The 2018 Toyota Prius continues to focus on efficiency and safety above all else in its 10th model year. The Prius remains a synonym for “hybrid” at this point, even though the segment has seen increased competition, along with electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles that can offer pure electric power unlike the standard Prius. That said, the Prius is still a benchmark that all other automakers use to judge their own hybrids. It may not be the fastest, most comfortable, or best-looking vehicle around, but it's indisputably the king of the hybrids.

Best Value

There are only two real reasons to buy a Prius: fuel efficiency and a commitment to environmental concerns. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the best value lies with the Prius Two Eco trim, which starts at $26,060 including destination.

This trim comes standard with a more advanced lithium-ion battery that’s significantly lighter than the previous nickel-metal hydride unit while remaining just as powerful. This weight savings combines with the trim’s special Dunlop extra-low rolling resistance tires to allow the Prius Two Eco to achieve up to 58 miles per gallon in the city and 53 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 56 mpg, a full four mpg more than the combined rating of the standard Prius.

Additionally, the Prius Two Eco gets automatic headlights, which are particularly useful given Toyota’s affinity for digital dashboards that always remain bright, which causes a surprising number of drivers to forget to turn them on in low light conditions. Like all Prius models, the Toyota Safety Sense driver assistance package is standard, with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and pedestrian detection.

This is how we’d configure our Prius Two Eco:

  • Model: 2018 Toyota Prius Two Eco
  • Engine: 1.8-liter four-cylinder hybrid with two electric motors, 1.2-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack
  • Output: 121 hp / 105 lb-ft
  • Transmission: Continuously variable transmission (CVT)
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • Fuel Economy: 58 City / 53 Hwy
  • Options: None available
  • Base Price: $26,060 (including the $895 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $26,060

Performance

Toyota Prius

The Prius is best suited to the right lane of travel, as its very existence is antithetical to the idea of speed. Nothing about this car encourages you to drive quickly; it's truly a vehicle for speed limit enthusiasts. The engine is anemic, the transmission is always a few steps behind, and the steering is as numb as it gets. The latest Prius generation is built on a more rigid platform with a lower center of gravity, but it still isn’t up for mountain roads. The Prius does have solid brake feel, owing partially to the regenerative braking that turns friction into electric power.

That’s fine though, because the Prius isn’t made for people who want a fun car, it’s for people who want to save gas and cut down on emissions, two things it does very well. The real performance stats are how well it saves gas. As mentioned earlier, there are two different battery packs available on the Prius. The Prius Two Eco gets the more advanced lithium-ion packs, while the older style nickel-metal hydride packs are standard on all other trims. Both battery packs offer the same output of 53 kW, but the lithium-ion delivers the power with less weight, allowing for better efficiency.

Style

Toyota seems to think that styling can cause people to forget how boring a car is to drive, as the Prius has gone from utilitarian eco-box to a kaleidoscope of unnecessary edges and creases, making us wonder if the designers only stopped once they passed out due to sheer exhaustion. They did hit a home run on the design of the rear though, if only by accident, because the wacky taillight design of the newest Prius means that it's no longer a perfect canvas for a collection of preachy bumper stickers.

If you thought that you may get a visual reprieve from the styling madness of the exterior by sitting inside the car, you’re sadly mistaken. The interior is also over-styled, with a ton of details that don’t work well together. Unfortunately, Toyota continues to put all information in a center-mounted dashboard cluster that encourages you take your eye off the road more when driving, while also making the interior look unbalanced with the steering wheel hanging out by itself on the driver’s side. There are a lot of soft-touch and high-gloss plastics, which are nice, but otherwise the interior looks pretty spartan at even the highest trim levels.

Despite its styling miscues, the Prius has become a more comfortable car. Most notably, the front seats have been improved greatly, with better cushion support and bolstering. It’s also now a bit longer, which means four adults can sit comfortably in the car (although the sloping roof does cut down on headroom), and more room is available for cargo. Buyers will also be impressed with the standard suite of advanced safety features known as Toyota Safety Sense, and the infotainment system has been updated to a higher definition model.

The Best and Worst Things

The Prius is great at getting you from point A to point B while using a tiny amount of fuel, but it's so unengaging to drive that we're afraid we may fall asleep at the wheel before we get there. Fortunately, the standard advanced safety features will help us avoid an accident should that actually happen.

Right For? Wrong For?

Toyota Prius

The Prius is perfect for people who approach car buying like they would approach buying a mattress or washing machine. If you think a car is an appliance for getting to where you need to be, not for necessarily enjoying the journey there, the Prius will do fine. The Prius also remains the top choice of those who want to feel good about themselves for helping save the world, even if you can’t display all of your favorite bumper stickers on the rear of this generation.

On the other hand, if you want a car that has the capacity to excite, you’ll want to pass on the Prius. It’s not made for that, so you’ll be disappointed. If fuel economy is still a priority, there are many other hybrids that are more fun to drive like the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid or the Kia Niro, along with plug-in hybrids and full-electric cars if you have access to a plug at home.

The Bottom Line

The Prius is really good at saving gas, which is the entire point of the vehicle. The newest generation helps achieve that goal by making it more comfortable, but it remains a boring vehicle to drive. For some people, that's fine – they don’t need a vehicle to excite them. However, those who do want to enjoy the act of driving should look elsewhere.