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2019 Toyota Prius: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader February 2019

If you're considering a hybrid, the 2019 Toyota Prius quite obviously needs to be on your shopping list. All of its versions achieve 50 miles per gallon or better, while its spacious cabin and versatile hatchback cargo area grant it abundant practicality. Plus, it comes with standard accident avoidance tech and should be just as reliable as every Prius before it.

For 2019, the Prius even gets some key updates. The new Prius AWD-e adds an electric motor to the rear axle to provide all-wheel drive -- it's basically the same system found on the new RAV4 Hybrid, which shares its underlying platform with the Prius. The AWD-e also gets a different battery pack better suited to cold climates, so if you live where snow falls, the Prius AWD-e is a great bet -- no other AWD hybrid matches its fuel economy, and no hybrid that can match its fuel economy offers AWD.

Other updates for 2019 include revised front and rear styling that might (if only slightly) change the generally negative reaction to the latest Prius' exterior look. There are also more subtle changes inside plus extra equipment, highlighted below.

However, perhaps the biggest thing to consider is the influx of new, impressive competitors. Chief among them is the knock-out Honda Insight hybrid, while a variety of plug-in hybrids and all-electric models go even farther in the fuel-sipping game. They're also eligible for government tax breaks and carpool stickers. So although the 2019 Prius is better than ever and a must-try, there are also more reasons to consider something else.

What's New for 2019?

The Prius gets substantial upgrades, updates and additions for 2019. The most notable of which is the new Prius AWD-e all-wheel drive model. Styling has also been tweaked, there's some new interior trim, and tech offerings now include additional USB ports and wireless smartphone charging. The Prius trim level structure has also been changed to align with other ToyotasSee the 2019 Toyota Prius models for sale near you

What We Like

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

What We Don't

Uninvolving and loud relative to other hybrids; unremarkable interior for the money; mediocre acceleration; questionable styling; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available

How Much?

$23,770-$32,200

Fuel Economy

The base Toyota Prius is powered by a hybrid powertrain that consists of 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and a pair of electric motors/generators. The 2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e model adds a third electric motor at the rear axle that provides AWD. Total system output is 121 horsepower.

Fuel economy, as expected, is exceptional. Most trim levels return 54 miles per gallon in the city, 50 mpg on the highway and 52 mpg in combined driving. The L Eco trim level bests it by 58 mpg city/53 mpg hwy/56 mpg combined. The Prius AWD-e returns 52 mpg city/48 mpg hwy/50 mpg combined. These differences may seem significant, but according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the annual fuel cost difference between the Eco and AWD-e would only be $100, with the base version right in between.

Standard Features & Options

The Toyota Prius gets new trim levels for 2019: L Eco, LE, XLE and Limited. The AWD-e model is LE or XLE only. There is also the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid reviewed separately.

The Prius L Eco ($23,770) comes standard with 15-in alloy wheels, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, bi-LED headlights, automatic high beams, heated mirrors, proximity entry and push-button 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 touchscreen, three USB ports, Bluetooth and a 6-speaker sound system that includes a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and a media player interface.

The LE ($24,980) adds parking sensors, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, a rear window wiper and a cargo cover. The LE AWD-e ($26,380) adds fog lights and different wheel covers, plus its AWD system and a different battery pack better suited to colder temperatures.

The XLE ($27,820) adds 17-in wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, a power-adjustable driver's seat, SofTex vinyl seating, steering wheel and door trim, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, different interior trim, and wireless smartphone charging. The AWD-e XLE ($28,820) adds the LE version's extra equipment plus heated front seats. An available package adds a head-up display and adaptive/auto-leveling headlights.

The Limited ($32,200) includes the XLE's options plus Safety Connect emergency communications, an 11.6-in vertically oriented touchscreen, integrated navigation, satellite and HD radios and a 10-speaker JBL sound system.

A sunroof and 15-in wheels are optional on the front-wheel-drive Prius XLE and Limited.

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 monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems are standard on all but the L Eco.

In government crash tests, the Prius received 5 stars for overall crash safety plus 4 stars for frontal protection and five stars for side protection. The non-profit 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 2019 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. Compared to the Honda Insight and various other compact cars, however, the Prius is still a bit loud, unrefined and a bit dreary to drive.

Similarly, the Prius' interior is a huge step up over the last model's, but for the money, the quality of materials is lower than that of the Insight and other, similarly priced Toyotas. There have at least been some key improvements for 2019. The odd glossy white trim that made the center console look like a bathroom fixture has been replaced by regular old black. Second, the Prius Prime's vertically oriented touchscreen has been added to the Prius Limited. Sadly, Apple CarPlay has yet to find its way into the Prius.

Importantly, though, the Prius is still highly functional and spacious. The specs may indicate back seat space was reduced with this most recent generation, but it's still plenty friendly for adults, and happily, the front seat is considerably more comfortable and spacious for taller drivers. The Prius' hatchback cargo area is also large and versatile, with a more useful space than what you might expect in a compact sedan.

Other Cars to Consider

2019 Honda Insight -- If you only consider one Prius alternative, make sure it's the Insight. It basically matches the Prius' fuel economy, while bettering its driving experience, interior quality, noise and value. Watch how the interiors of these two hybrids compare

2019 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid -- The Prius' other worthy competitor. The 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.

2019 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 XLE. Could be worth it.

2019 Kia Niro -- The base 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. It's also available in plug-in hybrid and electric versions.

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 L Eco. There's no shortage of features (including accident avoidance tech), you'll get the best fuel economy possible, 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 means making price comparisons with more refined and/or bigger hybrid alternatives. Find a Toyota Prius for sale

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New 2019 Toyota Prius
New 2019 Toyota Prius
MSRP $33,982
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New 2019 Toyota Prius
New 2019 Toyota Prius
MSRP $27,867
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New 2019 Toyota Prius
New 2019 Toyota Prius
MSRP $26,247
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New 2019 Toyota Prius
New 2019 Toyota Prius
MSRP $27,973
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.
2019 Toyota Prius: New Car Review - Autotrader