The "Prime" suffix would imply that the 2020 Toyota Prius Prime offers something above and beyond what you get with the normal Prius, and indeed, the plug-in Prius Prime takes the Prius formula and amplifies it. Sure, it comes with a higher initial price tag, but hefty tax rebates and its ability to run on electricity alone thanks to its rechargeable battery will ultimately make it less costly to own over the long run.
What exactly does the plug-in element add? Well, during our long-term test of a Prius Prime, we saw a single tank of fuel last three months and more than 2,000 miles. Do the math, and this works out to a whopping 235 miles per gallon. Even when we went beyond the Prime’s somewhat-modest 25-mile electric-only range, we still managed exceptional fuel economy. Of course, other plug-in hybrids, including the Hyundai Ioniq, the Honda Clarity, the Kia Niro and the Chevrolet Volt offer comparable eye-popping fuel economy, so we suggest taking a look at these competitors as well.
As for other ways in which it deviates from the regular, non-plug-in Prius, the Prime has slightly different styling, which some say improves on the rather polarizing looks of the regular Prius. Differences include the Prime’s headlights, the broad wraparound LED taillight bar, and a unique concave rear window that, while interesting, eliminates the rear wiper. XLE and Limited trims come with a Tesla-like vertical touchscreen that’s only available on the top-of-the-line Prius Limited. In sum, we think the 2020 Prius Prime lives up to its name.
What’s New for 2020?
The Prius Prime gets two big changes for 2020. First and foremost, Apple CarPlay is now offered for 2020 and comes standard. Secondly, while the 2019 model had an awkward 2-seat configuration in its second row, the 2020 Prius Prime offers room for three across for a total seating capacity of five, just like the regular Prius. Additionally, minor tweaks include a pair of extra USB ports now offered for the rear seats, new sun visor extenders, new black interior accents (replacing the white offered on previous models), and relocated buttons for the heated seats.
Like the rest of the Prius line, the Prius Prime gets new trim level nomenclature for 2020, with LE, XLE, and Limited trims now offered. See the 2020 Toyota Prius Prime models for sale near you
What We Like
- Apple CarPlay
- Affordable price given current tax credits
- Great fuel economy; low price for a plug-in hybrid
- Standard safety tech
- Versatile hatchback design
- It now seats five
What We Don’t
- Still no Android Auto
- Less cargo space than regular Prius
- Styling is unnecessarily weird
The Prius Prime is a plug-in hybrid featuring a considerably larger lithium-ion battery than the regular, non-plug-in Prius, allowing for all-electric propulsion up to an estimated 25 miles. Once that all-electric range is depleted, the Prime essentially operates like a regular Prius, though it continues to provide a bit more electric power. In that scenario, it returns an estimated 55 mpg in the city, 53 mpg on the highway and 54 mpg in combined driving. Its miles per gallon equivalent estimate from the Environmental Protection Agency is 133 MPGe.
Those mpg figures aren’t that much different than with the regular Prius, but given that we’re talking about a plug-in here, the benefit you receive very much depends on how much and how far you drive. If your daily commute is fewer than 25 miles round trip, it’s feasible you’ll go through thimbles of gasoline every month and get far better fuel economy than the EPA would indicate. In fact, we filled up our long-term Prius Prime only once in the course of 3-plus months and 2,036 miles, which adds up to a staggering 235.1 mpg. In a separate, week-long test that involved a road trip between Portland and Seattle, we still managed 82.3 mpg.
Standard Features & Options
The 2020 Toyota Prius Prime is available in three trim levels: LE, XLE and Limited. These replace the quirky "Plus," "Premium" and "Advanced" trim level names offered in previous model years.
