2021 Toyota Prius

2021 Toyota Prius Review: Still Worth A Look

The car that ultimately kickstarted the mainstream hybrid offering, the Toyota Prius, has been with us for many years, but it's no longer the only car of its kind. While the Prius may have been the first to have brought hypermiling to the masses, it's now got plenty of competition from rivals such as the Honda Insight and Hyundai Ioniq, as well as from within its own marque in the form of the Corolla Hybrid. With a base price of under 25 grand, it still has a lot going for it, but with just 121 horsepower and 120 lb-ft of torque, it's not the most exciting hybrid out there. But at least you can have all-wheel-drive. Nevertheless, with so many alternatives, is the Prius the best and worthy of consideration, or is it time for Toyota to completely rethink the Prius offering?

Read in this review:

2021 Toyota Prius Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 Prius?

The new Toyota Prius gains a few updates for 2021, among which is the standard inclusion of pedestrian and cyclist detection, as well as auto high beams. There's also a new 2020 Edition trim that celebrates 20 years of the Prius and will be limited to 2,020 units. Speaking of limited, all but the top Limited trim now feature Android Auto as standard.

Pros and Cons

  • Excellent gas mileage
  • Good reliability
  • Plenty of standard safety features
  • Lots of cargo space
  • Cheap-feeling interior
  • Outdated infotainment system
  • Drives like Fred Flintstone powers it
  • Interior design is poor

Best Deals on Prius

2021 Toyota Prius Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
L Eco
1.8L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$24,525
LE
1.8L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$25,735
LE AWD-e
1.8L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$27,135
XLE
1.8L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
$28,575
XLE AWD-e
1.8L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
All-Wheel Drive
$29,575

Prius Hatchback Exterior

The exterior of the Prius has evolved over the years to feature things like bi-LED headlights and LED taillights, but the overall shape has remained mostly unchanged in order to maximize aerodynamic efficiency. Thus, you get a pretty smooth front end with only a few small grilles. 15-inch alloy wheels with full covers are standard but you can have 17-inch alloys on some trims, with a power sunroof also available. The hatchback rear of the Prius is still ghastly to look at, but a plastic bumper accent where you'd normally find a diffuser helps it look semi-decent. On the 2020 Edition, gloss black accents and darkened headlight shrouds add a touch of sporty style.

2021 Toyota Prius Three Quarter Front Right Side View Toyota
2021 Toyota Prius Three Quarter Rear Left Side View Toyota
2021 Toyota Prius Three Quarter Front Left Side View Toyota
See All 2021 Toyota Prius Exterior Photos

Dimensions

Dimensions on the Prius are mostly the same across the range, with length measuring 180 inches across the board while the wheelbase is 106.3 inches. Width is rated at 69.3 inches, a figure that highlights just how narrow this vehicle is relative to most regular cars. Height is the only thing besides curb weight that varies a little. The height on FWD models is 57.9 inches while AWD variants reach 58.1 inches. Curb weight starts at 3,010 pounds on the base variant, while the heaviest model is the XLE AWD-e, with a starting curb weight rating of 3,220 lbs.

  • 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

Unlike with some manufacturers, Toyota gives you access to a number of colors as standard, with Electric Storm Blue, Classic Silver Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Midnight Black Metallic, and Sea Glass Pearl all available at no cost. Also available are Supersonic Red and Wind Chill Pearl at $425 each. Certain interior colors will reduce the available paint options; for example, the mid-range XLE can't be painted in Classic Silver or Magnetic Gray when the Harvest Beige interior is chosen. The Prius 2020 Edition, however, does differ from the rest in that it can only be painted in Supersonic Red or Wind Chill Pearl, so the $425 added charge applies in both instances.

