2020 Toyota Prius

2020 Toyota Prius Test Drive Review: Sips Fuel With The Best Of Them

by Ian Wright

Since its introduction in 1997, Toyota's electrified car, the Prius, has been the tip of the spear in bringing hybrid technology to the mass market. The Prius is still one of the most fuel-efficient cars you can buy today, but it doesn't dominate the market anymore. The problem the Prius faces in 2020 is that the majority of popular vehicles for sale in the U.S. now either already have a hybrid drivetrain model or are about to have a hybrid version. That draws a question regarding its relevance as we head into the next decade.

Today, the most frugal Prius in L Eco trim gets 56 mpg combined but is beaten out by a few MPG by the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Blue model. Toyota's own Corolla Hybrid isn't far off in fuel economy and is a lot cheaper to buy and better looking, and, for a small drop in fuel efficiency, the Camry Hybrid offers more interior space. That means the Prius needs to provide more than futuristic looks and wallet-friendly visits to the gas pumps to stay competitive. Is the Toyota Prius still the quintessential hybrid, or has it had its day?

Read in this review:

2020 Toyota Prius Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 Prius?

The fourth-generation Prius hybrid has been around since 2016, and with last year's model being handed a substantial refresh along with the option of AWD, 2020's version continues relatively unchanged. However, the infotainment suite has been bolstered with a new seven-inch touchscreen in L Eco, LE, and XLE derivatives, and all trims get standard access to Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPlay. Each is now equipped with Toyota Safety Connect for the automatic contact of emergency services.

Pros and Cons

  • Still a benchmark in fuel economy
  • Well equipped across the lineup
  • Uniquely available in AWD
  • Impressive levels of noise insulation
  • Great visibility
  • Alien styling still a sore point
  • What performance?
  • Doesn't feel as premium as rivals
  • Awkwardly positioned driver display
  • Still no Android Auto integration

2020 Toyota Prius Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
L Eco
1.8-liter Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$24,325
LE
1.8-liter Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
Other
$25,535
XLE
1.8-liter Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
Other
$28,375
Limited
1.8-liter Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$32,500

New Toyota Prius Exterior

It may have evolved into a less visually offensive hybrid than what it originally was, but the Prius' current form is still unlikely to be considered a design icon, and still offers a love-it-or-hate-it overall image that is arguably more sedan than hatch. Every new Prius model is fitted with an active grille shutter up front and features automatic bi-LED projector-beam headlights and LED daytime running lights. The Prius Limited is exclusively equipped with an adaptive front-lighting system with auto-leveling headlights. The L Eco and LE are equipped with 15-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, while the XLE and Limited are handed a set of 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels with titanium-finished inserts. The LE AWD-e and XLE AWD-e are both equipped with 15-inch five-spoke alloy wheels with two-tone wheel covers.

2020 Toyota Prius Front View CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Prius Rear View CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Prius Front Angle View CarBuzz
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Dimensions

Classified as a compact hatchback, the Prius' slight dimensions include a wheelbase measuring 106.3 inches with a total body length of 180 inches on the button. Standing 57.9 inches in height (58.1 inches for AWD configurations) and 69.3 inches wide, it fits in with the rest of the compact segment and measures similarly to the Toyota Corolla Hybrid. Curb weights vary only slightly across the range, with FWD models weighing between 3,010 and 3,075 lbs, while AWD adds 170 lbs to the respective trims, tipping the scales between 3,210 and 3,220 lbs depending on trim.

  • Length 180.0 in
  • Wheelbase 106.3 in
  • Height 57.9 in
  • Max Width 69.3 in
  • Front Width 60.2 in
  • Rear Width 60.6 in

Exterior Colors

Toyota offers up the Prius with seven available exterior colors, yet curiously, only the most basic L Eco is available in all seven. Exclusive to the L Eco are Classic Silver and Magnetic Gray - both metallic options - while the remaining models can all be equipped in the remaining five hues, inclusive of Midnight Black Metallic, Sea Glass Pearl, and Electric Storm Blue at no extra cost, while an extra $425 dresses the Prius in Supersonic Red or Blizzard Pearl. Our test unit wore Sea Glass Pearl, which might scream eco-warrior, but does little to make the Prius look good. Blizzard Pearl or the no-cost Electric Storm Blue do the best job of hiding the Prius' odd styling in a package that looks more pedestrian.

