Aug
14
2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e in Electric Storm Blue

2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e in Electric Storm Blue

2015 Audi Q52019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e

Class: Compact Car

Miles driven: 419

Fuel used: 8.2 gallons

CG Report Card
Room and ComfortB-
Power and PerformanceC+
Fit and FinishB
Fuel EconomyA
ValueA
Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
Big & Tall Comfort
Big GuyB-
Tall GuyB
Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Drivetrain
Engine Specs121-hp 1.8L
Engine Type4-cylinder hybrid
Transmission CVT automatic
Drive WheelsAWD

Real-world fuel economy: 51.1 mpg

Driving mix: 15% city, 85% highway

EPA-estimated fuel economy: 52/48/50 (city/highway/combined)

Fuel type: Regular recommended

Base price: $28,820 (not including $930 destination charge)

Options on test car: Advance Technology Package ($800), carpeted floor mats and cargo mat ($264), alloy wheel locks ($65), 15-inch alloy wheels ($899), rear bumper applique ($69), cargo net ($49), illuminated door sills ($299)

Price as tested: $32,195

 

Quick Hits

The great: Amazing fuel economy with AWD traction

The good: Control layout, visibility, cargo space

The not so good: Limited highway-speed merging and passing power

More Prius price and availability information

 

Rick Cotta

Just as crossovers bridged the gap between cars and SUVs, there’s a new breed of vehicle that’s bridging the gap between cars and crossovers, typically taking the form of a tall wagon offered only in front-drive form. The new Toyota Prius AWD-e could be considered as doing the same — though in a different way.

2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e

Those seeking a hybrid’s fuel economy but need the slippery-surface traction of all-wheel drive now have a choice that provides both.

The current Prius, whether “regular” hybrid or a plug-in version called Prius Prime, is a hatchback with a fairly sizable cargo area. But while the Prius has traditionally only been offered with front-wheel drive, Toyota introduced an AWD version called AWD-e last year, which adds an electric motor for the rear wheels and is the subject of this test. In this form, it combines near the cargo-carrying capacity of a small crossover with all-wheel-drive capability, thus making it somewhat of a car/crossover crossover — that just happens to get 50 mpg.

It’s that last point that really sets the Prius AWD-e apart. Yes, there are other AWD hybrids — including Toyota’s own RAV4 Hybrid — but they don’t get 50 mpg. Even in mostly highway driving (which isn’t as economical as city driving in a hybrid) and in 100+ degree Phoenix-area heat (where the air conditioning kept up nicely), our test vehicle managed to return 51.1 mpg, better than its 52 city/48 highway EPA figures would suggest.

2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e

At lower speeds, the Prius AWD-e feels far more responsive than its modest 10.27-second 0-60 time would imply, as most of that time was eaten up accelerating from 45 to 60 mph.

On the flip side of that, our tester averaged a somewhat leisurely 10.27 seconds in the 0-60 dash. However, a pretty good full-throttle jump off the line and quick kickdowns when the throttle was stabbed at speed made it feel quite responsive in around-town driving; it was mostly above 45 mph that progress slowed in the 0-60 run. The lower-speed punch is likely due in part to the rear motor kicking in to help under brisk acceleration, though it will also engage if traction is a problem and the front wheels start to spin.

Other than that, the AWD-e drives like any other Prius. Ride is quite absorbent with handling just shy of “sporty,” and the car feels nimble enough in tight maneuvers.

2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e

It takes a while to get used to not having the speedometer in front of you (instead it’s in the center dash-top display), and the flipper-style shifter (blue knob at center bottom) will take some familiarization, but most other controls are quite “friendly” and easy to reach.

It also accommodates like any other Prius. There’s very good headroom in front along with lots of legroom. In back, six-footers should find enough headroom, and my 5’9 frame had sufficient legroom even with the seat ahead pushed all the way back. A low center floor hump leaves good foot space for a center-seater. Visibility is good except to the rear corners, where a standard rearview camera helps when backing. Controls are easy to reach and use, and our tester included a CD player — an increasing rarity. Cabin storage is quite good, consisting of a small glovebox, deep 2-tier console box, two cupholders next to Aux/USB/12-volt plugs, a forward console tray with Qi charger in its base, and map pockets with cupholders in the doors. A complaint in our Phoenix-area test was that the all-black SofTex (vinyl) seats got really hot.

2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e

Although the Prius’s sloping rear roofline limits cargo height in back, the rear seats fold level with the cargo floor — making it easy to slide long items forward — and there’s added space under the floor, including a wide slot to hold the cargo cover.

Also typical of a Prius is the cargo space in back. While the sloped rear roof line forces large boxes to be slid forward, the rear seat backs fold level with the cargo floor, making that easy to do. A nice touch is that the cargo cover can be stored in a slot beneath the cargo floor — where there’s also a fair amount of added storage — which keeps it from taking up cargo space … and rattling around.

Quick Spin: 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid SEL

Test Drive: 2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Touring

While I was very impressed with the Prius AWD-e, my enthusiasm waned a bit after driving its RAV4 Hybrid sibling under similar, mostly highway conditions. All RAV4 Hybrids come standard with AWD, and the base LE only costs about $1500 more than the base Prius LE AWD-e, which starts at $27,310 including destination — which is $1400 more than the front-drive LE. For that extra money, you get more space and more power (spoiler alert: the RAV4 Hybrid clocked 0-60 in 7.5 seconds), with a loss of about 10 mpg in fuel efficiency.

So that’s really the deciding factor. If you don’t need the RAV’s added space or added power, the Prius AWD-e’s added traction makes it the hybrid car of choice in the snow states. And you can still brag about topping the magic 50-mpg barrier amongst your avid green-car pals.

2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e

Although it certainly doesn’t look like a crossover, the Toyota Prius AWD-e offers many of the same benefits — including lots of cargo space and all-wheel-drive traction — while returning 50 mpg, making it a viable, eco-friendly alternative.

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