Little sex appeal, but Toyota Prius just keeps keeping on

The Prius was the world’s first mass-produced hybrid model more than 20 years ago and is one of the world’s best-selling hybrids. Toyota produces more hybrid models than any other carmaker in the United States. Metro News Service photo

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The Prius was the world’s first mass-produced hybrid model more than 20 years ago and is one of the world’s best-selling hybrids. Toyota produces more hybrid models than any other carmaker in the United States. Metro News Service photo

Say what you want about the Prius, but Toyota has a recipe that works for their hybrid icon. Sure, the Prius is probably the least exciting and least sexy vehicle you can drive. But Toyota sells a bunch of Priuses for a reason. They’re solid, yet affordable and easy on the fuel.

Even with lower fuel prices at the moment, the Prius still has its market. For 2020, the Prius returns mostly unchanged, although Toyota does thankfully add Apple CarPlay to its infotainment system.

A few years back the Japanese automaker updated the Prius and gave it a more modern look – one that was more congruent with the rest of the Toyota family, rather than looking quirky, like an oddball. I think that went a long way to making the Prius more popular and more mainstream.

Like many hybrids, the 2020 Prius has a small, squinty grille. I’d like a more refined look, but it’s apropos for the hybrid segment. The hood indentations and side panel indents add a smooth, organized look. The back end is the best aspect of the Prius, with the side panel features swooping off and heading toward the back with a rear spoiler look. This gives an almost aggressive appearance for the poky Prius.

Let’s be honest, you don’t buy a Prius for the output numbers. Likely most Prius owners don’t even know how much horsepower they make. I’ll say one thing, it’s a misnomer that the Prius is a slug. It’s certainly not a blazer off the line, but you can, and I have, get the Prius comfortably at or well above the speed limit. This means you can pass other cars on the road. I did in this Prius and got funny looks from drivers. “Yeah, that’s right, I just passed you in a Prius!”

The 1.8-liter four cylinder along with an electric-assist motor combines for 121 horsepower. Whoopee! The biggest bugaboo for me with the Prius is the annoying continuously variable transmission. I abhor CVTs and the one in my tester this week didn’t change my opinion.

When I say the Prius’ interior is adequate, don’t think of that as a negative. Think of it more as a resolution. During recent years, Toyota seems to have fallen off pace in general with their interior design. The touchpoints are fine, but road noise does permeate the cabin. Of course, the engine is quieter than others, so that automatically means more decibels wander their way in.

The tech inside the Prius feels more updated. The touchscreen is bigger yet doesn’t seem to dominate the center stack. The 11.6-inch touchscreen feels just the right size and has a good combination of touch actions and knobs/buttons.

When it comes to hybrids, rarely do they offer much space. This is not the case with the Prius as there’s 24.6 cubic feet of storage space. Note: There’s almost three cubic feet more in non-all-wheel drive models, but my tester came with AWD. Still, the available space, as well as the 60/40 split, made the Prius feel superior in the cargo area.

There are four trims for the standard Prius: L, LE, XLE and Limited. My tester was the XLE trim. It had a base price of $29,250; with a couple of niceties and options, my tester had a final MSRP of $31,757.

Fuel economy is why you buy a Prius, let’s be honest. It’s not for anything else. The Prius remains the most viable, most recognizable name amongst fuel sippers on the road. My tester, which did have AWD, had an EPA rating of 52 mpg/city and 48 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of driving, I averaged just under 50 mpg. Who can complain about that?

While electric vehicles like the Tesla have the cool factor, hybrids like the Prius just keep chugging along and doing their thing with little to no fanfare and certainly no wow factor. That’s OK to most Prius owners and it was OK for me the week I spent with the 2020 Toyota Prius XLE.


2020 TOYOTA PRIUS XLE AWD

  • Price/As-tested price………………………………………… $29,250/$31,757
  • Mileage…………………………………… 52 mpg/city; 48 mpg/hwy
  • Engine……………………………………… 1.8-liter plus electric motor
  • Horsepower…………………………… 128 hp/131 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission…………………………… CVT
  • Drive wheels……………. All-wheel drive
  • Final assesmbly point……………. Aichi, Japan

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