With hybrid technology becoming more commonplace throughout Toyota’s lineup (and those of other automakers), the Prius is no longer the standard-bearer it once was. Toyota faces the challenge of differentiating the Prius from the rest of its efficiency models, and this year they have a new market: adventurers. With hatchback practicality, a brand new all-wheel-drive system, and roof-rack attachments, the 2019 Toyota Prius aims to please four-season eco warriors.
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2019 Toyota Prius Overview
What's New for 2019
The biggest addition for 2019 is an optional all-wheel-drive powertrain. The Prius also sees a few minor interior and exterior tweaks, plus new standard tech. The old numerical trim structure has been ditched in favor of a more traditional naming system.
Choosing Your Toyota Prius
All Priuses (Prii?) share their power sources: a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine in combination with two electric motors. In all-wheel-drive models, those motors can power the rear wheels, although only up to 43 mph. Together, the system is good for 121 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque.
These numbers are hardly inspiring, but the fuel economy is. Every version of the Prius manages more than 50 miles per gallon combined, according to the EPA. Thanks to tiny tires, the L Eco trim is the most efficient of the lot, achieving 58 mpg city, 53 highway, and 56 combined. Other front-wheel-drive trims aren’t far behind at 54/50/52 mpg (city/highway/combined).
Even the AWD models don’t get too thirsty. With Toyota’s AWD-e system, the Prius still manages 52/48/50 mpg despite a mild weight penalty. AWD Priuses also get nickel-hydride batteries for better low-temperature performance (the rest of the line uses lithium-ion units). All-wheel drive is available as an option for either $1,000 or $1,400 depending on trim.
The Prius’ other claim to fame is its cargo capacity. Thanks to the liftback shape, most trims boast 27.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the seats. With the rear seats folded, that number jumps to 62.7 cubic feet, which rivals some crossovers.
For 2019, the Prius’ four trims get more conventional names: L Eco, LE, XLE, and Limited.
Although the upgrades to the XLE trim are comprehensive, better value lives at the bottom of the 2019 Toyota Prius range. The L Eco is a fairly affordable way into Prius ownership, and the Prius LE is the cheapest way in for AWD buyers.
2019 Toyota Prius Review
More adventurous than ever. The big addition to the 2019 Toyota Prius is an optional all-wheel-drive powertrain. In an effort to make the Prius more desirable to outdoorsy types, Toyota is spinning the Prius as an eco-friendly adventure vehicle. They’ll even put roof bars on top.
The all-weather capability joins a package that was already plenty practical. Inside its pinched-hatchback shape, the Prius can hold 27.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats. This number expands to an impressive 62.7 cubes with the seats down.
This is better than many hatchbacks, and even a few crossovers. It’s miles ahead of the Honda Insight, as well as Toyota’s sedan hybrids. The only competitor that comes close is the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, but the Prius still wins out on practicality.
Not fast, but it doesn’t need to be. Even with an engine and an electric motor or two, the total output of the Prius is just 121 horsepower. This means that acceleration is best described as leisurely.
All-wheel drive running gear adds a couple hundred pounds, which exacerbates the problem. The AWD system does help low-speed traction in icy weather, but the system cuts power to the rear wheels at speeds over 43 mph.
But the Prius doesn’t need to win any drag races – it wins at the gas pump. While most trims get an EPA-estimated 54 miles per gallon city, 50 mpg highway, and 52 combined, the base L Eco model gets an impressive 58/53/56 mpg (city/highway/combined). Even the AWD powertrain is thrifty, at an estimated 52/48/50 mpg.
These are impressive numbers, exceeded only by the Ioniq Hybrid, which manages a shocking 58 mpg combined.
Too many contours. The quirky looks of the Toyota Prius are part of what made it such a hit, but as hybrids have gone mainstream, it has struggled to find its look. The 2019 model tries hard to be unique with a pronounced snout, angular fangs, and a split rear window. It’s a lot to take in, and, to our eyes, maybe a bit too much.
The interior is tamer but not a huge improvement. The rear pillars inhibit visibility (as does the split rear window), and the cabin is finished with high-gloss plastic. It’s distinctive, but we’re not sure it'll age well. The sloping roofline has one other unintended consequence, which is pinching some head room away from rear seat passengers.
Still, the Prius manages to be as spacious as most competitors, and more practical in the cargo department. The distinctive look may work for some – what’s the point of driving a Prius if everyone doesn’t know it’s a Prius?
Safe and savvy. Another area where the Prius shines is safety. Toyota is a leader in safety tech, and active features like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control come standard on every model. Crash test scores are almost immaculate, making the Prius one of the safer cars on the road.
The rest of the technology is on point, too. Infotainment runs through a 6.1-inch touchscreen with Toyota’s capable interface and triple USB ports.
All of that is impressive on a car that starts under $25,000. The Prius is a relatively affordable way into hybrid ownership, and it doesn’t skimp on features. The lone exception is that Apple CarPlay isn’t available.
Final thoughts. The 2019 Toyota Prius isn’t the industry-defining car it once was. The rest of the field has caught up, and the Prius isn’t even the cheapest hybrid on the block – the Ioniq Hybrid starts a couple thousand dollars cheaper.
But with new all-weather capability and its trademark efficiency, the Prius still offers plenty to like. It’s a practical and unusual hatchback, and one that won’t break the bank when gas prices rise.
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