  • Classic Silver Metallic
  • Midnight Black Metallic
  • Sea Glass Pearl
  • Electric Storm Blue
  • Magnetic Gray Metallic
  • Super White
  • Blizzard Pearl
  • Supersonic Red

Toyota Prius Hybrid Performance

Electrification may quickly be becoming all the rage from a performance perspective, but the Prius sticks to a tried and trusted technique of sacrificing performance for the sake of green consciousness. When we say it sacrifices, we mean it, too, as the Prius is hardly what one might call a hot performer. Independent testing suggests the 0-60 mph sprint is glacial at best, entering the double-digit realm of more than ten seconds, while rivals like the Hyundai Ioniq and Honda Insight manage the same effort several seconds quicker. Still, you don't buy a hybrid for its top speed, and what the Prius offers as a truly unique selling point in the compact hybrid segment is the option of all-wheel-drive in addition to the standard FWD system, making use of an extra 7 hp electric motor to drive the rear axle, although deriving no additional performance due to the corresponding increase in weight.

2020 Toyota Prius Rear Angle View CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Prius Alloy CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Prius Engine CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

The 2020 Toyota Prius hybrid is powered by the same 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine it has since the fourth-generation debuted for 2016, generating 96 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque. It's supplemented by a 71 hp/120 lb-ft electric motor on the front axle for combined system outputs of 121 hp. AWD models make use of a separate motor on the rear axle worth 7 hp and 10 lb-ft, although this doesn't alter the combined system output. Regardless of the choice in drivetrain, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) handles drive to the front axle.

The Prius has never been known for being quick off the line, and the 2020 model is no exception. Acceleration is lethargic after the initial surge provided by the electric motor, and being a hybrid is no longer an acceptable excuse for a car not being able to get out of its own way. Zero to 60 mph comes in at around ten seconds with your foot to the floor which doesn't leave much of a buffer when joining a freeway in traffic. The all-wheel-drive model features an electric motor that adds drive to the rear wheels, but when we drove an AWD-E equipped model we didn't notice it improving acceleration.

Around town and in traffic, the power deficit isn't particularly noticeable, and the CVT transmission does a good job keeping things smooth. This is where the Prius shines, and considering the EPA rates it higher in the city than on the highway from a gas mileage perspective, the city is where Toyota developed the Prius to be king.

  • Engine
    1.8-liter Inline-4 Hybrid
  • Transmission
    Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrains
    FWD, Other

Handling and Driving Impressions

Things do get better once you start turning the wheel. Steering weight is well proportioned, and the Prius is surprisingly responsive to input, which adds to its overall performance in the city. There's very little feedback from the tires, though, leaving the steering feeling numb on center and uninspiring on a bendy road.

Braking is an area we expect to feel numb in a hybrid system due to regenerative braking being mixed with the traditional friction braking system. We found it took a little practice with the brakes on the Prius to use muscle memory over braking feel to use them smoothly.

All of the above is as expected, but the biggest complaint we have for the Prius is Toyota's decision to mount the instrument panel high and center on the dashboard. Everything is put into a 4.2-inch color dual-multi-information display, including the speedometer. That means any information a driver regularly refers to is out of the line of sight and you're looking down and to the right to check speed.

Prius Gas Mileage

Fuel economy has always been the crown jewel in the Prius' crown, but its sparkle is dulling now that everyone else offers super-efficient hybrids. In base Eco L trim it achieves its best figures of 58/53/56 mpg city/highway combined, while the remaining FWD models achieve 54/50/52 mpg. AWD models see a slight drop in EPA estimates, down to 52/48/50 mpg. While once upon a time it may have been a class-leader, now it's simply one of the players, and the Hyundai Ioniq has the Prius beaten in its base trim with figures of 57/59/58 mpg.

But with figures as competitive as they are, the Prius can make do with a smaller gas tank than most, utilizing an 11.3-gallon gas tank on FWD models and a slightly smaller 10.6-gallon tank on the AWD models. The L Eco is capable of a range of 632 miles on a tank.

