2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e: Thumper Says I Shouldn’t Say Anything At All.

They say that if you can’t say something nice about someone, something in this case, don’t say anything at all. Actually that quote seems to be attributed to a cartoon bunny.

If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.

Thumper from Bambi

But I get paid to say things, nice or not, and I struggled finding something to nice to say about this 2019 Prius XLE AWD-e.

2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e

It’s hard to be super critical of the Prius when you look at how far it’s come. Did you know that the Toyota Prius has been around since 1998? So the Prius turned drinking age this year, only it “drinks” less fuel than it did back then. See what I did there, drinking joke? Eh, eh? You get what you pay for folks and RFD is free.

The first generation is certainly a pioneer in the hybrid world, no one will argue that. However, as an everyday car, it wasn’t groundbreaking. I suppose there is a reason that you don’t see a ton of first generation Prius models running around, owners realized they could get a much better car that was just as fuel efficient, or better.

If you look at domestic Prius sales, it’s very much an upward trending line. Aside from peak U.S. sales in 2009-2010 that were in the 400,000-500,000 range, the Prius has been consistently selling in the 200K-300K range or better for the past eight years. So Toyota sells a lot of them. But are they any good?

2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e

I can say that the previous generation (it’s third) wasn’t amazing. I never had the pleasure of testing one, but my ex wife owns one, and I’ve driven that one enough to have an opinion. The latest fourth generation is definitely a step in the right direction, but still outside of the RFD comfort zone. I spent a week out in the wilderness with one, Sean drove one, Jacob drove one, and I drove yet another one.

Here are a couple of quotes.

Ultimately, I found I liked parts of the car, but not the whole thing itself.

Sean O’Donoghue

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. 

William Byrd

Toyota wants to make the Prius make sense, but for now, it just doesn’t.

Jacob Aurenheimer

So it’s clearly not our favorite car here at RFD. But is this new thing, the 2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e, any better? Let’s see what it fits in the lineup!

2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e

At a minimum, it sits atop the Prius lineup!

  • Prius L Eco- Starting at $23,770, 58/53 est. mpg
  • Prius LE – Starting at $24,980, 54/50 est. mpg
  • Prius XLE – Starting at $27,820, 54/50 est. mpg
  • Prius Limited – Starting at $32,200, 54/50 est. mpg
  • Prius XLE AWD-e – Starting at $26,380, 52/48 est. mpg

So, like with a lot of economy-focused cars, the more you spend on trim levels, the less economical it is! Which makes sense, the more stuff you add to a car, the more weight you add, and the less MPG you’ll get. Which certainly brings up some questions that we’ll look at in a bit.

Our test car, painted supersonic red ($425 extra) also has the Advanced Technology Package ($800) which adds a Heads Up Display, and an adaptive front lighting system with auto-leveling headlights. So the grand total is $30,945 including processing and handling (which is $930 and you should always negotiate not paying that bit) for this Prius XLE AWD-e.

2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e

The biggest differentiation between the XLE and the XLE AWD-e, obviously, is Toyota’s Electronic On-Demand Compact All-Wheel Drive (AWD-e). Beyond that there are some minor trim differences like fog lights, alloy wheels with wheel covers…wait…well at least they are two tone, heated Softex covered front seats, and another couple hundred pounds in curb weight, all as standard.

Which is the biggest issue with cars like the Prius. If you want the most economical experience, it’s not the most comfortable or capable. The $24,000 Prius L Eco gets a peak of 58 MPG in the city, whereas our test car, which starts at about $5,000 more gets 52 MPG around town. Still pretty solid, but you’re trading economy for capability and luxury.

2019 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e

And capability is relative, did you know that the “AWD-e” system is only intended to provide traction up to 43 MPH? Nice in heavy snow or ice perhaps, but not in a rainy highway drive. So the extra two hundred pounds of curb weight that is affecting MPG isn’t as useful as it sounds.

So if you are in the market for a Prius, you’ll have a tough decision to make. Go all in and save some money on your MSRP to save more money at the pump, or ante up for more features and options and lessen your MPG. Or get a different car. The 2020 Corolla Hybrid starts at $23,100, gets 53/52 est. MPG and looks better. Heck the 2020 Camry Hybrid gets 51/53 MPG and starts at less than this XLE AWD-e. So my best Prius buying advice is: don’t.