Over the last quarter century, Toyota’s Prius has evolved from a pioneering but homely “green” car to luxury four-door with a big, bright, digital screen to rival Tesla’s Model 3, not to mention a suite of upmarket innovations and conveniences. And all-wheel-drive, too.
The swanky 2022 Prius Technology Advanced AWD-e, parked at my home as I write this, is priced at eye-popping $38,507.70, with fees, but not taxes. (Base price: $29,350.) Still, the Prius to many of us remains an everyday car for the masses, not a near-luxury ride.
Out the door, this Prius will set you back something well into the $40,000s. That’s a whopper of a sticker for a commuter with the lazy get-up-and-go of the world’s best-selling mainstream hybrid – though don’t overlook the spectacular fuel economy, low emissions, and miniscule running costs.
Stomp on the throttle, and the little 1.8-litre four-banger howls to life, loudly taking centre stage in the performance of a midsize hatchback that in stop-and-go traffic putters along with a nice blend of gasoline engine/electric motor/battery.
If you don’t drive like Lewis Hamilton on Sunday, you will be quite happy with this Prius, other than the violent grabbiness of the regenerative braking. Once you learn to gently, gently tap the brake pedal, you will no longer throw your passengers forward when stopping.
But for all Toyota’s insistence on the brilliance and efficacy of hybrids…
(Let me pause for a moment to a talk about Toyota’s embrace of hybrids. Over and over, Toyota has said hybrid technology — vehicles powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor — is the most sensible stepping stone to fully electric cars. They are proven, affordable, reliable and efficient – delivering huge gains in fuel economy and dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions. Toyota is accelerating its push into battery electrics, but still sees hybrids as central
With that out of the way, let me state clearly that the Prius is NOT a Tesla Model 3, but you can have the nicest Prius for about the price.
On the one hand, it’s a pretty pokey ride compared to the Telsa. On the other, Toyota’s build quality, materials, safety record, reliability history, durability, and reputation for creating lasting automobiles are matters of record.
As I drove this Prius through its paces, I tried to put myself in the place of a frugal buyer who avoids risk, detests inconvenience, has no interest in risky early adopting, sees her car as a transportation appliance and would like to minimize his footprint on this planet. The Prius is an obvious solution.
Frugality and the environment?
Natural Resources Canada notes that a midsize, all-wheel-drive Prius uses about half the regular fuel of a midsize AWD Toyota Camry (4.6 L/100 km versus 9.5 in the city), pumps out about half the CO@ (100 g/km vs. 195), and will slash your annual fuel cost ($960 vs. $1,680).
Pick your third-party research, and the result is the same: the Prius is fantastically reliable, though Consumer Reports has concerns about in-car electronics.
I don’t like the seats. They are flat, unsupportive and inexcusable. The 120-horsepower Atkinson four, combined with electric motors, wheezes when you get demanding. The ride quality is mediocre, though responses are quite good. Road noise is annoying. The AWD version uses electric motors to add rear traction when needed, though the fronts are always driven, and everything is seamless.
The cabin is generous, with massive leg room front and rear and a cargo area built for IKEA shopping. My tester had the big 11.6-inch display (Apple compatible), while the cheaper models get the 7-inch screen which is Google-friendly. And safety gear abounds.
The Prius is no longer cutting edge, though it dramatically reduces your environmental footprint and saves you a fortune over a driving lifetime – compared to a traditional gasoline car.
Is good, good enough these days? Or to ask another questions, is good the enemy of great?