Rarely do we find a car comes in on the EPA's estimates over a week as it's impossible to balance a mix of city and freeway driving exactly. However, we came in at 51 mpg by the time we had to give the keys to our Limited trim test car back, and that was without trying to balance our driving out or trying to be frugal using our right foot. While we're not impressed by the driving performance with the Prius, it's impossible to argue with that kind of fuel efficiency.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    11.3 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 58/53 mpg
* 2020 Toyota Prius L Eco

Toyota Prius Interior

Climbing into the cabin of the Toyota Prius reveals exactly where Toyota chose to spare on costs with most of what's visible or in reach being comprised mostly of low-grade materials or hard-touch plastics. Not just this, but the layout is awkward, with all instrumentation removed from the driver's line of sight and instead mounted centrally on the dash in a tiny display. In the era of head-up displays and large, digital instrumentation, the Prius feels like a dinosaur. However, improvements have been made, including new infotainment options for 2020 and the Limited's 11.6-inch screen is still one of the biggest around.

2020 Toyota Prius Dashboard CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Prius Steering Wheel Details CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Prius Navigation System CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

There's enough room in the Prius for four six-foot-tall people to be comfortable in the legroom department, helped by the upright nature of the rear seatbacks. That will make overall comfort depend on personal preference, but plenty of room is consistent all through the interior. The 42.3 inches of legroom front and 33.4 inches in the back is more than respectable, despite some competitors having a little more in the back.

There's plenty of adjustability in the driver's seat, but we did find ourselves wishing the steering wheel could telescope out a bit more. The dashboard-mounted shifter is awkward to get used to at night as it's small and tucked away with a complete lack of illumination. For passengers, the center-mounted gauge cluster is excellent if they want to be informed of absolutely everything that's going on. Still, most passengers will find themselves needlessly distracted by it, and for the driver, it's more of a distraction than a benefit.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 42.3 in
  • Front Head Room 39.4 in
  • Rear Leg Room 33.4 in
  • Rear Head Room 37.4 in

Interior Colors and Materials

There's a lot of plastic on display inside the Prius, which is understandable as Toyota has to offset the cost of the expensive powertrain to keep prices down. The inside still looks good, though, and an area Toyota hasn't gone too over the top in trying to look futuristic. The base and most fuel-efficient ECO-L model has a choice between black or light grey fabric seats. The LE trim adds Harvest Beige Fabric as an option, while the XLE and Limited trims offer the same three colors in synthetic leather material.

Toyota Prius Trunk and Cargo Space

By virtue of the Prius' liftback body styling, cabin room and trunk capacity are relatively expansive for the class. Certain trims are better off than others, with the L Eco, XLE FWD, and Limited receiving 27.4 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seats, while the LE FWD and both AWD options manage just 24.6 cubes for cargo. The former bests rivals quite comfortably and is more than enough for a full set of luggage or a pair of medium dog crates. The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split to increase versatility. The Prius' liftback-style trunk makes for really easy loading and unloading as well.

In-cabin storage solutions include large door side pockets up front with bottle holder slots; the rear door side pockets are a lot smaller; there are four cupholders, a spacious center armrest cubby, a couple of small-item storage bins here and there, and a sizable passenger-side glovebox.

2020 Toyota Prius Trunk Space CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Prius Cargo Room CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Prius Rim CarBuzz

Prius Infotainment and Features

Features

The Prius comes in many trim levels varying in specification. The L Eco sets the tone for the lineup, coming standard with a driver's door Smartkey system, push-button start, a 4.2-inch color dual-multi-information display, and single-zone climate control. The polyurethane steering wheel features a tilt-and-telescoping column, there's six-way manual-adjustability for the driver's seat and four-way adjustability in the front passenger's. All models are equipped with Toyota's Safety Sense suite of driver aids as standard as well as a rearview camera. The LE is additionally fitted with blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, intelligent park assist, and with front and rear parking sensors. The XLE gets a Smartkey system on both front doors and the trunk, a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. A color head-up display is standard in the Limited.

