The 2021 Toyota Prius Prime, which has a plug-in hybrid powertrain, is the only Prius that you can buy. However, it looks more like an SUV than a hatchback car. Although the Prime is not as fun and quick as a horse-drawn carriage it still has impressive EPA fuel economy ratings and a useful, but short, all-electric driving distance of 25 miles. It is not the best choice for long trips, as the gasoline engine will continue to run after the battery runs out. It’s ideal for those who are looking to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle and drive short distances, as well as anyone who wants all the latest driver assistance. Although the 2021 Prius Prime may not be the most efficient plug-in hybrid, it has its own weird-science flair and benefits thanks to Toyota’s reliability.
What’s new for 2021?
The 2021 Prius Prime gets enhanced active safety features and Android Auto. This updated list of driver assistance features includes improved road-sign recognition, pedestrian detection, and bicyclist detection. Wind Chill Pearl is now available to replace Blizzard Pearl White paint.
Pricing and Which One To Buy
Each Prius Prime model comes with the same plug-in hybrid system. It can drive up to 25 miles on electricity. Your biggest decision will be which standard features you choose for your Prime. Toyota’s Safety Sense P suite of active safety features is available on the entry-level LE. This includes lane-departure warning and steering assist, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and a 7.0 inch infotainment touchscreen. The midrange XLE comes with wireless charging and a large 11.6-inch screen. The Limited, the top-end model, adds color head-up display and blind-spot monitoring. It’s a lot of car for a little more. We recommend the XLE, which has most of the features that you want and costs just $30,000 less.
Engine, Transmission, & Performance
To maximize its efficiency, the Prius Prime uses a four-cylinder engine. It also has an electric motor, a pack of batteries, and a continuously variable auto transmission (CVT). It succeeds in that respect, but its otherwise poor powertrain is uninspiring. The Prime seamlessly switches between electric and gas propulsion. Three driving modes (Power Normal, Eco, and Eco) try to alter the perception of acceleration. None of these modes will give you anything close to instant acceleration. The battery can be charged at any 120-volt household outlet in 5.5 hours or at a 240V outlet in approximately two hours. The Prime is comfortable and can be used for short walks around the city. It can be jittery and rough when it comes into contact with badly damaged pavement. The Prime will slow down when the driver presses the accelerator. Normal mode drivers won’t notice any regen and it is difficult to brake softly or quickly enough to keep the Prius in the Eco zone.
Fuel Economy and Real World MPG
The EPA ratings for all three Prius Prime models are the same: 55 mpg in the city and 53 mpg on the highway for the gasoline engine. The government estimates that it will get 133 MPGe when combined with electricity from the hybrid system. The Prime is an excellent choice for buyers who are fuel conscious, but its limited electric-only driving distance is a detriment. The EPA-rated 25-mile pure-electric range is sufficient for some daily commutes. However, the Hyundai Ioniq plug in hybrid offers a slightly longer range at 29 miles. The Primes that we tested on the 200-mile fuel economy route did not achieve their EPA highway rating. We test at a significantly higher speed (75 mph), than the EPA so we would be amazed if any plug-in could match its EPA rating. The Prime Plus model got 47 mpg on the highway, while the Premium model got 49. Each model was also tested in EV mode, where the Premium earned 118 MPGe while the Plus earned 116.
Interior, Comfort, & Cargo
It is unusual to have the dashboard layout with an electronic shifter sticking out of the middle of the dash, and a digital gauge cluster placed between driver and front-seat passengers instead of directly in front. The passenger compartments of the Prius Prime hybrid and the standard Prius hybrid can be equally spacious, but the Prime’s cargo space is significantly smaller due to its larger battery. It has less luggage space in real life than some competitors and the standard Prius. It has ample interior storage, but it will not fit on family road trips.
Infotainment & Connectivity
The base Prius Prime LE has a 7.0 inch touchscreen infotainment screen. The Limited and XLE models come with a 11.6-inch touchscreen. This includes map integration to show available charging stations. Both systems come with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There are only a few configurations available for the screen, which means it works more like a two screen system. One screen is locked to navigation and the other screen is dynamically customizable.