- Exceptionally quiet and economical powertrain.
- Impressive reputation for reliability.
- Roomy, comfortable interior with generous cargo.
- Available all-wheel-drive is rare in this segment.
- Some competitors have more traditional exteriors.
- Cabin is well-constructed but not very stylish.
- Slow acceleration limits car-passing confidence.
Vehicle Type: Compact five-person hatchback.
Price Range: $25,320-$33,495, including destination but before options.
Powertrain: A 121-horsepower four-cylinder hybrid engine paired with a single-speed CVT and front-wheel-drive; all-wheel-drive is optional.
Shoppers looking for a fuel-efficient and practical car will be hard-pressed to find a better option than the 2020 Toyota Prius. In its fourth generation, Toyota's hybrid hatchback has set the bar for the category, providing owners with superb fuel economy while sustaining a strong reputation for reliability. The interior is spacious and comfortable, with many standard and available convenience features. Toyota includes a suite of driver safety technology in every new Prius. Things like standard forward-emergency braking and lane-keep assistance help mitigate accidents, while automatic high beams add a dose of concern for other drivers.
Since the Prius hit the American market two decades ago, the hybrid category has become significantly more popular, with many new competitors springing up. Alternatives to the Prius include the Honda Insight, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Optima, Chevrolet Malibu, and Ford Fusion. Few of those cars offer all-wheel-drive like the 2020 Prius does, though.
There have also been different versions of the Prius itself. In the past, Toyota has produced the subcompact Prius c, and the Prius V, which had additional interior space. Nowadays, there is the Prius and a more expensive plug-in hybrid variant called the Prius Prime. Most drivers will be entirely happy with the fuel economy and day-to-day operation of the standard Prius, though.
So, how is the fuel economy in the 2020 Toyota Prius? The EPA estimates it should return 54/50 city/hwy, and 52 mpg combined. There is an even more economical trim available, called the L Eco, and it gets a staggering 56 mpg overall.
The Prius has been getting regular updates over the past few years to make sure it stayed competitive, so there are no changes for 2020. It comes with a wealth of standard features, like LED headlights, keyless entry, automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Upper trims get automatic parking assistance and heated seats.
Overall Score: 8.7/10
Safety Features: 8/10
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the 2020 Toyota Prius a five-star overall safety rating, which is their highest score. That includes a five-star overall side-impact rating and a four-star rollover rating.
Likewise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave its 'Top Safety Pick' designation to the 2020 Prius, meaning it performed exceptionally well in all crash tests. Toyota's included driver safety systems helped it obtain a 'Superior' from the IIHS in the category of Front Crash Prevention: Vehicle to Vehicle.
The Prius comes standard with Toyota's Safety Sense package of driving aids, including a pre-collision system with forward-collision warning, pedestrian detection, and forward emergency braking. There is also full-speed adaptive cruise control that uses a radar to monitor traffic to ensure the Prius doesn't come too close to others. The car can automatically slow itself down to maintain a safe distance between it and other vehicles, and when traffic speeds up again, the Prius will bring itself back up to the preset speed. Lane-keep assist helps the car stay within its lane, and automatic high beams toggle between high- and low beams to not distract other drivers. The LE trim and above come with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and front and rear parking sensors.
Toyota makes its safety features very easy to use. Thanks to the straightforward driver layout and well-labeled controls, Prius drivers can easily toggle certain safety features on and off when need be. When left in their default 'on' mode, the safety aids stay in the background of the driving experience, not intruding unless necessary to take over some vehicle function like braking when the vehicle senses an impending accident. Toyota's system is not overly intrusive like those of some competitors.
The Toyota Prius is pricier than some other hybrid hatchbacks on the market, but pricing for a new car still starts around $25,320, including destination. That makes the Prius quite the value when one considers its reputation for reliability, refined drivetrain, quiet interior, and excellent fuel efficiency. The Honda Insight starts at about $23,885, and Toyota's own Corolla Hybrid sedan retails for $24,095, but neither of those cars has the large cargo capacity or optional all-wheel-drive offered by the Prius.
Toyota is well-known for building reliable cars, and the Prius, in particular, has a long history of dependability. The small hybrid powertrain and well-constructed electronics help give it excellent expected reliability. Likewise, depreciation should not be a serious issue for Prius owners. The Prius has remained a popular car on the used-car market thanks to its strengths as a commuter vehicle. Plus, the Toyota nameplate helps.
The top-end Prius Limited costs $33,495, which is a lot of money for a small car, and the price could have some buyers second-guessing if the potential fuel savings would compensate for it. The Limited comes with luxurious features like a head-up display, a premium audio system, and an 11.6-inch touchscreen infotainment system. While these details are undoubtedly nice to have, most buyers will likely be satisfied with the XLE trim, which still comes with a ton of standard features but has an MSRP of just $29,370. That makes it a much better balance between affordability and splurging on comfort.
Tech Features: 8/10
The 2020 Toyota Prius models come with a long list of standard technology. Most trim levels come with a seven-inch infotainment touchscreen, which includes Bluetooth streaming and voice-activation. It's easy to use, with intuitive menus and smartphone apps like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. Also standard is an in-car WiFi hotspot, which provides fast wireless Internet access to passengers. It requires a monthly subscription.
Upper trim levels add heated seats, a heated steering wheel, wireless phone charging, automatic parking, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The top-of-the-line Limited gets an 11.6-inch touchscreen, which is set vertically in the center stack. It looks somewhat odd at first, but it works very well and is easier to access than the smaller screen. Toyota also includes a 10-speaker JBL premium audio system.