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

Prius Performance

Straight-line performance is certainly not the strong suit of a car like the Prius. The fact that Toyota doesn't disclose the vehicle's top speed nor its time to get from 0 to 60 mph is proof of this. However, an independent test drive suggests that the Prius will do 112 mph flat-out and take around 10.5 seconds to get to 60 mph. But of course, nobody buys a Prius to take on Hellcats. Where it will beat the Hellcat is in terms of aerodynamic efficiency and gas mileage, but what most people will note about the Prius is that it's available with AWD, something that few competitors can offer. With a CVT controlling shifts, the Prius will always be boring to drive spiritedly, but its 1.8-liter four-cylinder with a total of 121 hp and 120 lb-ft of torque - when combined with the electric motor - can be rewarding in other ways, and there are entire forums dedicated to seeing how much range Prius owners can get out of their cars. It's a small niche, but the Prius essentially owns it and will always be known as the original hybrid.

2021 Toyota Prius Three Quarter Front Right Side View 1 Toyota
2021 Toyota Prius Three Quarter Rear Left Side View In Motion Toyota
2021 Toyota Prius Engine Toyota

Engine and Transmission

Regardless of which trim you opt for, all of the newest Prius models come with a 1.8-liter naturally-aspirated four-banger that produces 96 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque. This is aided by an electric motor that adds 71 hp and 120 lb-ft of torque on its own. Working together, the two motors generate a total of 121 hp. If you opt for one of the AWD variants, you get an additional electric motor on the rear axle that produces 7 hp, but this doesn't contribute to the overall output figure and acceleration is no better in these models.

Speaking of acceleration, leaving the traffic lights isn't too much of a chore on its own, thanks to the electric motor helping provide strong initial torque, but that doesn't last very long at all, and it's not uncommon for Prius drivers to hear honking despite having their accelerators mashed to the floor. It's truly lethargic and is not the kind of vehicle that you want to be performing any sort of overtaking maneuver in. Still, once it's on its way, it's able to maintain speed relatively well. We would keep things to the city whenever possible though, where the CVT does a decent job of keeping things relatively refined and smooth.

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

Handling and Driving Impressions

As you can tell from the engine and everything you may already know about the Prius, this isn't the kind of car that you expect to see excelling in an Autocross event. Nevertheless, for what it is, the steering of the Prius is well-weighted and easy to judge with good responses, although there is very little in the way of feedback. Still, it's not like you'll be going very fast when you make the skinny tires understeer. In terms of road noise, we do have some complaints, although the Prius has improved over the years. Again, we prefer city driving in the Prius, as there's quite a lot of wind noise and engine intrusion when at freeway speeds, although not bad enough to make long journeys unbearable.

Slowing down in the Prius is another area that could use a little more refinement, as the regenerative braking system can be a little tricky to acclimate to. It's not overly bad though, and the middle pedal is responsive and feelsome enough. Our biggest complaint comes from the design of the cabin, however, as the driver info display is both small and poorly placed, necessitating a diversion of your gaze from the road when you want to do something as banal as checking your speed.

Prius Gas Mileage

If the Toyota Prius must excel at anything, its fuel economy. Fortunately, it lives up to the hype. The base model is the most economical, returning gas mileage ratings of 58/53/56 mpg on the EPA's city/highway/combined cycles. Thanks to an 11.3-gallon gas tank, this model will achieve a whopping 633 miles between fill-ups. Other FWD configurations - all of which are a little heavier - will achieve figures of 54/50/52 mpg on the same cycles, giving an estimated range of around 587 miles. The AWD versions promise slightly lower figures of 51/47/49 mpg, and since these versions have a smaller 10.6-gallon gas tank, they'll achieve a little under 520 miles with each full tank.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    11.3 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 58/53 mpg
* 2021 Toyota Prius L Eco Hatchback

Prius Interior

The interior of the Prius has never been known as a benchmark in quality, and that doesn't change for the 2021 model. A sea of hard plastics and cheap materials greet you as you open the door, but they are arranged in a unique if quirky manner, at least. The dash swoops from one door to the other and features a 4.2-inch driver info display in the center that makes focusing on the road feel anything but natural, while a seven-inch infotainment display below this handles media. An expansive 11.6-inch display is available to enhance the feel of the cabin, but it's outdated. Furthermore, you can only get imitation leather here as an option and this does little to uplift the cockpit from its humble starting point.

