Did you realize that the Toyota Prius has been around for 22 years? Twenty two! Maybe I’m getting old but I feel like it just showed up within the last 10 or so, but I also feel like I just got out of college (Narrator voice: “he did not”). Toyota debuted the precursor to the Prius in 1995 at the Tokyo Motor Show. The OG Prius, designated as NHW10, went on sale in Japan in December 1997. If you were wondering, and you likely weren’t, Prius is derived from the Latin for “first”, “original”, or “to go before”. Few can argue that, since it was the first mass produced hybrid car. It also can mean “superior”; so just how superior is the 2018 Toyota Prius Four Touring? Let’s find out.
The Fourth generation, internally called XW50 (which sounds like some sort of spray lubricant), has been with us since 2015. This is the first Prius to use the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), specifically the smaller GA-C version with underpins the Toyota C-HR, the Toyota Auris/Corolla/Levin and the brand new Lexus UX. Our test car was the Prius Four Touring, which is literally the top of the Prius lineup.
The Prius Lineup
If you need help remembering what’s what in the Prius lineup, it’s easy. 1, 2, 3, 4. You start with the base Prius One ($23,475), which is pretty well equipped with stuff like Bi-LED projector headlights, integrated backup camera, Toyota Safety Sense, and 54/50 est. mpg (which is why you’re Prius shopping isn’t it)? Step up to the $24,685 Prius Two and you get, uh, two tone wheel covers. The biggest change comes with the Prius Two Eco which has 58/53 mpg, a decent improvement over the standard Prius, as well as some luxuries like a 4.2-in. display and cruise control for $25,165 to start. Next the $26,735 Prius Three nets you the lesser mpg drivetrain and adds stuff like an Entune Audio system with navigation and some apps, plus Qi-compatible wireless charging for your phone. The Prius Three Touring ($28,115) antes up with most of the same stuff as above plus some actual 17-in. alloy wheels, something called SofTex®-trimmed seats, and integrated fog lights with LED accent lights. Cool. The Prius Four, starting at $29,685, adds Blind Spot Monitor (BSM), Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA) and available Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) with Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA). That’s a lot of acronyms.
Finally, there’s our girl, the Prius Four Touring starting at $30,565. Some of the highlights include:
- 54/50 est. mpg
- Available Entune™ Premium JBL® Audio, Integrated Navigation and Entune® App Suite —with 11.6-in. HD multimedia display
- Toyota Safety Sense™ P (TSS-P) standard
- Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA)
- Available Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) with Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA)
- Rain-sensing variable intermittent windshield wipers
So this isn’t your crunchy uncle’s Prius from twenty years ago. And while $30K is a lot for a Prius, you can’t argue that this car doesn’t come with a lot of stuff. But what did we think about it during our week-long test?
The Prius has never been the bastion of design or style, but our blue crush metallic colored Prius looks, dare I say, pretty good. We especially liked the subtle aerodynamic exterior design and the $1,540 appearance package improves things significantly. For that much cash, you get:
- Piano black side skirt rocker panels
- 17″ gunmetal 5-spoke wheel…inserts
- Two toned bumpers
It all actually comes together and makes for an attractive car that you are less likely to be embarrassed in.
Inside, the first thing you notice is that the Prius is surprisingly roomy. For a car with a pretty small overall profile, it has a cavernous feel inside. And while the base Prius models do not feel all that high end inside, the Four Touring has more of an upscale feeling. Some of the Toyota plastics can come across as a bit cheap, something that has plagued even the “Limited” models. Things seem to be moving in the right direction though and I hope to see Toyota interiors continue to progress in the right direction.
OK, you guys know we tend to skew enthusiast, so take this for what it’s worth. The Prius will likely always have a hard time escaping the purely appliance driving feel that is baked into its DNA. It had what we referred to as maddeningly poor acceleration which was made even worse with a small family load of people and stuff.
Toyota has made getting the best mpg into a game. That gamification is intended to help you max out mpg and it’s kind of fun. Unfortunately it transforms you into typical Prius driver, gingerly accelerating away from stoplights and coasting to a stop to maximize economy. If that’s your thing, I don’t fault you. Unless I’m behind you. Then I fault you, let’s go!
We realize that we are the minority of the car buying community, we want performance and fun, and the Prius is neither. What it is a driving appliance, and it’s just about perfect in that role. For those who want economy, comfort, and a decent amount of space for $30,000 or less, it’s hard to beat.