Pros—Thrifty. Roomy. Rakish stying. Supple ride. Sure handling. Decent acceleration. AWD. Safety features.
Cons—Not as rakish as it looks. Three adults a squeeze in back. Touchscreen can hard to see in sunlight.
Bottom Line—Proven economical hybrid with long history and respected nameplate.
The Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid has considerable history, being the world’s first mass production hybrid. Some 6 million have been sold, with nearly 2 million bought in the United States since its 1997 introduction. The 2021 version found found 59,010 U.S buyers in 2021, up from 43,525 in 2020, despite a lot more competition.
The 2022 four-door hatchback Prius model is little changed from its predecessor. This version comes in a variety of front-drive or AWD models ranging in price from $24,625 to $30,625, although a plug-in “Prime” model costs more.
I drove the non-plug-in Prius, a higher-line XLE AWD-e model that listed at $29,575. A few options brought the price to $32,084 that mainly consisted of an $800 Advanced Technology package with such items as a color head-up display with a hybrid system indicator. It’s O.K. and brightens the interior a bit but seems rather costly.
My test 108-inch-long XLE AWD-e had good room for four tall adults. A third could squeeze in the rear, but the rear-center seat is a little too firm for comfort.
The rather plain-looking interior is quiet, partly because the car has a very low .24 drag coefficient, except for some engine moan during hard acceleration.
There’s a push-button starter, and the digital gauges can be quickly read. The 7-inch touchscreen is fairly straightforward and gives information on such things as audio system and climate controls. However, bright sunlight can make it difficult to read the screen. There’s a heated tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and ventilation vents are strategically placed on the dashboard.
The front SoftTex-trimmed heated front seats are supportive, and the driver’s seat is powered. Interior features include an audio system with 6 speakers, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, Sirius with a 3-month trial, heated steering wheel, auxiliary power outlet and wireless Smartphone charger.
A deep covered console bin, door pockets and easily reached cupholders help make the Prius more friendly.
The hatch opens to reveal a cargo floor with 27.4 cubic feet of space. Flipping the split folding rear seat backs forward allows an impressively roomy cargo area of 50.7 cubic feet.
The XLE AWD-e has 2.8-liter 121-horsepower four-cylinder gas engine, batteries and a generator. The XLE AWD-e adds an additional small motor to the rear axle to deliver better traction.
The switch between the gas engine and electric power is very smooth, working with a responsive CVT automatic transmission.
Despite its rakish body the Prius XLE AWD-e isn’t for drag racing—or any type of racing—as the 0-60 m.p.h. time is 10.5 seconds. But that’s a respectable time, and I found there’s decent power for in-town maneuvers and fast freeway driving. The brake pedal initially felt mushy but I soon learned to easily modulate its use. Generally, the Prius XLE AWD-e is rather fun to drive.
A driver use a console switch to select Eco, Normal or Power driving modes. I found Power mode made the car a little more lively, but there isn’t much difference between the three driving modes.
The 3,210-pound Prius XLE AWD-e delivers an estimated 47 miles per gallon on the highway and 51 in the city. Only 87-octane gas is needed for its 10.6-gallon tank.
The steering is quick, and the ride is very supple for a 106-inch-wheelbase car. Getting in and out of tight spots wasn’t a problem.
Toyota didn’t skimp on safety features of the family oriented Prius. They include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed range dynamic radar control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and intelligent clearance sonar with intelligent park assist.
Also standard are automatic on/off headlights, heated power outside mirrors and rain-sensing wipers.
Some folks who are considering an all-electric car might stop and think, “Why not a Prius?”