Practicality is the Prius' bread-and-butter. Thanks to its fuel efficiency, cargo space, history of dependability, driver safety features, available AWD system, and other strengths, it is undoubtedly one of the most practical cars on the market. It is a great commuter car, with near-silent operation at low speeds and adaptive cruise control that can handle stop-and-go traffic. It is an enjoyable family vehicle, too, with a low starting price, plenty of safety features, and an airy cabin. The Prius is not exactly a driver's car, but it is reasonably engaging to drive, with secure handling that borders on sporty.
The storage space is fantastic. The Prius has 27.4 cubic feet available behind the rear seat, which bests the Hyundai Ioniq (26.5 cubes), and is almost double what the Honda Insight offers (15.1 cubic feet). The Prius' back row can fold down, opening up the cargo area even more.
Unlike most hybrid cars, the Prius offers all-wheel-drive. It's available on the LE and XLE trims, and it adds about $1,400 to their bottom lines. For that, drivers get additional peace of mind in bad weather.
There are front and rear cup holders in the Prius and a concealed storage bin under the trunk.
Styling & Design: 9/10
Toyota designed the Prius inside and out with functionality in mind. The exterior design improves aerodynamics, with a low hood, high hatchback lid, and many sharp creases abound. It gives the Prius a funky and approachable style.
Likewise, the interior isn't as sporty or as stylish as some other cars in its segment. Still, the Prius instead emphasizes ease-of-use, with simple, clearly-labeled controls and excellent outward visibility.
The driver layout has an almost futuristic quality to its styling. There are no traditional driver instrument gauges behind the steering wheel, but dashboard instead. Things like vehicle speed and other information are on a screen located atop the dashboard. It's easy to view, as it's higher up in the dashboard than the typical driver gauges. This setup also helps free up a lot of dashboard real estate, which allows for better forward visibility.
The seats are comfortable, though not as comfortable as in the midsize Camry sedan. They are more than sufficient for commuting and road trips.
Interior fit and finish is very good. Toyota makes some of the most refined cars on the market, and the Prius is no exception. Almost everything inside the Prius' cabin feels solid and well-constructed. The dashboard and center console are made of large pieces of hard plastic. The plastics used in the doors look a bit lower-quality.
Overall, the Toyota Prius achieves its goal of providing a pleasant interior for passengers. The cabin is stylish enough without losing any of its trademark functionality, and refinement is top-notch. Drivers will not hear any rattling on the highway.
Driving Experience: 8/10
No, the 2020 Toyota Prius is not a sports car. It's not particularly fast or quick on its feet. But for what it is, a hybrid family vehicle, the Prius is surprisingly enjoyable to drive. The Prius has a very quiet and refined powertrain, which equates to smooth acceleration and a relaxing driving experience. In corners, the Prius handles very well, able to remain flat and well-planted on the road.
Sharp handling, compact proportions, and excellent outward visibility make the Prius superb at maneuvering around in the city. Parking is a breeze, especially with the available front and rear parking sensors. At very low speeds, the electric motor can take over completely, giving the Prius whisper-quiet operation. And when the four-cylinder engine comes in, it's still impressively muted.
Fuel Efficiency: 10/10
The Toyota Prius has become a household name for a straightforward reason: fuel economy. For a car that is as comfortable and well-built as the Prius, it is pretty incredible that it gets an EPA-estimated 52 mpg overall. The L Eco trim, which happens to be the least expensive Prius, has an overall 56 mpg rating. Those numbers are superb, but not quite the best. That title goes to the Hyundai Ioniq hybrid, and its Blue trim level, to be precise. It gets 58 mpg combined. Nonetheless, fuel economy for the Prius is far better than gas-powered sedans and hatchbacks on the market.
The all-wheel-drive Prius should get 54/50 mpg city/hwy and 52 mpg combined. The closest alternatives to the AWD Prius may be a compact hybrid SUV, and those tend to get fuel economy in the low-to-mid-30s.
What’s it Going to Cost Me?
The Prius L Eco trim starts around $25,320, including destination. For that, shoppers get the fuel-efficient and quiet hybrid powertrain, the smooth CVT, front-wheel-drive, and 15-inch alloy wheels. Standard safety features include a pre-collision system with automatic braking, lane-departure warning with steering assist, a backup camera, an alarm, stability control, and tire pressure monitoring. Exterior highlights include fully-automatic LED headlights, LED tail lights, variable intermittent windshield wipers, and power heated side mirrors. The cabin comes with cloth upholstery, a 60/40 split-folding rear bench, power windows, keyless entry and ignition, automatic climate control, adaptive cruise control, and manual front seat adjustment. The Prius also has a seven-inch infotainment touchscreen that includes Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa compatibility, and a WiFi hotspot. The audio system also has a CD player and six speakers.
For around $26,530, the LE FWD adds things like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors, an intermittent rear wiper, and automatic parking.
The LE AWD-e, which costs about $27,930, has all of the same features of the FWD version, as well as Toyota's all-wheel-drive system, which is front-wheel based but can send much of its power to the rear wheels when needed, and the system does not significantly impact fuel economy.
Shoppers wanting more comfort and convenience will appreciate the XLE FWD. With an MSRP of $29,370, it has 17-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, leatherette upholstery, a power adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, a universal garage door opener, a heated steering wheel, wireless smartphone charging, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Like before, the XLE AWD-e has the same features, plus all-wheel-drive, for about $30,370.
The top-rung Limited trim costs about $33,495 and gets a head-up display, satellite radio, HD radio, a 10-speaker premium audio system, and an 11.6-inch vertical touchscreen.
If it were us buying a Prius today, we would probably opt for the Toyota Prius XLE. For under $30,000, it comes with almost every feature we seek in a compact commuter, plus unexpected amenities like a heated steering wheel. The XLE trim has all of the comfort and nearly all of the Limited's technology, though the 11.6-inch touchscreen is quite nice.