Infotainment

The infotainment system in the Prius feels outdated, but it is intuitive and easy to navigate through the standard seven-inch touchscreen. It also comes standard with Apple Carplay and Amazon Alexa; however, Android Auto is conspicuously absent. Conveniently there are two USB media ports in the front and two charging points in the back. Wi-Fi Connect and wireless charging are both optional in the base model but a six-speaker sound system is standard. In the top Limited trim level, you'll find a 10-speaker JBL sound system and a large vertical 11.6-inch touchscreen with split-screen display and integrated navigation, HD Radio, and SiriusXM satellite radio are standard equipment.

The big touchscreen looks nice, but it absorbs the heating functions and makes using them more complicated than just using dials. While the big screen looks beautiful in the Prius, it doesn't feel at all necessary and isn't used to great effect.

Prius Problems and Reliability

Though no recalls have been sent out for the 2020 year model Prius, the 2019 year model fell victim to three. The first pertained to non-permanent text on the load capacity label, the second to the potential deactivation of the vehicle's stability control system and the loss of braking assist, and the third pertained to a faulty speed and fuel display which would go blank. J.D. Power saw it fit to give the 2020 Prius a Great quality and reliability rating of 81 out of 100. Toyota covers the Prius with an attractive three-year/36,000-mile basic new-vehicle warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, and an eight-year/100,000-mile hybrid component warranty. The hybrid battery is further covered for 10 years/150,000 miles.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Hybrid/Electric Components:
    8 Years \ 100,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    2 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Maintenance:
    2 Years \ 25,000 Miles

Prius Safety

Top-notch safety ratings are expected from all modern-age vehicles and the Prius lives up to the standard. The NHTSA's review of the Toyota Prius resulted in an exceptional overall safety rating of five stars out of a possible five, while the IIHS flagged the Prius as a 2019 Top Safety Pick.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Key Safety Features

Toyota equipped every Prius model with a consignment of eight airbags including a driver's side knee airbag and a front passenger seat-cushion airbag. Every model also comes standard with Toyota's Safety Sense suite of driver-assist technologies which comprises automatic high beams, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, and full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control. A rearview camera is also standard in all, though blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, Intelligent Active Park Assist, and front and rear parking sensors come in only from the LE. The Limited is the sole trim to get a head-up display.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 Toyota Prius a good car?

If you just want amazing fuel economy, Toyota's reliability, and aren't bothered about performance, then the Prius is a good car. However, it's definitely an acquired taste when it comes to styling, and there's not much excuse in 2020 for such sluggish performance in a hybrid car. At this point, it does feel like Toyota is differentiating the Prius for the sake of it. Things like the center-mounted gauges are awkward and distracting, and the Hyundai Ioniq is demonstrating the fact that you don't need crazy styling for excellent aerodynamics.

Look at Toyota's own Corolla Hybrid, though, and the Prius starts to look redundant. It packs the same drivetrain and the same fuel economy into a smoother-looking contemporary package that doesn't yell to everyone in traffic that you're driving a hybrid.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 Toyota Prius?

While some corners have been cut in lieu of an extravagant powertrain, the price of Toyota's Prius is still relatively reasonable for the features on offer. Getting behind the wheel of the base-spec L Eco trim will set you back $24,325, while the less-economical LE has an MSRP of $25,535. The cost of Prius XLE models is $28,375, while the range-topping Prius Limited asks $32,500. Two AWD models are available, too, with the LE AWD-e carrying a sticker price of $26,935 and the XLE AWD-e asking $29,375. Prices exclude destination and handling charges of $955, and various states may offer incentives due to the Prius' classification as a Super Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle.

2020 Toyota Prius Models

There are six models in the Prius lineup: the L Eco, LE, XLE, LE AWD-e, XLE AWD-e, and the Limited. All models are equipped with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder hybrid engine and CVT automatic, while the L Eco, LE, XLE, and Limited are equipped with a front-wheel-drivetrain the LE AWD-e and XLE AWD-e are naturally equipped with an all-wheel drivetrain.

All-LED exterior lighting is standard as of the L Eco which also features 15-inch alloy wheels. Base-level features include a driver's door Smartkey system, push-button start, a 4.2-inch color dual-multi-information display, and single-zone climate control. There's fabric upholstery, a six-way manually-adjustable driver's seat, and a four-way manually-adjustable front passenger seat. Infotainment comes in the form of a seven-inch touchscreen, AM/FM stereo, and a six-speaker sound system. Functionality in Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth, and voice control are all standard.

