2021 Toyota Prius Review
The Toyota Prius is easily the most well-known and influential hybrid sold. Over the years, the Prius has evolved and steadily gained fuel efficiency and capability. Toyota introduced the current generation for the 2016 model year and made a variety of updates for 2019. The 2021 Prius boasts up to an EPA-estimated 56 mpg in combined city/highway driving, which is excellent for a hybrid. You can even get it with all-wheel drive to help out with traction on icy or snowy roads.
To keep the Prius competitive, Toyota also fits the Prius with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and a suite of advanced safety features that's standard on all Prius trims. Some noteworthy competitors on sale today include the Honda Insight and the Kia Niro. Toyota also offers hybrid variants of its Camry, Corolla and RAV4. Their fuel economy isn't as high, but their more conventional styling and/or greater practicality make them viable alternatives as well.
What's it like to live with?
To learn more about the Toyota Prius of this generation, read about our experiences from living with a 2016 Toyota Prius. After its debut, we went out and bought one and racked up more than 30,000 miles. We cover everything from this hybrid's real-world fuel economy to seat comfort and cargo space. Please note that the 2021 Toyota Prius differs from our long-term 2016 model in that the newer model has updated styling and more standard features. It's the same generation, though, so most of our observations still apply.
The Toyota Prius is synonymous with hybrid vehicles, and for good reason. It's comfortable, highly efficient and practical. Although "fun!" is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Prius, it's good where it matters.
How does the Prius drive?
You're not buying a Prius to get engaging performance. In Edmunds testing, our all-wheel-drive Prius test car covered 0-60 mph in 10.5 seconds, which is among the slowest cars around, hybrid or not. (Perhaps somewhat paradoxically, the lighter, front-drive Prius was marginally slower.) The Prius is also pretty tepid when it comes to agility and handling precision.
We do like the Prius' easy-driving nature and its smooth transitions from electric motor drive to gasoline engine power. Another Prius advantage is its available all-wheel drive. It should be noted, though, that the rear wheels only intervene when the front wheels lose traction. So in most dry-weather scenarios, you'll never feel them working.
How comfortable is the Prius?
The front seats are softly padded. Most drivers will find them comfortable for the long haul, though taller drivers or those with long legs might find the seat bottoms to be a few inches too short. The cabin is generally quiet unless you floor the gas pedal, at which point the engine gets rather raucous.
Another downside is the Prius' ride quality over broken pavement and concrete expansion joints. The impacts from these types of bumps can make the car feel jittery. Since the car is so quiet, these bumps are perhaps more noticeable than they'd otherwise be.
How’s the interior?
The Prius is a fundamentally easy car to get into and drive. Aside from the shifter, all other controls will feel immediately comfortable to the majority of drivers. Most drivers should also be able to find a comfortable driving position thanks to the seat's wide range of adjustability.
But we wish there was more telescoping range in the steering wheel, and most of the instrument panel information is not in the driver's line of sight. The 11.6-inch screen on the top-tier Limited model has most of the car's climate control settings and buttons in on-screen submenus. From an ease-of-use standpoint, it seems like a step backward from the dedicated physical buttons on lower Prius trim levels.
How’s the tech?
As advanced as the Prius is from a powertrain standpoint, it can seem a little odd that it comes up a bit short in in-car tech. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but the standard infotainment system looks and feels dated. Even the big 11.6-inch screen on the top-tier Limited model seems like a gimmick since Toyota doesn't do much to take advantage of the larger space.
The Prius, however, comes standard with a full suite of advanced driving aids. Most of them work well, and the adaptive cruise control can bring the Prius to a complete stop.
How’s the storage?
Thanks to its cavernous hatchback cargo area and fold-down rear seatbacks, the Prius is quite useful for carrying luggage, groceries or whatever else you want to put back there. Up front, there's enough in-cabin storage for the daily odds and ends, and the cupholders securely hold beverages under the circumstances in which most Priuses are typically driven.
How’s the fuel economy?
The Prius is known for its frugal use of gasoline. The EPA estimates a range of up to 56 mpg in combined city/highway driving for the Eco trim level or down to 49 mpg with all-wheel drive. In our own fuel economy testing of a couple of Prius test cars, we've been able to verify that the EPA's estimates are achievable in real-world driving.
Is the Prius a good value?
The Prius' interior feels well built even if some cabin materials are a little too plasticky. It's still one of the best vehicles for fuel economy, and the AWD version delivers some extra assurance for drivers who live in snow country.
As for warranties, Toyota gives you its regular coverage, which includes a longer duration (eight years or 100,000 miles) for the hybrid components. You also get Toyota's two free years of scheduled maintenance.
The Prius isn't exciting to drive or filled with luxury features. Instead, the Prius is all about being easy-to-drive, practical and comfortable and, of course, saving on gas.
Which Prius does Edmunds recommend?
It's tempting to keep the Prius basic, maximizing both cost and fuel efficiency, but we'd splurge a little and get the midgrade XLE. We prefer the XLE's heated simulated-leather seats, the standard wireless phone charger, and auto-dimming interior mirror as well as the available option packages should you want a sunroof or head-up display.
Toyota Prius models
The 2021 Toyota Prius is a four-door hatchback hybrid that seats five passengers. The front-wheel-drive model is available in five trim levels: L, LE, XLE, Limited and the new 2020 Edition. The Prius AWD-e, which has all-wheel drive, is offered in the LE and XLE trims only. Significant features include: