The Toyota Prius is one of the most famed vehicles in the electric category, a leading member of its field since 1997. Scroll down to learn about the defining features of each Prius model.
The automotive industry has seen a substantial increase in the popularity of electric cars over the last decade, stemming from a combination of heightened concern for the environment and increased availability. The Prius was the first mass-produced hybrid.
Hybrids, which use a combination of conventional engines and clean electric power, have been popularized by the Prius’ fame. Japan and the United States are the most common places to see a Prius on the road by far, but it remains among the best-selling hybrid cars in the world, having sold a total of four million units by the beginning of 2017.
Although the Prius was initially offered as a typical four-door sedan, Toyota has since diversified their offerings. The Prius’ chassis was a five-door liftback from 2003 to 2015, when it was changed once again to the current model of a five-door fastback. The Toyota Prius c is also available on a subcompact hatchback frame, while the Toyota Prius Prime adds value by adding plug-in functionality.
2018 Toyota Prius
- One: $23,475
- Two: $24,685
- Two Eco: $25,165
- Three: $26,735
- Three Touring: $28,115
- Four: $29,685
- Four Touring: $30,565
The Toyota Prius‘ yearly showings demonstrate continuing trends of innovation, but the 2018 season sees relatively few changes from 2017. The season’s main addition comes in the form of increased infotainment offerings in the upper trims, namely an 11.6-inch touchscreen unique to the Four and Four Touring trims. Other small differences between the trims include such additions as a solar-reflecting windshield in the Two Eco, warranting some research if you intend on buying a Prius.
Most aspects of the Prius’ performance are shared amongst the wide selection of trims, which have identical powertrains and engine specs. Under the hood, these hybrids ride with a relatively unimpressive 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine paired with dual electric motors. They use a continuously variable automatic transmission, abbreviated CVT, and with 121 horsepower it takes the Prius 10.5 seconds to reach 60 miles per hour.
Of course, no one drives a Prius to drag race. The Prius’ strength has always been in its fuel efficiency, and the 2018 model is no exception. The EPA reports that this Prius is the second most efficient gas-fueled vehicle of the season after Hyundai’s Ioniq, getting up to 54 miles per gallon in the city and 58 on the highway.
As always, the Prius is very safe, and even the standard trim boasts driver assistance features that make it a good family pick. It was a 2018 Top Safety Pick but didn’t manage the Top Safety Pick+ the 2017 model received.
As far as competition goes, the Hyundai Ioniq and the Kia Niro vie hard with the more established brand. As noted above, the Hyundai Ioniq gets better gas mileage than the Toyota Prius by two miles per gallon. It’s also cheaper, although the Prius has an established place in the industry that the Ioniq might find hard to topple. The Kia Niro, meanwhile, doesn’t manage the mileages of either competing hybrid but boasts a much more substantial powertrain.
2018 Toyota Prius Prime
- Plus: $27,100
- Premium: $28,800
- Advanced: $33,100
The Prius Prime was first manufactured in 2017, and there aren’t any real differences in the 2018 model. When it comes to trims, the main differences are in the levels of infotainment offered. Where the Plus trim uses a seven-inch display, the Premium and Advanced trims boast an 11.6-inch screen and a bevy of other alterations. Standardized safety features make every trim relatively safe, but an optional blind-spot monitoring system provides the edge that this hybrid needs.
As before, powertrains remain unchanged amongst these three trims. The 1.8-liter straight-four engine is paired with a single electric motor and a rechargeable battery pack, sharing the normal Prius’ CVT. This results in a slightly better acceleration time than the standard Prius, able to go from 0 to 60 in 10.3 seconds even with the same horsepower of 121.
This is where the Prime shines. The main difference between the Prius Prime and the standard Prius is that the Prime can be plugged in to charge the batteries, allowing for an estimated 25 miles of all-electric battery before it needs to be charged again or combined with the gasoline engine. The Prime exceeds its inspiration’s expectations with a fuel efficiency of 55 miles per gallon in the city and 53 on the highway and, overall, has a highway cruising range of nearly six hundred miles. In 2017, the Prius Prime landed the Top Safety Pick+, and with nothing altered for 2018, it’s safe to say the Prime’s safety features meet their mark.
Competition in the plug-in hybrid category is tough. The Chevrolet Volt is the Prius Prime’s most serious competitor. Their main strength comes in the form of a much-extended electric-only range. The Chevy Volt can go for 53 miles, over twice the Prius Prime’s boasted distance, before needing to recharge. The Prime has the advantage only when running in hybrid mode, where it can go for more than two hundred miles farther than the Volt.
2018 Toyota Prius c
- One: $20,630
- Two: $21,430
- Three: $22,855
- Four: $24,965
2018 sees this subcompact’s seventh year on the market, and although Toyota stays true to the fuel efficiency standards that made the Prius c a feasible buy, differences from 2017 mostly consist of stylistic changes to the Prius’ frame. The Prius c has been improved to resemble a miniature SUV’s aesthetic, and with integrated Bluetooth steering wheels and automatic climate control it manages to achieve much-needed modernity.
The Prius c is the smallest vehicle in the Prius line, and the engine reflects that. The 1.5-liter straight-four engine uses a pair of AC motors and the Prius’ trademark CVT, and although it’s clearly not intended to shatter land speed records, the subcompact’s engine yields an unimpressive 99 horsepower. The lightweight frame makes it from 0 to 60 in 11.4 seconds, offering the least acceleration of this year’s Prius offerings.
It also falls somewhat behind in the area of fuel efficiency. The Prius c once held an esteemed rank among those vehicles that could muster 50 miles or more to the gallon, but the 2018 model just doesn’t make it there. Of course, the Prius c still gets 48 miles per gallon in the city and 43 on the highway, so it’s not as though it’s burning fuel. The hybrid driving mode that uses both gasoline and electricity to power the vehicle gives it a decent driving range that can’t be discounted.
Subcompact hybrids aren’t a particularly crowded category, and so some of the Prius c’s competitors aren’t even hybrids such as the Honda Fit, which sells for several dollars cheaper and offers exceptionally reactive handling compared to the Prius c. The Prius c maintains the edge only by virtue of having a low carbon footprint.