Toyota Prius: 20 Years Going Stand-Alone Strong

By Lyndon Conrad Bell, July 15th, 2017

Celebrating its 20th birthday in 2017, the Toyota Prius remains the benchmark in its category. While nearly every carmaker offers a hybrid model or two in its lineup these days, Prius remains the sole hybrid-only lineup of cars on the market.

Manufacturer photo: The Prius liftback is one of eight Toyota hybrid models offered for 2017
Manufacturer photo: The Prius liftback is one of eight Toyota hybrid models offered for 2017

Now encompassing a wagon, a lower-cost entry-level model and a plug-in version, as well as the hatchback reviewed here, there are now enough variations of the Prius to be a standalone brand unto itself.

Fresh off of a full redesign last year, Prius enters 2017 with the addition of the Toyota Safety Sense P driver assist technology package as standard across the board. This means every Prius is now equipped with a rearview camera, forward collision warning, forward collision mitigation with automatic braking, and lane departure warning and intervention.

The powertrain is comprised of a 1.8-liter gasoline-fired engine, two electric motors/generators and a continuously variable transmission. Total system output is 121 horsepower. Power is routed to the front wheels. As has been the case since its introduction, the hybrid powertrain generates its own electricity when the Prius coasts and/or brakes.

Fuel economy is rated at an eye-opening 52 miles per gallon overall. However, if this isn't good enough for you, opt for the Prius Two Eco where it is rated at 56 mpg overall.

Manufacturer photo: The Prius liftback is one of eight Toyota hybrid models offered for 2017

On the road, as you might expect, the Prius accelerates in something of a leisurely fashion. Efficiency was definitely prized over performance when this car was being designed and it's difficult to argue with the resulting fuel economy. Although, truth be told, even at just under 10 seconds to 60 mph, the Prius Hatchback still offers enough zip to merge into fast-moving highway traffic with but a modicum of concern. What's more, once you get the thrifty Toyota up to speed, it really goes, thanks to outstanding aerodynamics.

Handling is economy-car appropriate. Steering is responsive enough, stability is reassuring enough, and the brakes inspire confidence - once you get used to passing through the regeneration range on your way to actual braking. Ride quality is pleasant and interior noise is acceptably low. While overall refinement could be better, living with a Prius Hatchback imposes no real compromises when compared to any other economical car. Pricing starts at $24,685.

Inside, there's seating for five and a generous selection of standard equipment, even in the most basic Prius Two model. With that said, there are six trim levels for the hatchback: Two, Two Eco, Three, Three Touring, Four and Four Touring.

Prius Two features 15-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED running lights and taillights, heated mirrors, keyless entry for the driver's door, keyless ignition, and automatic climate control.

You'll also find a pair of driver information screens, smart cruise control, a touchscreen display, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and voice recognition with Siri Eyes Free. The base audio system uses six-speakers and features a USB port, an auxiliary audio input jack and a CD player. Moving up through the range adds pleather, a larger touchscreen, blind spot monitoring, a sunroof, a head-up display and self-parking.

Manufacturer photo: The Prius liftback is one of eight Toyota hybrid models offered for 2017

Comfort is admirable with good legroom for all passengers, more than adequate headroom and a well-considered interior layout. Moving to a more conventional interior configuration solved some of the ergonomic issues of earlier models, though the instrumentation is still planted off to the right of the driver and situated high up on the dash. Cargo capacity comes in at 24.6 cubic feet.

Specifications

Base price $24,685 (as tested: $25,570)
Curb weight 3,075 lbs.
Displacement 1.8-liter
Engine type 4-cyl. and Toyota Hybrid System
Epa mileage rating 50 mpg city, 52 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 11.3 gal.
Horsepower (net) 95 at 5200 rpm (121 net with hybrid)
Overall length 178.7 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 105 at 3600 rpm
Transmission CVT
Vehicle type 5-passenger compact FWD liftback

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