2021 Toyota Prius Dashboard CarBuzz
2021 Toyota Prius Front Seats CarBuzz
2021 Toyota Prius Steering Wheel Details CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

The Prius seats five individuals, assuming that you still have that many friends after buying a hybrid. Fortunately, they won't have too much reason to hate you since there's plenty of room in both rows. Headroom in the rear is naturally compromised, but you can sit back there for a couple of hours without too much discomfort, while legroom is commendable. In front, manually adjustable seats are standard with the driver getting a six-way seat and the passenger getting a four-way chair. However, you can upgrade to power-operated heated front seats on higher trims. As mentioned earlier, the biggest issue with this cabin is ergonomics, and although there's plenty of space and the seats are pretty comfy, the standard infotainment screen is a little too small and the driver info display keeps diverting your eyes. In addition, visibility out the back is rather poor.

  • 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

As standard, you get fabric upholstery and plenty of plastic. This cloth finish is available on the base model in either Black or Moonstone, while the LE trim adds the option of Harvest Beige. Moving up to the XLE trim gives you SofTex imitation leather, but only the same three rather dull color options are available. The Prius 2020 Edition is as restricted inside as it is with paint choices, and you can only have black faux leather here. There's very little to get excited about outside of this, although the 2020 Edition does have a semi-gloss black center console and a Piano Black shift knob. Upper trims also have a steering wheel trimmed in SofTex.

Prius Trunk and Cargo Space

If you think that the Prius is only good at sipping fuel, then the cargo space of this car (technically a hatch) will surprise you. Most trims have 27.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and with that large tailgate opening, loading things in the back is easy. Fitting carry-on luggage for five will be a breeze, and if you have the need for more room, the rear seats fold in a 60/40 split on all models to open up an area of 50.7 cubic feet. The only models where there is a slight loss of space are the LE (due to a spare wheel) and the AWD models (due to an electric motor on the rear axle). Nevertheless, these are only mildly impaired and have 24.6 cubes behind the rear seats and 47.9 cubes when these seats are folded.

In the cabin, the door pockets are large and feature recesses for drinks bottles up front. The rear door pockets are considerably narrower, but both rows still get a pair of cupholders. There are also various storage bins including one in the center armrest and a decent glovebox.

2021 Toyota Prius Rear Passenger Seats CarBuzz
2021 Toyota Prius Cargo Room CarBuzz
2021 Toyota Prius Trunk Space CarBuzz

Prius Infotainment and Features

Features

The base model in the Prius lineup is pretty well-specced. It gets bi-LED headlights with auto-off high beams, heated wing mirrors, a 4.2-inch color driver info display, full-speed dynamic cruise control, keyless driver access with push-button start, single-zone automatic climate control, hill start assist, a rearview camera, lane departure warning, and forward collision alert with pedestrian and cyclist detection. Moving up to the LE trim gains you specs like front and rear parking sensors, park assist, and blind-spot monitoring. Other available features include rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated power front seats, a heated steering wheel, a head-up display, adaptive headlights, a sunroof, and keyless access for three doors.

Infotainment

The infotainment system in the Prius is equipped as standard with a seven-inch touchscreen display that finally supports Android Auto, as well as Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system. The system itself may be outdated, but it is easy to understand and fairly easy to use while on the move, although a bigger screen would certainly not go amiss. There is a bigger, 11.6-inch display fitted as standard on the top Limited trim, but this one is running older software and does without Android Auto. Still, it is accompanied by a powerful ten-speaker audio upgrade from JBL and boasts navigation as well as voice recognition.

Prius Problems and Reliability

Thus far, the Toyota Prius has been a bastion of reliability and has last seen a recall in the US in 2019. That year saw three recalls, ranging from the minor for unclear text on a load capacity label to more serious issues like a stability control failure and a driver info display that could go blank. Since those recalls affected an older model and haven't resurfaced or been added to, the current-generation Prius should be just fine. However, reviews from J.D. Power yielded a low rating of 64 out of 100 for quality and reliability.

