Buyers prioritizing fuel economy above all else are wise to put the 2020 Toyota Prius on the top of their list of vehicles to consider. As with all iterations of the Prius, it returns 50 miles per gallon combined or better, while its functional cabin and versatile hatchback design add to the efficiency theme. Additionally, the 2020 Prius comes with standard accident avoidance tech and should be just as reliable as every Prius before it.
After some big updates for 2019 that included a new all-wheel-drive option and restructured trim levels, the Prius returns for 2020 pretty much unchanged, aside from some improvements to the infotainment experience.
That said, the biggest thing to consider is the ever increasing number of new and impressive competitors. Chief among them heading into the 2020 model year is Toyota’s own Corolla Hybrid, which is an all-new model for 2020. Many in the automotive world are going so far as to say that the excellent new Corolla Hybrid deems the Prius obsolete, given that it returns almost identical fuel economy in a more mainstream package. Beyond the new Corolla Hybrid are other competitors from the likes of Honda and Hyundai, along with a variety of plug-in hybrids and all-electric models that go even further in the fuel-sipping game. They’re also eligible for government tax breaks and carpool stickers. So, although the 2020 Prius is better than ever, it’s no longer the de facto choice in this segment.
What’s New for 2020?
After a significant refresh for 2019, not much changes with the Prius for 2020. All trims now come standard with Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa integration, but Android Auto is still mysteriously absent. Prius L Eco, LE and XLE models gain a new 7-in infotainment system, while the Limited still offers the same massive 12-in screen. See the 2020 Toyota Prius models for sale near you
What We Like
- Phenomenal fuel economy
- Handy hatchback design
- Available AWD
- Adult-sized back seat
- Impressive equipment
- Standard accident avoidance tech
What We Don’t
- No longer the default choice
- Un-involving and loud relative to other hybrids
- Unremarkable interior for the money
- Mediocre acceleration
- Questionable styling
- Android Auto is still not available
Every Prius comes with a hybrid powertrain consisting of a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and a pair of electric motors. The 2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e model adds a third electric motor at the rear that powers the rear wheels. Total system output is 121 horsepower.
Fuel economy, as expected, is exceptional. Most trim levels return 54 mpg in the city, 50 mpg on the highway and 52 mpg in combined driving. In the L Eco trim, these figures are slightly better, coming in at 58 mpg city/53 mpg hwy/56 mpg combined. AWD-equipped Prius models return 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 falling right in between.
Standard Features & Options
After switching over to a nomenclature more in line with the rest of the Toyota lineup in 2019, the Prius continues with L Eco, LE, XLE and Limited trims for 2020. AWD is available with only the LE or XLE trims and carries a $1,000 price premium. There is also the plug-in Prius Prime, which we’ve reviewed separately.
The Prius L Eco ($25,155) comes standard with 15-in alloy wheels, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, 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’s seat, cloth upholstery, a 60/40 split-folding back seat, a 7-in touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility, three USB ports, Bluetooth and a 6-speaker sound system that includes an auxiliary audio jack and a media player interface.
The LE ($26,365) adds parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, a rear window wiper and a cargo cover. The LE AWD-e ($27,365) adds fog lights and different wheel covers, plus its AWD system and a different battery pack better suited to colder temperatures.
The XLE ($29,205) 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 XLE AWD-e ($30,205) 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 ($33,330) 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.
The Prius comes standard with an impressive list of safety features. Besides the usual array of anti-lock 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 emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and automatic high beams. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems are also standard on all but the basic L Eco model.
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 categories.
Behind the Wheel
On the road, the latest Prius makes some strides over its numb and uninviting predecessors. The current Prius 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 more substantial now, especially over big, crashy bumps. However, compared with the Honda Insight and various other compact cars, 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 Honda Insight and other similarly priced Toyotas. Last year’s Prius model saw the elimination of the odd glossy white trim that made the center console look like a bathroom fixture in favor of regular old black. Second, the Prius Prime’s vertically oriented touchscreen has been added to the Prius Limited.
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 more useful space than what you might expect in a compact sedan.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid — The first of its kind to be offered in the U.S., the Corolla Hybrid is downright impressive. Fuel economy comes in at 53 mpg city/52 mpg hwy/52 mpg overall, right on par with the Prius. Just one trim level is offered for 2020, but we expect this to change in the future. With this vehicle, the Prius just became a much tougher sell.
2020 Honda Insight — If you only consider one non-Toyota 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.
2020 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid — The Ioniq is another vehicle that competes directly with the Prius. It offers superior fuel economy at a lower price while also boasting a more involving, borderline-fun driving experience and a less quirky, more functional cabin design. The Ioniq is also available in plug-in and electric variants.
2020 Toyota Camry Hybrid — The base Camry Hybrid gets the same 52-mpg combined rating as most Prius trims. That’s despite being more powerful, more spacious, more luxurious and generally more refined. The Camry Hybrid LE is priced just a little higher than the Prius XLE.
2020 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.
We think the Prius L Eco is a pretty generous offering for a base model. There’s no shortage of features, the highlights of which are standard active safety tech and Apple CarPlay. You’ll also 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. That said, moving one step up to the LE model nets you a rear window wiper, blind spot monitoring, a folding rear seat and parking assist. Alternatively, if you live in a snowy climate, it’s impossible to deny the appeal of the Prius’s new AWD-e system, available on either the LE or XLE trims for a reasonable $1,000 premium. Keep in mind though — once you get into higher price points, the 2020 Toyota Prius enters into territory occupied by much bigger, more modern hybrids in Toyota’s lineup, such as the Corolla, the Camry and the RAV4. Find a Toyota Prius for sale