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.