2017 Toyota Prius Prime new car reviews

After nearly two decades of pumping out Priuses, Toyota created what they deemed the ultimate Prius: The Prius Prime. It's the highest trim level for the brand's hybrid and has already won multiple awards, including the 2017 World Green Car Award.

It's a plug-in hybrid with a combined drivetrain power rating of 121 horsepower. When the battery is fully charged, the car drives on electric power where it can get up to 133 MPGe with a range of about 25 miles. After the battery has been depleted to a certain point, the Prius Prime simply acts like any other hybrid.

Other staff views

Tom Suddard Tom Suddard
Digital Experience Director

After driving the Hyundai Ioniq, I had a new appreciation for Hybrids–I’d always thought they were disappointing compromises that are more expensive than electric or gas cars, and feature the drawbacks of each–but the Hyundai was just a great car. It left me wondering, though–what about plug-in hybrids? They spend the first few trips’ worth of range running on power from your house, then turn into regular hybrid’s once the battery is depleted.

So when this Prius Prime showed up with block text on the side reading “plug-in hybrid,” I immediately grabbed the keys. And, uh, wow–it was pretty disappointing. For logistical reasons, all electric media loaners are delivered to our office with a dead battery, so my first trip in the Prius was with it acting as a hybrid, not an electric. It was slow, loud and weird, and I certainly wasn’t sold. But, I figured, this wasn’t how this car was designed to be driven. With 25 miles of all-electric range, it’s designed for people like me: I have a 5-mile commute to work, and probably run 10 miles of errands every day. That means that unless I break my pattern or need to rush somebody to the hospital, my daily life would never run the Prius’s gas engine.

I plugged the car into my house (it takes about 2 hours to charge on a level two plug, or a little more than five on a level one source), went to sleep, and walked out to it the next day with an open mind. And, actually, it was pretty sweet. Quiet, torquey, nicely-sized, and with a decent suite of apps/nav/stereo/etc. I do think a $33,000 car should come with a sunroof, but that’s my one nitpick. I loved that electron-blue color, too. No, this isn’t a highway car–it was full of tire noise and darted between lanes like it needed an alignment–but for my daily commute in town, it’s not a bad answer.

Would I buy one? While I loved the concept, and I loved only using maybe 5 miles worth of gas during my 80-mile tenure with the Prius, I’m not sure this is the finest execution. I can’t wait for these cars to be a little faster, a little cheaper, and a little plusher. But for now, the Prius is a totally fine answer.

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

In the world of hybrids, the Toyota Prius Prime is a fairly big deal: Until its battery charge is depleted, it drives like an electric car, meaning no assist from the engine. Once the battery level drops to a certain point, then the Prius Prime operates like the traditional gas/electric hybrid, something itself that seemed just a dream several years back.

So, what does that mean in English-speak? With a full battery charge, the Prius Prime will go about 25 miles before using any gasoline. And, yes, it really did that. After that, Toyota says that it posts an EPA estimated 133 MPGe.

For most commuters, this means that the Prius Prime operates like a full EV—yet there’s the ability to venture further than battery range. This could be the EV for those who have a short/average commute but would like the ability to occasionally venture further without the need to recharge. It’s kind of a big deal.

Toyota says that the Prius Prime can go something like 640 miles without a stop to refuel/recharge. Your bladder might say otherwise, of course.

One of my coworkers warned me that the car felt slow, too, once in gas mode, but to me it felt fine. It had no problem with both highway and city driving. It’s comfortable but displayed more road noise than I’d like. Maybe we just blame Florida’s roads.

But what about the rest of the car? It’s, um, an acquired taste.

First, the looks. Yeah, it’s definitely a hybrid. It’s just too (insert adjective here) to be a normal car. Personally, I dig the concave rear window just because it’s the right amount of different. The front? Well, it’s a little weird.

The weirdness continues inside. Weird shifter? Yep. Weird center-mounted gauge pod? Yep. Weird, totally gigantic, portrait-mode display with an 11.6-inch screen? Yep.

Pretty much everything is controlled via that giant screen. The downside: It takes a few seconds to boot up, so if it’s a hundred degrees outside (and more than that inside) you can’t crank up the a/c right away. That might not sound like a huge deal, but here in summertime Florida it was more than noticeable.

The Prius also packs in a lot of safety features, including lane-departure alert, radar cruise control and pedestrian detection. That also means a lot of beeping. A lot. Again, more weirdness.

Here’s my big take-home: Where the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid drives and looks like a normal car, the Prius goes 180 degrees in the other direction. Either it’s you or it isn’t.

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Comments

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Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Associate Editor
8/23/17 3:08 p.m.

I've actually seen quite a few of these in the wild. They still look... just as weird.

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
8/23/17 5:32 p.m.

I like the Prime front end better than normal one. It seems kinda crazy you can get these for like..27k? I feel like the main problem with the Prime is that not enough people will realize it exists (in the sense of not being just another trim level) for it to really be a sales success.

Wall-e
Wall-e MegaDork
8/23/17 7:38 p.m.

it's not a pretty car but I like it. There's a definite 1980s concept car look to it. It needs a lower rear wheel arch or maybe skirts, charcoal colored paint, and a red interior.