In terms of warranty coverage, the Prius benefits from a limited warranty for the first three years/36,000 miles while the powertrain is covered for five years/60,000 miles. As is the custom, hybrid components are taken care of for the first eight years/100,000 miles, while complimentary scheduled maintenance is also thrown in for the first two years/25,000 miles. The hybrid battery is covered for ten years or 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:
    3 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Maintenance:
    2 Years \ 25,000 Miles

Prius Safety

Thus far, the 2021 Toyota Prius doesn't have a full review from the NHTSA and has only been tested in the rollover examination where it got four stars out of five. The almost identical 2020 model, however, got an overall rating of five stars. Over at the IIHS, it's again the 2020 model that was rated, with this agency giving that car a 2019 Top Safety Pick award. With that being said, the headlights and the small overlap front passenger-side crash test were each rated as Acceptable rather than Good.

US NHTSA crash test result

  • Rollover Rating

Key Safety Features

As standard, every 2021 Toyota Prius comes with eight airbags, with the usual frontal, side-impact, and overhead systems supplemented by a driver's knee airbag and a front passenger seat-cushion airbag. Other standard equipment includes a rearview camera, hill start assist, and Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, a suite of features that includes auto-off high beams, forward collision alert with pedestrian/cyclist detection and automatic emergency braking, radar-based dynamic cruise control with traffic sign recognition, and lane departure warning. Available features include front and rear parking sensors, a head-up display, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, rain-sensing wipers, and adaptive bi-LED headlights.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Toyota Prius a good car?

This is fairly simple: if you absolutely love to virtue signal and brag about how eco-friendly your sustainably-sourced, vegan, water-flavored almond milk is, then the Prius is perfect for you. All jokes aside though, the Prius has lost its appeal long ago. Its interior, although spacious, is a total nightmare for ergonomics while its exterior styling does little more than draw attention to your holier-than-thou demeanor. However, we have to note that the Prius does exactly what it promises by being exceptionally light on gas, and if that's all you need from a car, then the Prius is ideal. We're also capable of appreciating the Prius for its large cargo area and standard safety features. But if you enjoy driving in the slightest, the lukewarm performance of the Prius will deter you just as much as the edgy styling will. With respectable acceleration from competitors and good styling from Toyota's own Corolla Hybrid - which is not exactly a gas guzzler either - the Prius is essentially obsolete. We'd look elsewhere.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 Toyota Prius?

The price of the Toyota Prius starts at an MSRP of $24,525 for the L Eco, before a $995 destination charge. The LE is a little more expensive, with a base sticker price of $25,735 while the AWD version of this car is $27,135. The mid-range XLE is $28,575 with the XLE AWD-e asking for $29,575. The limited 2020 Edition costs $29,875, but the range-topping Limited trim is the most expensive at $32,650. There's little to add to the car besides some accessories, but you can still spend over $35,000 on a Prius Limited with all the optional accessories added.

2021 Toyota Prius Models

The 2021 Prius range is made up of seven trims: L Eco, LE, LE AWD-e, XLE, XLE AWD-e, 2020 Edition, and Limited. All are powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that is coupled to an electric motor for a total system output of 121 hp and 120 lb-ft of torque. The AWD models get a second electric motor on the rear axle, but this makes no difference to overall output and all versions get a CVT instead of a regular automatic gearbox.

The base L Eco trim is pretty well equipped as standard, boasting a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment display, bi-LED headlights, heated wing mirrors, a 4.2-inch color driver info display, dynamic radar cruise control, keyless driver access with push-button ignition, a six-speaker sound system, and auto-off high beams. Fabric upholstery and 15-inch alloy wheels with wheel covers are fitted.

Next up is the LE, which adds a rear window wiper, seatback pockets, a tonneau cover in the cargo area, parking sensors, park assist, blind-spot monitoring, and a spare wheel instead of the L Eco's tire repair kit.

As you can guess, the LE AWD-e is an AWD version of the LE with a second electric motor. This model also gains alloy wheels with wheel covers and fog lights but loses the spare wheel.

A semi-luxurious model, the XLE gets SofTex imitation leather upholstery, heated front seats with power adjustment, enhanced keyless access, rain-sensing wipers, heated steering wheel, and greater access to options. This model also gets proper 17-inch alloys.

