / 10

Small-item storage8.0 / 10
Cargo space5.0 / 10

Technology

7.0 / 10

Audio & navigation6.5 / 10
Smartphone integration7.0 / 10
Driver aids7.5 / 10
Voice control7.5 / 10

Driving6.0

The Toyota Prius Prime places a high priority on efficiency over dynamic capabilities. You'll find the car competent in the city and adequate once you're up to speed and cruising. The steering and brakes are particularly numb.

Acceleration5.5

The electric powertrain has sufficient punch for city driving, but don't think you can rely on it with confidence when merging onto the freeway or pulling out to pass. You'll be using a lot of the engine's power for any real acceleration. Our 0-60 mph test run took 10 seconds, which is pretty slow.

Braking6.0

There's a decent amount of braking power for routine use. But stops can be hard to judge because there's not much feel and the brakes can get grabby, especially in harder applications. Our emergency-panic stop from 60 mph used up 119 feet, and the car tended to wiggle a bit as it came to a halt.

Steering6.0

While the vehicle goes where you point it, the steering feels light and numb when cruising straight on the highway, and effort doesn't change much as you round corners. It improves somewhat if you decide to push it on a winding road, but in routine use the Prime doesn't feel all that connected.

Handling6.0

A Prime's enlarged plug-in battery represents extra weight that sits somewhat high behind the rear wheels, which throws off the balance markedly compared to a regular Prius. It feels heavy, and the soft springs and sluggish damping feel inadequate, most notably when corners come one after another.

Drivability7.0

The theme is efficiency, so unless you're using big gas pedal inputs, the Prime responds sluggishly. Driving up big hills highlights the lack of power and the vocal gas engine, but downhills are an opportunity to recharge the battery. The Prime loves the city, and it responds well to stop-and-go.

Comfort8.0

The Prius Prime feels largely similar to a regular Prius in terms of ride, engine noise and road noise, but that's only when the engine is actually on. The Prime's 25-mile electric range changes the game by adding the quietness of a pure EV driving experience for a significant chunk of time.

Seat comfort8.0

The seats are ergonomically well-designed. They're not couch-soft but have that initial give that lets them conform to your body. The seat bottom is short, but we had no issues on a long drive. The rear seats are similar to the fronts, but with broader seatbacks. They're also properly comfortable.

Ride comfort7.0

The Prime's ride is generally flat, and it does not float or wallow. Its suspension handles small, rolling-type bumps quite well, but the suspension and tires tend to transmit harsh square-edge bumps directly into the cabin, especially if they come one after another.

Noise & vibration8.0

Obviously, it's very quiet in EV mode. But the gas engine is annoyingly noisy when you've got the pedal pinned. There's some wind and road noise, both of which become noticeable mainly when the engine is off at near-highway speeds in EV mode.

Climate control7.5

The Prius has an effective automatic climate control system, but on the Premium and Advanced only the temperature and defroster have physical buttons. Everything else is on the touchscreen. The Plus uses an easier system. The unique Eco mode has the ability to focus cooling solely on the driver.

Interior7.0

The massive central touchscreen of the top-level Advanced (and midlevel Premium) adds some Tesla-like high-tech flair, but it makes certain routine tasks less intuitive. Otherwise, the Prius Prime is not so different from any other Prius. The one big exception: A Prius Prime seats only four people.

Ease of use6.0

We've never liked the Prius' central dash, and the Prime Advanced (and Premium) also has a huge touchscreen with layered menus for many functions. Volume is on the passenger side, and a passenger must reach to the driver's side to adjust temperature. All of this is far easier on the base Plus model.

Getting in/getting out8.0

Easy for people to slip in and out thanks to large door openings and narrow sills. Rear-seat denizens benefit from seatbacks that are nearly flush with the body structure — no need to scoot forward to exit. But taller rear occupants may have to duck on the way in because the roof slopes down.

Driving position7.0

The seats are nicely adjustable for routine use, but they lack the bolstering necessary to hold the driver in place for sporty driving. But we're more concerned about the insufficient steering-wheel telescoping range; the wheel doesn't pull back far enough for taller drivers.

Roominess8.0

There's ample room for 6-footers to occupy the front and rear rows at the same time, although wider passengers may feel as if they're sitting close to the doors. Rear seats have generous toe space. But the overall feeling of roominess is lessened a bit by the bulbous dash and bulky center console.

Visibility6.5

The low cowl and sloping hood provide a generous view, but it is hard to locate the corners when parking nose-in. The split rear window can be distracting, and cargo can easily obstruct the view. Thick roof pillars create big rear blind spots. You will rely on the camera system and parking sensors.

Quality8.0

The Prime uses a mix of metal and composites to minimize weight, but the results don't feel cheap or poorly made. It features tight panel gaps, and all the interior pieces feel connected and solid. But certain glossy plastic accent pieces may not agree with everyone.

Utility6.5

Unfortunately, the Prime's biggest weakness lies in its cargo capacity. The larger battery pack required for EV running lives under the raised cargo floor, so you give up cargo volume. This design means increased liftover height and reach, too. Other than that, the car is easy to live with.

Small-item storage8.0

There's ample space for your odds and ends. The standard smartphone charging tray is large and functional, and it's handy even if you don't use it for charging. It has a deep center console that can swallow an SLR camera with a lens and door pockets that can hold medium-size water bottles.

Cargo space5.0

The large battery pack takes a big bite out of cargo capacity because it raises the floor considerably. Something as routine as a grocery bag will be too tall to fit under the security cover and will obstruct visibility through the rear window.

Child safety seat accommodation7.0

The lower LATCH points are easily accessed underneath a flap of seat fabric, while the top tethers are a little harder to get. The large rear door openings are convenient, but the low roofline toward the rear of the door may make accessing rear-facing seats harder.

Technology7.0

The large center screen may draw most of your attention, but you'll find it's not efficient at displaying pertinent information. Many of the icons and subpages are excessively large, and some of the data is repeated in the instrument panel. Too much data is split between the dash and center screen.

Audio & navigation6.5

The audio interface is fairly easy to use, and the JBL sound system is adequate. The touch panel volume adjuster is atrocious; use the steering controls instead. The navigation system is excessively restrictive about what you can do while in motion, and its fonts and graphic design are old.

Smartphone integration7.0

It has Bluetooth streaming audio, a cover art display, and a USB jack for iPhones and Android devices. But Toyota does not support the newer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto interfaces, preferring instead to use its own proprietary Entune system, which isn't nearly as intuitive.

Driver aids7.5

The Prime has effective blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert systems. It's also equipped with adaptive cruise control, but it turns off automatically as the car slows down past 23 mph with just two subtle beeps. Use it only for highway cruising.

Voice control7.5

The Prime's voice control system is slow, but ultimately it's easy to use if you take the time to let it learn your voice. Once you know what words and phrases to use for each function, it can be very accurate for navigation, entertainment and even climate settings.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.