2021 Toyota Prius
2021 Toyota Prius
Thanks to the increasing popularity of SUVs and electric cars, the 2021 Toyota Prius isn’t quite the ultimate tree-hugger status symbol it once was. But even a marginalized Prius is still a formidable competitor among hybrids. The Prius rewards drivers with stellar fuel economy and an affordable price of entry.
All Prius models get their power via a 1.8-liter inline-4 that, with the help of an electric motor and a small accompanying battery pack, makes 121 horsepower. Front-wheel drive is standard but all-wheel drive (which comes with an additional electric motor on the rear axle) is available with some trims. A CVT handles the logistics of getting power to the wheels.
The plug-in Prius Prime is much the same under the hood save for a bigger battery pack that allows up to 25 miles of all-electric range. All-wheel drive is not available. It gets 133 MPGe combined when the electric wizardry is in play or 54 mpg combined otherwise.
The regular Prius isn’t much worse, netting up to 58 mpg city, 53 highway, 56 combined for the decontented L Eco trim. The other trims earn 54/50/52 mpg with front-wheel drive or 51/47/49 mpg with all-wheel drive.
Safety equipment improves this year with newly-standard pedestrian detection and automatic high-beams. That joins the previously-standard automatic emergency braking and active lane control.
The NHTSA gave the Prius five stars for overall crashworthiness but four stars for rollover protection. The IIHS gave top marks for the Prius across five of their six crash test scenarios, which wasn’t quite good enough to merit a Top Safety Pick designation.
All prices reflect any applicable destination charges and are representative of front-drive Prius models. Add $2,300 to LE, XLE, and Limited trims for Prius Prime. All-wheel drive, available on the LE and XLE, costs $1,300.
The cheapest Prius is the $25,520 L Eco. The most efficient model here, it is also the most bare-bones. Standard features are limited to cloth upholstery, 15-inch wheels, keyless start, and a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The $26,730 LE isn’t quite as efficient but gains more features, such as a split-folding rear seat, blind-spot monitors, and rear parking sensors.
The $29,570 XLE mixes in 17-inch wheels, heated front seats with power adjustment, a heated steering wheel with tilt and telescope, keyless entry, and wireless smartphone charging.
The flagship $33,645 Limited is as luxurious as the Prius gets. It enjoys an 11.6-inch touchscreen, navigation, a 10-speaker JBL audio system, a head-up display, synthetic leather upholstery, and alloy wheels.
The Prius has been designed to grab attention. It has slim headlights, tall and narrow vertical air ducts in the front bumpers, and a little moustache of an upper grille. Its hatchback body lacks cohesion, but some find the aggressive and outrageous shape to be engaging.
The Prius puts all pertinent readouts in a narrow display that spans the middle third of the dashtop. It sits closer to the windshield than the leading edge of the dash, but the big digital figures are easy enough to read from the driver’s seat. The unusual placement might be disconcerting at first but is quickly gotten used to. Other than that notable flourish, the rest of the interior is pretty somber and straightforward.
If there’s extravagance to be found, it is the optional 11.6-inch touchscreen. The big screen is offered on more expensive models; others get a smaller 7.0-inch screen.
Seating is comfortable. The synthetic leather option is fine, but we were fine with the Prius’ base cloth. With either material the seats are firm, supportive, and comfortable.
The 27 cubic feet of cargo space is about on par for a hatchback of this size. A note to those who need to maximize cargo: be sure to order up any of the uplevel trims, as the base L Eco does not come with a split-folding rear seat.
The Prius is all about fuel economy. It has small tires, very light steering, and acceleration that puts efficiency over quickness.
Unlike many hybrids posting similar EPA figures, the Prius offers all-wheel drive. Distinguishing it from its front-drive brethren is an additional electric motor as well as a nickel-metal hydride battery, the latter subbed in for the usual lithium-ion unit due to its cold-weather performance. The extra motor and additional traction help the Prius off the line in inclement weather and provide a more stable and secure ride once moving. Despite the weight penalty of the additional hardware, it feels faster.
Regardless of which wheels are driven, the Prius rides with unruffled composure, absorbing varying degrees of bumps without issue.
The 2021 Toyota Prius isn’t the front-runner it used to be, but it still is a compelling package at a great price for the right buyer. It’s a practical hatchback that gets excellent gas mileage. We suggest the XLE for its desirable standard features.
—by Anthony Sophinos, with driving impressions from The Car Connection