Walkaround and Interior
Love it or hate it, the tall, wedge shape of the Prius has made it one of the most distinguishable cars on the road. The blue-tinted headlights are elegant wraparound trapezoids, with optional LED lenses consuming 17-percent less battery power. There's a styling tweak, like a wave or a lip or, with a stretch of the imagination, a lightning bolt at the top, and it works, to deliver distinction. The taillights are standard LED, reducing power draw by 88 percent.
The rear wiper is huge, and effective in keeping rain off all that glass back there. The matt black trim around the windows on the Prius Two and Three trim levels doesn't do much to complement the car; the satin black finish on the Prius Four and Five is nicer.
The Prius interior has a nice cozy cockpit feeling in the driver's seat, nestled by a stylish center console that runs from dashboard to between the seats at a gentle slope. Still, the quality and finish of some interior materials don't quite measure up. Prius uses a floating console design, which looks awkward to some but makes it ergonomically friendly. Inconveniently, the seat-heater button is located on the floor under the console.
The front seats are comfortable with good bolstering and adjustability. The trim is made of plant-derived resin, which, Toyota says, is highly recyclable. The upper and lower gloveboxes hold a magnificent 12 liters.
The rear seats offer 36 inches of legroom, which is adequate for this size of a vehicle. The rear seats have a folding center armrest with two cupholders.
When the rear seats, split 60/40, are dropped flat, there's 39.6 cubic feet of cargo volume, easily accessible through the big liftgate. We hauled seven 16-inch wheels shod with Dunlop racing tires in the back. The eighth had to ride in the front seat, but we were impressed with the cargo capacity.
There's another 2 cubic feet of space in a tray under the floor of the cargo area for tools and laptops. The compact spare, which is a rarity on any car these days, is another level down.
There's good forward visibility even over the long dashboard, stretched by the steeply sloped windshield, although you can't see the front corners of the car. Visibility is hindered elsewhere due to large A-pillars and C-pillars, along with the Pruis's aerodynamically sloped roofline and the bar that separates the two pieces of glass.
The four-spoke steering wheel has buttons to access many of the car's functions, including the climate control system. The 5-inch screen in front of the driver displays many graphs and images related to driving efficiency, as well as an Energy Monitor that displays the battery charge in real time. The Touch Tracer display projects steering-wheel-control information upward so you can keep your eyes on the road.