The AWD version of the XLE, the XLE AWD-e, builds on its FWD sibling by adding fog lights but loses out on the 17-inch wheels, instead wearing 15s with aerodynamic wheel covers. As an AWD model, it also gets a slightly smaller gas tank and slightly worse economy figures than the regular XLE. Interestingly, this version of the XLE also cannot be fitted with a sunroof while the normal XLE has this option.

The 2020 Edition is a one-year-only model that comes with black badges and various other interior and exterior accents finished in gloss black. These include LED accent lights with piano black bezels and a subtle rear spoiler, but no real features of value are added beyond the aesthetic.

The top-tier in the Prius range is reserved for the Limited trim, a model that features an exclusive 11.6-inch infotainment screen, ten JBL speakers, navigation, adaptive headlights, and a head-up display. However, this model loses out on Android Auto - a standard feature on all other trims.

See All 2021 Toyota Prius Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

Bundle packages are only available for the XLE, XLE AWD-e, and Limited, with other trims only having access to minor accessories. If you want upgrades for the XLE model, you can opt for the $515 Premium Convenience package with its power sunroof and smaller, more aerodynamic 15-inch wheels. Alternatively, there's the Advanced Technology package. This adds a color head-up display and adaptive, auto-leveling headlights for 800 bucks. An aerodynamic side-skirt extension kit is available too, helping enhance the looks of the Prius slightly for $299. You can also fit blacked-out wheel covers for the same price or bump-strips on the doors for $289.

🚗What Toyota Prius Model Should I Buy?

The general rule of thumb is that the base model is underequipped and the top trim is overpriced. That is usually true, and we find something similar with the Prius, especially since its top model with its largest infotainment screen is actually missing Android Auto - something you get on all other trims. We'd also avoid the heavier and less economical AWD models. That leaves us with the XLE, to which we would consider adding adaptive headlights and a sunroof - if you don't mind smaller 15-inch wheels. This model has the basic luxuries of a heated steering wheel and heated front seats along with added conveniences like enhanced keyless access and the option of a head-up display.

Check out other Toyota Prius Styles

2021 Toyota Prius Comparisons

Honda Insight Honda
Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Hyundai
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Toyota Prius95 hp58/53 mpg$24,525
Honda Insight 107 hp55/49 mpg$23,130
Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid 139 hp57/59 mpg$23,200

2021 Toyota Prius vs Honda Insight

The Honda Insight is, most obviously, a far more attractive vehicle to look at than the Prius, and it starts at under $23,000 too, a considerably cheaper cost than the Toyota Prius. It's also more powerful, with Honda claiming a very precise figure of 151.5 hp. Torque from the Honda's electric motor is much better too, at 197 lb-ft. It also gets proper wheels (16-inch alloys) as standard, along with a more conventional interior that looks far more upmarket and classy in comparison to the cheap and flimsy-feeling Prius. Although the most efficient Prius is lighter on gas, the Insight isn't far behind with best EPA-rated figures of 55/49/52 mpg, which matches specific FWD versions of the Prius in mixed driving conditions. Where the Prius badly outshines the Insight is its cargo volume. The Honda only offers between 14.7 and 15.1 cubes, but as with the Prius, you can always fold the seats for more space. If you need something that just works and offers plenty of space, a case can be made for the Prius, but the Honda Insight is by far the better choice overall.

See Honda Insight Review

2021 Toyota Prius vs Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid

Much like the Honda Insight, the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid is more powerful than the Toyota Prius, producing an impressive 139 hp. Despite this, the Hyundai can achieve a Prius-beating EPA rating of 57/59/58 mpg, and with a base price of just over $23,000, it's more affordable too. In addition, it has an ergonomic and stylish interior that, again, doesn't feel as cheap as that of the Prius. It slightly lags behind the Toyota in terms of cargo space with 26.5 cubic feet of volume, but at least you get dual-zone climate control, Android Auto on every model, and an available seven-inch driver info display. This isn't our first choice for a hybrid in this segment, but with an attractive design and good value, we'd still take it over the Prius.

See Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Review

Toyota Prius Popular Comparisons

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