Driver-assist technologies including blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, intelligent active park assist, and front and rear parking sensors come in on the LE as standard. The LE AWD-e rides on its own unique 15-inch five-spoke alloy wheels with two-tone wheel covers.

17-inch five-spoke titanium-finish alloy wheels fill the arches of the XLE, this model comes with a Smartkey system on both front doors and the trunk, a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The XLE AWD-e is similarly equipped but gets its own 15-inch five-spoke alloy wheels with two-tone wheel covers.

An adaptive front lighting system with auto-leveling headlights is standard-fit on the Limited along with 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels. Features-wise, it only gets a color head-up display but it receives an 11.6-inch tablet-style infotainment touchscreen and a ten-speaker JBL surround-sound audio system along with three-months of all-access connectivity for HD Radio and SiriusXM satellite radio.

See All 2020 Toyota Prius Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

There aren't many optional packages available for the Prius lineup and most trims don't get any options at all.

Available for the XLE and Limited is a Premium Convenience Package which for $515 equips the Prius models with 15-inch titanium-finished alloy wheels and with a power tilt-and-slide moonroof with a sliding sunshade. There's also an Advanced Technology Package available for the XLE which for $800 throws in a color head-up display and an adaptive front lighting system with auto-leveling headlights.

🚗What 2020 Toyota Prius Model Should I Buy?

We would steer away from the Limited trim, as at $32,500 you're negating the frugality of the drivetrain before even questioning the value of Toyota's large touchscreen display system. The XLE AWD-e model is only of benefit in excessively slippery conditions, so we would avoid the extra cost and weight unless necessary. If we had to buy a Prius and weren't swayed by other Toyota cars with hybrid drivetrains similar fuel-economy ratings like the Corolla, Camry, or RAV4, then we would go for the respectably-equipped base model L Eco and its even better fuel economy. That would ensure we got the features we need, including a good range of driver assist technology, and can take full advantage of the economy proposition the Prius offers.

Check out other Toyota Prius Styles

2020 Toyota Prius Comparisons

Honda Insight Honda
Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Hyundai
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Toyota Prius121 hp58/53 mpg$24,325
Honda Insight 151 hp55/49 mpg$22,930
Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid 139 hp57/59 mpg$23,200

2020 Toyota Prius vs Honda Insight

The Honda Insight is a little more affordable than the Prius, around $2,000 cheaper at the base level. It comes equipped with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that's significantly more powerful than the Prius' and equally as fuel-efficient. The Insight is faster too, completing the 0 to 60 mph sprint in around eight seconds. It's the better driver's car in general, delivering far greater performance and handling and without any compromise in ride comfort either. The Insight is more attractive, too, and its cabin exhibits far more of a premium feel. Both are somewhat on par in the way of features, though the top-specced Prius boasts a superior infotainment setup. That said, however, the Insight features Android Auto in place of Amazon Alexa, something that may win over the Android fans. The Prius boasts nearly double the Insight's trunk. While both fulfill similar roles, we feel the Insight is the better hybrid in general.

See Honda Insight Review

2020 Toyota Prius vs Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

For around $1,000 less than the Prius, buyers can opt for the far more attractive Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid. It's equipped with a slightly more powerful four-cylinder engine that makes it faster than the Prius, and yet still more fuel efficient in base guise, returning class-leading gas mileage figures of 57/59/58 mpg. The Insight offers as much practicality as the Prius with 26.5 cubes in the trunk though may have a slightly tighter cabin. It comes fitted with a fancier and more user-friendly infotainment system, too, along with Android Auto functionality which the Prius lacks. The Ioniq comes with a class-leading warranty as well but doesn't share the renowned reliability and quality of Toyota. Still, the Insight's safety ratings are on par with the Prius'. Overall, the Ioniq bests the Prius in many ways and the better value for money option, it leads the segment in fuel-efficiency as well, so it's a no brainer for the eco-conscious.

See Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Review

Toyota Prius Popular Comparisons

2020 Toyota Prius Video Review

Check out some informative Toyota Prius video reviews below.

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