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2018 Toyota Prius: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader February 2018

The 2018 Toyota Prius gets 52 miles per gallon in combined driving. That's exceptional, and will save you hundreds of dollars per year on gas compared to an average new car. In the past, that sort of superior fuel economy made it easier to forgive the Prius' many foibles, but a full redesign two years ago corrected most of those. Today's Prius is better to drive, more comfortable and less plasticky inside.

So, indeed, it's much easier these days to choose ultra-high fuel economy. The thing is, though, that doesn't mean it's actually easier to choose a Prius. That's because it's no longer the only car that tops the 50 mpg threshold. Besides the many plug-in hybrid models (including the Prius Prime that we're testing for a full year), the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid and Toyota's own Camry Hybrid top the big five-oh while possessing definite advantages over the Prius in terms of driving dynamics and refinement (the Prius hasn't come that far).

Now, you may still find that the 2018 Prius is the best hybrid for you, but at least there are a number of viable alternatives these days. Really, that's great news. Sure, it requires a little extra research and test driving, but you're more likely to a get a car that's just right.

What's New for 2018?

There were no changes made for the 2018 Prius.

What We Like

Phenomenal fuel economy; handy hatchback design; adult-sized back seat; impressive equipment, including standard accident avoidance tech

What We Don't

Better to drive, but still not great; mediocre acceleration; questionable styling; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available

How Much?

$23,500-$30,600

Fuel Economy

All Prius models are powered by a hybrid powertrain that consists of 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and a pair of electric motors/generators. Together, the system produces 121 horsepower. Fuel economy, as expected, is exceptional. Most trim levels return 54 mpg city, 50 mpg highway and 52 mpg combined. The Eco trim level bests it by 58 mpg city, 53 mpg highway and 56 mpg combined. That may seem impressive, but know it only equates to fuel savings on average of $50 per year.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Toyota Prius is offered in four basic trim levels: Prius One, Prius Two, Prius Three and Prius Four. The Prius Two also offers an even more efficient Eco variant, while the Three and Four models also tout a Touring trim with more features. There is also the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid reviewed separately.

The Prius One ($23,500) comes standard with 15-inch alloy wheels, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning, bi-LED headlights, automatic high beams, heated mirrors, proximity entry and keyless start, adaptive cruise control, a backup camera, automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, a 60/40-split folding back seat, a 6.1-in Entune touchscreen, Siri Eyes Free capability, one USB port, Bluetooth and a 6-speaker sound system that includes a CD player and a media player interface.

In many markets, the Prius Two ($24,700) will actually be the base trim. It only adds a rear wiper and seat-back pockets.

The Two Eco ($25,200) adds low-rolling resistance tires, revised wheel covers and a lighter hybrid battery. The Two Eco also removes the spare tire and rear wiper.

Next up is the Prius Three ($26,700), which adds automatic headlights, a wireless-device charging pad, a steering wheel wrapped in SofTex vinyl (a leather-wrapped wheel is not available), satellite radio and Toyota's Entune infotainment system with a 7-in screen, a navigation system and app functionality. The rear wiper makes a reappearance.

Opt for the Prius Four ($29,700) and you'll get automatic wipers, SofTex vinyl upholstery, a power driver's seat, heated front seats, a cargo cover, a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert.

Opting for the Three Touring ($28,100) or the Four Touring ($30,600) includes everything from its corresponding numbered trim level plus 17-in alloy wheels, fog lights, LED accent lighting, some styling flourishes, and if not already specified, SofTex upholstery.

As for options, Three and Four models offer the Advanced Technology package, which includes a head-up display and a sunroof. Additionally, the Four trims can be equipped with the Premium Convenience package, which includes an automated parking system, Safety Connect emergency communications services and an enhanced JBL sound system.

Safety

The Prius comes standard with an impressive list of safety features. Besides the usual array of antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front-side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags, it also includes a driver knee airbag, a passenger seat cushion airbag, forward-collision warning and automatic braking and lane-departure warning and intervention. Blind spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems are standard on the Four and Four Touring.

In government crash tests, the Prius received five stars for overall crash safety plus four stars for frontal protection and five stars for side protection. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the Prius a Top Safety Pick for its high scores in all relevant tests.

Behind the Wheel

On the road, the latest Prius makes some strides over its numb and uninviting predecessors. The 2018 model is more engaging, touting more responsive steering and a more sophisticated suspension design that yields better body control and an improved ride. In general, the Prius feels less tinny and unsubstantial now, especially over big, crashy bumps. Admittedly, however, being better to drive than the last Prius wasn't exactly a high bar to clear. The latest model remains disconnected and a bit dreary to drive when compared to other hybrids like Hyundai's Ioniq.

Similarly, we think the Prius' interior is a huge step up over the last model's. Although it isn't necessarily luxurious, we find it impressively futuristic, and the quality of materials has thankfully been improved (although the SofTex vinyl upholstery and steering wheel cover won't fool anyone into thinking they're leather).

Importantly, the Prius is also still highly functional and spacious. The specs may indicate back seat space was reduced, but it's still plenty friendly for adults, and happily, the front seat is considerably more comfortable and spacious for taller drivers. In terms of storage, the front center console isn't especially useful and when done up in white trim, somewhat resembles a bathroom fixture. On the upside, the Prius' hatchback cargo area is large and versatile. Folding the 60/40-split back seat yields a more useful space than what you might expect in a compact sedan.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid -- The Prius may finally have a worthy competitor. The impressive new Ioniq offers superior fuel economy than the Prius at a lower price, while also boasting a more involving (and almost fun) driving experience and less funky, more functional cabin design. The Ioniq is also available in plug-in and electric variants.

2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE -- The base Camry Hybrid gets the same 52-mpg combined rating as most Prius trim models. That's despite being more powerful, spacious, luxurious and generally more refined. It's priced just a little more than the Prius Three. Could be worth it.

2018 Kia Niro -- Here's another recent addition to the hybrid family. The Niro doesn't quite match the Prius' fuel economy, but its price tag, quasi-SUV body style and generally more conventional feel are very appealing.

2018 Chevrolet Bolt -- How'd you like to spend $0 at the pump? Well, that's the promise of the Chevy Bolt, the first reasonably-priced electric car that eases range anxiety by topping 200 miles of range.

Used Honda Accord Hybrid -- The previous-generation Honda Accord Hybrid boasts an impressive 50 mpg city/45 mpg hwy, along with a roomy cabin and more traditional styling. New models are more expensive than the Prius, so you may have to check out a used version.

Autotrader's Advice

Stick with a base Prius Two. There's no shortage of features (including accident avoidance tech), and since no Prius can be had with leather upholstery, it's not like upper trim levels are that much more luxurious. Paying more also puts you squarely in the territory of the new Camry Hybrid, which in its well-stocked LE base trim gets the same fuel economy as the Prius, but with a great many advantages.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Toyota Prius: New Car Review - Autotrader