The base LE ($28,555) comes standard with 15-in alloy wheels, LED headlights, automatic high beams, forward collision warning with automatic braking and pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning and intervention, adaptive cruise control, heated mirrors, passive keyless entry and push-button start, a backup camera, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, heated front seats, cloth upholstery, a steering wheel trimmed with SofTex vinyl simulated leather, a cargo cover, a 7-in touchscreen, Bluetooth, a navigation system, one USB port, satellite radio, HD Radio and a 6-speaker sound system.
The XLE ($30,455) adds automatic LED headlights, an 8-way power driver’s seat, SofTex vinyl seats, a wireless smartphone charging pad, an 11.6-in vertically oriented touchscreen and Toyota’s Entune suite of smartphone apps.
The Limited ($34,455) adds LED fog lights, automatic wipers, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems, parking sensors, an automatic parking system, a heated steering wheel, a color head-up display, an upgraded cargo cover, additional smartphone apps, Safety Connect emergency communications and a 10-speaker JBL sound system.
Every Prius Prime comes standard with anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, full-length airbags and a backup camera. It also includes a forward-collision warning system with automatic braking and pedestrian detection and a lane-departure warning and intervention system. The Advanced trim includes blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems and Safety Connect emergency communications, which include automatic collision notification and a stolen-vehicle locator.
The government hasn’t yet crash-tested the Prius Prime, but the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has, naming it a Top Safety Pick for its top performance in all pertinent categories.
Behind the Wheel
Like the regular Prius, the Prime represents a distinct improvement over past versions of Toyota’s quintessential hybrid hatchback. It offers better handling, a more comfortable and composed ride, a quieter cabin and a better driving position, especially for taller drivers. Still, there are other hybrids and plug-ins that outdo it in these regards, especially Honda’s Insight and Clarity.
That said, when comparing it head-to-head with the regular Prius, the Prime’s extra electric motor and battery capacity ultimately yield a different driving experience. These differences are most noticeable when the Prius Prime is in all-electric mode, since you get the sort of silent, ultra-smooth acceleration typical of an electric vehicle (and which you can only briefly feel in the regular Prius). There’s a nice low-end punch when accelerating that even carries over a bit when that all-electric range has been depleted. As a result, acceleration comes on more urgently in the Prius Prime, making it the better vehicle to drive.
Inside, we like the vertically-oriented touchscreen found on the Prime’s XLE and Limited trims. The smaller base touchscreen actually works quite well and is pleasantly easy to use, but the big 11.6-in screen looks cooler and allows you to view navigation and audio controls simultaneously. Either way, Apple CarPlay is offered across the board for 2020. Indeed, we enjoyed it so much that we added the Prius Prime to our list of the 10 Best Car Interiors Under $50,000.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid — The Ioniq Hybrid is a serious competitor for the Prius Prime, delivering comparable fuel economy and electric-only range for less money. It’s also more enjoyable to drive.
2019 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid — The Clarity can go 48 miles on electricity, meaning it could be a better choice than the Prius Prime for those with longer commutes. It’s also bigger and more luxurious.
2019 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid — The Niro’s all-electric range matches the Prius Prime’s and offers a distinctive crossover body style. Its fuel economy when not in all-electric mode isn’t as good as the Prime, but it’s still an excellent 46 mpg combined. Watch how much will fit in the Niro Plug-In Hybrid’s trunk.
2019 Chevrolet Volt — 2019 marks the last model year for the plug-in hybrid Volt as Chevrolet looks to shift its focus to the fully-electric Bolt. That said, if you can find one, the Volt is a compelling option, especially given its class-leading 53 miles of electric range.
With so much standard feature content, including Apple CarPlay for 2020, we think most people will be perfectly happy with a basic Prius Prime LE. At the same time though, for less than $2,000 more, buyers can get an 8-way power driver’s seat, that big touchscreen and various smartphone-connectivity apps on the XLE trim level. Either way, keep in mind that tax credits and fuel savings mean that buying a Prius Prime comes with financial advantages that go beyond whatever discount you can negotiate with your dealer. Find a Toyota Prius Prime for sale