The 2021 Toyota Prius Prime is the plug-in hybrid variant of the standard Prius. Like that standard hybrid, the Prius Prime uses both a battery-fed electric motor and a 4-cylinder gasoline engine to power the vehicle. But the battery pack in the Prius Prime is significantly larger. It has enough juice to allow the Prius Prime to drive up to 25 miles on electricity alone. After that it, it works like the standard Prius and the gasoline engine kicks in. Total range of the Prius Prime is pegged at a very impressive 640 miles.
Because the battery pack is larger in the Prius Prime, it requires charging to get fully juiced. That takes only about two hours on a 240-volt line or about 5 hours, 30 minutes on a standard 120-volt outlet.
The Prius Prime distinguishes itself with even more futuristic styling than the standard Prius. Its swoopy looks aren’t for everyone and stand in contrast with more conservative plug-in hybrids like the Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Niro and all-wheel-drive Subaru Crosstrek. The Prius Prime costs a few thousand more than the standard Prius, but if you factor in the $4,500 federal tax credit the bottom line is actually less. This makes the 2021 Prius Prime quite a good value.
For 2021, all models of the Prius Prime get the more sophisticated Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite. As before, it includes lane-keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, and now includes bicyclist detection and road-sign assist. Android Auto has also arrived in the Prius Prime, but only on base LE models. See the 2021 Toyota Prius Prime models for sale near you
What We Like
- Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa integration
- Affordable price given current tax credits
- Great fuel economy; low price for a plug-in hybrid
- Standard safety tech
- Versatile hatchback design
- Seating for five
What We Don’t
- Less cargo space than regular Prius
- No Android Auto in higher trims
- Styling is unnecessarily weird
$28,220-$34,000 (plus $955 destination fee)
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 54 mpg in combined city/highway driving. Its miles per gallon equivalent estimate from the Environmental Protection Agency is an eye-popping 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 2021 Toyota Prius Prime is available in three trim levels: LE, XLE and Limited.
The base LE ($28,220, plus $955 destination fee) comes standard with 15-in alloy wheels, LED headlights, automatic high beams, forward collision warning with automatic braking and pedestrian and bicyclist 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, fabric seats and a steering wheel trimmed with SofTex vinyl. One big differentiator between this model and the others is its infotainment system. This one uses a smaller 7-in touchscreen, but it includes Android Auto in addition to Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa integration. Android Auto is new for the Prius Prime this year, and this is the only model to get it.
The XLE ($30,000) adds automatic LED headlights, an 8-way power driver’s seat, SofTex vinyl seats, a wireless smartphone charging pad, and an 11.6-in vertically oriented touchscreen with navigation and a premium audio system. The big screen certainly looks cool, similar to those found in a Tesla, but we found it has a lot of glare. We actually prefer the smaller 7-in setup in the LE model.
The Limited ($34,400) 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.
All Prius Prime models includes Toyota Care — 2 years/25,000 miles of complimentary maintenance, plus 3 years of roadside assistance.
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. More importantly, it includes Toyota’s robust Safety Sense suite that has been upgraded for 2021 to the 2.0 system. As before it includes lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and radar cruise control. Now it also the ability to read and relay road signs, plus bicyclist detection.
Also standard on all 2021 Toyota Prius Prime models is Safety Connect. Base LE models get a 1-year trial, while the higher trims include 3 years of this service that enables you to connect and check on the vehicle with a mobile device to do things like lock and unlock the doors, and also offers helpful features like emergency and roadside assistance.
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, the Prius Prime’s seats are as comfortable as its ride manners. And beginning last year, the cabin now has room for five vs. the more limited 4-passenger setup of past Prius Prime models.
As we mentioned in the standard features section, higher trims come with a huge and slick-looking 11.6-inch touchscreen. It certainly is a wow factor, but we found it difficult to see at times due to glare. Keep this in mind if you live in a particularly sunny region. Otherwise, the simpler 7-inch touchscreen in the LE model works really well and is far less dependent on touch to control common features like climate and audio functions.
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.
2020 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.
2020 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.
Used Chevrolet Volt — Chevrolet made the controversial decision to kills its groundbreaking plug-in car after the 2019 model year, but you can still find a great used one for under $20,000. Like the Prius, it also is a hatchback and has less polarizing looks. Its electric range is farther, too, at 53 miles.
Questions You May Ask
Is the Prius Prime a good car?
Yes, if you are looking for a comfortable, highly efficient, economical car, the Prius Prime fits the bill. It is also eligible for carpool stickers.
What is the driving range of a Toyota Prius Prime?
With a full battery charge and a full tank of gas, the Prius Prime has an estimated driving range of 640 miles.
How much is the rebate for the 2021 Prius Prime?
Toyota’s Prius Prime qualifies for a $4,502 federal tax credit.
Does the Toyota Prius Prime have AWD?
No. The 2021 Toyota Prius Prime is front-wheel drive. The standard Prius, however, is now available with all-wheel drive (AWD).
With so much standard feature content, we think most people will be perfectly happy with a basic Prius Prime LE. And if you must have Android Auto, then it will be your only choice. We also like its simpler and less glare-prone touchscreen setup. That said, for less than $2,000 more you can get an 8-way power driver’s seat, that big touchscreen and various smartphone-connectivity apps on the XLE trim level. Just make sure you’re comfortable using the larger touchscreen. Regardless which model you choose, keep in mind that tax credits, fuel savings, and potential single-occupancy carpool access in select states mean that buying a Prius Prime comes with advantages that go beyond whatever discount you can negotiate with your dealer. Find a Toyota Prius Prime for sale