Javelin
Javelin MegaDork
8/23/17 7:56 p.m.

SWMBO is seriously considering trading in her 10 Prius for the Prime.

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
8/23/17 8:25 p.m.

I have a full amount of respect for what the Prius is, and what it can do, and its Toyota quality. But good lord, I thought the original one was ugly/weird. But with each succeeding generation/refresh, I look back at the previous one and say "wow, maybe that one wasn't that bad."

This new one looks even more stylistically dumb than the previous ones, IMO. Why can't they just make a Prius that looks like a Corolla iM or something (or how about an FT86 version??).

O/T....looking at Toyota's website....what the heck is the C-HR (name suspiciously reminiscent of Honda's similar-sized HR-V)? Looks like the love child of a VW Beetle front end, a Juke, and a dolphin. And has rear door windows that can better be described as "portholes".. But for some reason I kind of like it. Well, at least I think I do. Not really sure....

Jere
Jere Dork
8/23/17 9:39 p.m.
Ed Higginbotham wrote: ...When the battery is fully charged, the car drives on electric power where it can get up to 133 MPGe with a range of about 25 miles....

The figures for mpge are what get me (after how "new Civic" ugly they are). Its like saying pick up truck "x" can tow 20 tons but only 2 inches. Whats the point of max mpge if it's range doesn't make it even possible....?

Anyway getting used to the new to me base model 2013... It's very practical, better use of space than the crown Vic and paying $4 in gas instead of $35 a day for the same ~250 miles is a nice perk too.

mndsm
mndsm MegaDork
8/23/17 9:43 p.m.

If you're calling it anything prime, it had better transform into a fighting robot.

Sky_Render
Sky_Render SuperDork
8/24/17 7:18 a.m.
irish44j wrote: I have a full amount of respect for what the Prius is, and what it can do, and its Toyota quality. But good lord, I thought the original one was ugly/weird. But with each succeeding generation/refresh, I look back at the previous one and say "wow, maybe that one wasn't that bad." This new one looks even more stylistically dumb than the previous ones, IMO. Why can't they just make a Prius that looks like a Corolla iM or something (or how about an FT86 version??). O/T....looking at Toyota's website....what the heck is the C-HR (name suspiciously reminiscent of Honda's similar-sized HR-V)? Looks like the love child of a VW Beetle front end, a Juke, and a dolphin. And has rear door windows that can better be described as "portholes".. But for some reason I kind of like it. Well, at least I think I do. Not really sure....

I believe I have an explanation for this. The first-generation Prius was basically a Toyota Echo with a different drivetrain. No one bought them.

But the second generation Prius had a completely different body, and it looked different than every other car on the road. Suddenly people would notice that you are driving a hybrid. It appealed to the crowd of people who had to be seen saving the environment. And sales took off.

Successive generations of Priuses (Prii?) have continued the trend of looking different for the sake of looking different to appeal to those same people.

rslifkin
rslifkin SuperDork
8/24/17 7:25 a.m.

In reply to Jere:

The MPGe number is useful for someone with a 5 - 10 mile commute where they can do the whole round trip on electric power and let the car charge overnight at home. And then they're only burning gas for driving outside of their normal commute.

mazdeuce
mazdeuce MegaDork
8/24/17 7:27 a.m.

I like that they're weird. I really like that they have a sort of decent plug in range. What's the plug in procedure with these? My one complaint with the Volt is the big power brick needed to charge of 120v. Finding an outlet and plugging it in away from home means leaving a $500 charger just hanging out in the open.

camaroz1985
camaroz1985 Reader
8/24/17 7:52 a.m.

These kind of baffle me. It gets worse range than the original Volt (35 miles), which appeared 6 years ago. Still I'm sure Toyota will sell many more of these than GM did the Volt, due to actually marketing it.

My brother is a salesman at a Toyota dealership and was trying to talk me into one of these (based on his sales numbers he is a good salesman, just not to me haha). He didn't like me telling him that a 6 year old Chevy was a better car. He tried to use the mpge as an argument, but to me range is what matters, and that should be what matters to people buying cars in this segment. Ideally I would never use gas for daily duties, and you have a better chance of making that a reality with longer range. I will hang on to my Volt thank you.

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
8/24/17 9:07 a.m.
My one complaint with the Volt is the big power brick needed to charge of 120v. Finding an outlet and plugging it in away from home means leaving a $500 charger just hanging out in the open.

I feel like that stuff should be built into the car. What's 5 more lbs on top of 3000.

He didn't like me telling him that a 6 year old Chevy was a better car.

I think marketing is the main difference. Chevy knew the Volt was a critically important PR effort that had to sell the WHOLE IDEA of driving a range-extended EV to its customer base. Toyota, on the other hand, is just making a PHEV version of a car everyone is already familiar with in the hopes that some people who can already discern the difference beween Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid will buy it. It's not make or break in any PR sense. So, they can afford to make a car that's just 'good' at a cheaper price point vs making 'Noone has ever seen this from us before! This breaks new ground! Please trust us!' like Chevy had to with the Volt.

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