When it comes to the Prius, Toyota has two sales nuggets. They are tradition and economy.
Twenty years ago Toyota introduced this hybrid hatchback, which became the forerunner in the automotive industry of small, economical, electric battery-gasoline powered cars. Today these cars are commonplace.
For 2019, to keep the competition somewhat at bay, Toyota has added a feature to the Prius and that is an all-electric mode. This means the Prius can run on gasoline, hybrid (electric-gasoline) or all-electric. The all-electric operation should be good for 30 miles of travel before a recharge becomes necessary. The electric motor is packaged into the multi-link suspension system at the rear and does not intrude on cabin or cargo space. The all-electric package adds 150 pounds to the weight of the car which means, when not in use, that fuel usage dips from the normal 56 miles per gallon to 52 mpg on the highway.
This all-electric feature is available only on an all-wheel-drive Prius. AWD also is a first for the Prius in 2019 as the norm for the past two decades has been front wheel drive. Basically, though, the Prius AWD is almost the same as FWD. For quicker starts or on slippery surfaces, full-time AWD takes the Prius up to six miles per hour and then it becomes part-time AWD. At 43 mph, the AWD Prius turns into a FWD Prius.
A recently tested 2019 top-of-the-line $28,820 XLE AWD-e hybrid Prius, in combined city and highway driving with two adults aboard, averaged 49.1 miles per gallon of fuel usage. Acceleration from 0 to 60 miles per hour is in the 10-second range.
Even with the gasoline engine engaged, the cabin is quiet, extremely so. During the test week, driver and passenger could easily converse without interference from outside highway noise or from the power components. Leg room is ample in front, officially 42.3 inches. Although a compact vehicle, this front seat leg room is comparable of that to a midsize sedan. In the rear it is a different story. A midsize sedan will have 37 to 39 inches of leg room whereas the Prius is slightly more than 33 inches.
The XLE model has most of the expected and ordinary power features, such as exterior heated mirrors, door locks and express windows. It did not have power front seats although they were heated and trimmed in leather. The front seats had to be ratcheted back and forth depending on desired leg room. The backrest operated by a lever. Among the standard features of the XLE are a heated tilt and telescoping steering wheel, rain-sensing windshield wipers, cruise control, Toyota's Entune system for smart phone usage, hands-free Bluetooth, three USB ports, one 12-volt outlet, remote smart key entry, dashboard pushbutton start, 6.1-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker sound system.
Noteworthy among those standard elements is the heated steering wheel. There are manufacturers of vehicles costing thousands of dollar more which put this feature in a thousand dollar or more option package.
The split rear seats fold to expand storage in the cargo area, which includes a tonneau cover, to 27.4 cubic feet.
Safety features are many and, besides the norm of airbags, seat belts, head rests, stability and traction controls and antilock braking system, they include blind-spot monitor with cross-traffic alert, lane departure alert, pre-collision alert with pedestrian detection and parking assistance.
Prius has a tradition of reliability behind it but Toyota's flagship hybrid car faces stiff competition in the gasoline-electric hybrid marketplace. FAST FACTS
Vehicle: XLE all-wheel-drive model of 2019 Toyota Prius
hybrid with all-electric mode
Type: compact four-door, five-passenger hatchback
Engine: 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle inline gasoline four-cylinder engine, nickel-metal-hydride battery, 121-horsepower. Seven-horsepower electric motor for all-electric operation
Transmission: continuously variable
Fuel tank: 11.3 gallons
Weight: 3,300 pounds
Wheelbase, length, width, height, ground clearance in inches: 106.3, 180, 69.3, 58.1, 5.3
Cargo: 27.4 cubic feet
Leg room: 42.3 inches front, 33.4 inches rear
Tires (P215), five-spoke alloy wheels: 17-inch, no spare but tire repair kit
Warranty: three years or 36,000 miles, five years or 60,000 miles gasoline powertrain, eight eyars or 100,000 miles battery pack
The Prius has competition in the gasoline, hybrid, all-electric vehicle market, notably from the relatively new Hyundai Ioniq.