Let's save gas. The chief purpose of the Toyota Prius has always been its fuel economy. That priority hasn’t changed over the past 20 years, although styling has played a more significant role.
Depending on the trim, the 2021 Toyota Prius earns up to an EPA-estimated 58 miles per gallon city, 53 mpg highway, and 56 combined for the base L Eco model. This one comes with additional aerodynamic features and low-rolling resistance tires, squeezing out a few more miles than the other trims.
Most Prius models get 54/50/52 mpg (city/highway/combined). You can also choose one with all-wheel drive, which lowers fuel economy to a still very respectable 51/47/49 mpg.
Radical styling prevails. Toyota has long stood by the Prius’ jelly bean looks, contending that its shape was the most sensible for its coefficient of drag or wind resistance. The lower the number, the easier it is for any model to improve its efficiency.
But Toyota hasn’t rested on its laurels. Instead, beginning in 2017, an all-new Prius changed the look, to give this vehicle more definition.
The current iteration employs triangular design elements across its body, including the headlights, hood, side wedges, and to the rear. The hatch glass is divided by a spoiler, an approach taken by the Hyundai Ioniq, a competing model with a much less controversial visage.
Inside, the drama continues, but the focal point remains the horizontal touchscreen display. It measures 7 inches in most trims, but a whopping 11.6 inches in the Prius Limited. The Prius’ space-age design is tempered by the down-to-earth use of plastics throughout the cabin. Plastic seems like a contradiction to the Prius’ environmentally friendly mission.
Safety is a winning recipe. Toyota has been at the forefront of all things safety, and that’s apparent in the Prius. All models come with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver assistance features. This means items such as lane keeping assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and adaptive cruise control are standard. We still see luxury models charging extra for at least some of these features.
Also available is blind-spot monitoring and parking sensors. The latter are helpful, as the thick rear pillars and split glass on the hatchback can impede visibility.
Furthering the Prius’ safety credentials are mostly top scores from the federal NHTSA and the insurance industry-backed IIHS. Both give the Prius high scores in almost every category.
Android users no satisfied. Toyota trailed most competitors in making its vehicles adaptable for third-party software enhance, such as smartphone compatibility. The automaker told us that they wanted to ensure that its proprietary systems remained untouched by outside involvement.
We saw Apple CarPlay compatibility first, but Android users had to wait as Toyota ironed things out with Google to pave the way. This year, Android Auto joins Apple CarPlay, closing a gap that has persisted longer than anyone wanted. We like both systems and think the included “maps” feature is an ideal substitute to the typical spend-up navigation system.
Final thoughts. Competition in the segment is mixed, as most manufacturers aren’t participating or have withdrawn their offerings in the face of low sales. The 2021 Toyota Prius is, by far, the leader here – Toyota sells more hybrids than all other competitors combined.
We like the Prius, but are intrigued that the similar-sized Toyota Corolla sedan now offers a hybrid variant. The Corolla Hybrid eschews the Prius’ polarizing design, while nearly matching the dedicated hybrid in efficiency. Your dilemma is choosing the body style that’s right for you.
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