2018 Toyota Prius Prime: Bestselling hybrid gets better

    Posted by Shane Kalicharan about 6 months ago

    The Toyota Prius is often seen as the butt of a joke within the automotive enthusiast community, but for the rest of life, the Prius is actually the best-selling hybrid on the market – and for good reason. After two decades on the market, it’s come to meet an excellent compromise between economy, cost, practicality and memorability. The latest model to bear the name is the Prius Prime. After a successful test launch and a year on the market, we decided to put the brand new 2018 Prius Prime to the test.

    Design has never been the Prius’ strong suit, and, while it’s entirely subjective, we think that remained pretty consistent with the new Prius Prime. While it once looked futuristic years ago, the design, to us, is by far the weakest point of Toyota’s hybrid. The style features are functional and aid in economy and aerodynamics, but the package as a whole is not what we’d call pretty. Thankfully the interior is a little more minimalist and clean, with most functions relegated to an optional 11.6-inch touchscreen, and a wide horizontal display featuring a number of readouts including speed, charge and efficiency.

    We found the touchscreen responsive, but not necessarily intuitive. The interface sometimes felt cluttered and inefficient in design. Certain functions were buried beneath sub-menus, requiring multiple touches to access, which means more time spent taking your eyes off the road. But, the car is comfortable and visibility is excellent for drivers. Back seat passengers won’t feel cramped either – and the generous cargo space makes the car great for everyday use.

    The car is practical – so how does it drive? Well…not great. It’s spongy, the body rolls when cornering, its more jarring than expected on rough roads and unless you’re launching from 0 on electricity alone, the power feels severely lacking. But the Prius has always been like that and it’s still the best selling, best known hybrid on the market. So it’s clear that for buyers, these factors are not a priority. Disregarding power and handling – the Prius is a fantastic city commuter – which is what it was always meant to be. The Prius Prime is easy to drive with its electric steering system, and offers great visibility. One of the most annoying things about it though – pop it into reverse and the car repeatedly beeps at you.

    Fuel economy is arguably the biggest factor when it comes to buying a hybrid, and the Prius handles it well. Toyota claims a combined fuel economy of 1.8L/100km, which is actually the exact mark we hit in our testing. We drove the car like we would a normal vehicle, in a mix of city and highway driving with the heating and air in use. The worst figure we saw was still great, at 4.6 L/100km – and this was long after our battery charge was depleted.

    Charging the Prius can be done overnight at home in about five hours on a standard 120v outlet. Bump it up to 240v and the time gets cut by three hours. Toyota claims an all-electric range of 40km on the Prime, but you’ll have to try very hard to make that work. Depending on your driving style and use of creature comforts, that EV range will suffer. But that said, you could still easily do a short trip within the city purely on electricity. Our testing saw us barely needing to top up the gas tank after 5 days of driving a mix of city and highway.

    Starting at $32,990 in Canada, the Prius Prime is good value for money when it comes to fuel savings. Depending on where you live, you may even be entitled to a government rebate. The styling is controversial, the handling is anything but sporty and the touchscreen can be finicky…but that’s okay. When it comes to balancing fuel economy, practicality, value for money and reliability, it’s not so hard to understand why the Prius is consistently the bestselling hybrid in North America.


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