Overview

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Overview (Final Score: B)

The 2018 Prius marks the third year of the latest generation of the car whose name became synonymous with hybrid. The 2018 Toyota Prius carries forward largely unchanged from when we looked at it in the 2017 model year, when items like advanced safety features and the plug-in hybrid Prime model were added.

The new-generation Prius has an updated look, that adds a taste of futurism to the much-maligned looks of the car's previous generation for the car. This new Prius also has added interior and ride comfort, and more versatility as a daily driver. The Prius is still wonky compared to other compacts on the road, but as a brand, the Prius has gained a reputation for being the "unafraid hybrid" that doesn't hide behind a standard gasoline model's reputation.

The 2018 Toyota Prius is a five-seat hatchback with a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain. It has the best fuel economy in the segment and comes in seven model and trim levels.

What We Love About the 2018 Toyota Prius:


  • Real-world, class-topping fuel efficiency

  • Interior is space age but much improved

  • Safety and reliability expectations are very good


 

What We Don't Love About the 2018 Toyota Prius:


  • Exterior is, shall we say, polarizing

  • Infotainment is hard to read and difficult to navigate

  • Prime model loses a seat and has more limited cargo space


 

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Exterior View (7/10)

The Prius has long had a name for itself as the goofy-looking hybrid, which can largely be blamed for electric cars' reputation for being weird looking. A complete disregard for more traditional automotive styling and beauty continues to be the general theme behind the 2018 Prius. If there is a design theme, it's concentrated on a space-age mixture of bulbous oddball elements and extreme attempts at aerodynamics.

Unlike similar 1950s designs, the Prius doesn't have a jet plane theme or a rocket ship motif. Compared to the previous-generation of the Prius, this new design is a huge improvement. But the previous Prius was not exactly winning awards for looks.

The car's design begins with a thin, tight grille that signals the lack of a big engine behind it. The 2018 Toyota Prius' angles and edges are often odd and out of place from there. The generally flowing design is obvious, aimed at aerodynamic near-perfection, but bulbous headlamps and oddly sharp contours seem to counter that. Much of the Prius' current design is wind-tunnel derived, with those odd edges and bulbs working to vector and distribute airflow around the car.

The 2018 Prius is generally nicer to look at. The split-window rear hatch remains as an homage to the Prius models that came before.

Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (8/10)

Inside, the 2018 Toyota Prius sees marked improvement. Especially in materials choices and placement. Unlike the previous generations of the car, the current Prius does away with the "cheap for cheap's sake" motif that seemed to dominate the brand. Instead it embraces "good can be great" as a design element. The bulk of the design conveys a sort of futuristic minimalism that embraces those good materials and then minimizes their use to keep things, well, minimal.

European cars have often used the minimalist ideal as a way to create a more svelte, upscale-feeling interior. These attempts sometimes work and sometimes don't, but it seems to mostly be working in the Prius. Although odd things like the strange shape of the shifter handle and the weird blue-on-white colors are goofy by many people's standards, the overall feel is good.

2016 Toyota Prius Three 10

Seating in the 2018 Prius is nicely done and comfortable. Getting three across in the back seat is a tight squeeze because the Prius is a compact vehicle, but it works in a pinch. The Prime model does not have the center seating position, so plug-in buyers will want to make sure that's not a requirement. In addition, the Prime model does not have flat-folding rear seating for cargo needs.

Ride quality in the 2018 Prius is what would be expected of a compact vehicle. The Prius has a fairly rough presence on the road and is pretty loud on the highway compared to other entry-level and mid-level compact cars. Handling is not great either, and the Prius has a long-turning curve compared to most compacts.

Technology (7/10)

The lower-end trim points for the 2018 Toyota Prius offer a 6.1-inch touchscreen that uses the Toyota Entune infotainment interface. It's easy to use at the low-end level, as it has few things to offer. Bluetooth is easy to setup, but often has sporadic connectivity. Streaming music can end mid-stream and require a connection reset via the device or infotainment. This is a problem inherent in many Toyota vehicles at the lower-priced segments.

Upper trim levels upgrade to a 7-inch touchscreen with more options and the Toyota Entune App Suite. This creates a screen-sharing-style interface for a smartphone to the car (if the phone is plugged in) ala Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but using Toyota's proprietary (and free) app. It works well enough for most needs and allows streaming from apps like Pandora, etc.

The Prius Prime model has an exclusive tablet-sized interface screen that offers more in-depth looks at what the car itself is doing, as well as the functionality of the Entune App Suite. But the screen is glare-prone and can be difficult to use and control. It's also distracting when driving in low light or nighttime conditions, where turning it off (thus making it useless) is the best bet. The tablet-sized screen removes several of the redundant hard buttons and knobs for the infotainment, which are handy and missed.

Fuel Economy (10/10)

The point of the Toyota Prius is maximum fuel economy. In this edition of the car, that goal is admirably reached in all three renditions.

The standard Prius Liftback model is EPA-rated at 54 mpg in the city and 50 mpg on the highway. The real-world numbers for this car are very close to that. The Eco model is rated at 58 mpg in the city and 53 mpg on the highway. We haven't driven this model to test those scores.

The Prius Prime plug-in hybrid model is the best of the bunch at 133 mpg equivalent (MPGe) and a 54 mpg hybrid operation-only rating. Capable of running up to 25 miles on a single charge of the batteries, without using the engine, the Prime will get close to that 133 mpg rating overall when driven moderately.

More time on the highway means less fuel economy in the Prius, no matter which model, but stop-and-go city traffic is the Prius' element, especially in the Prime model.

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Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (10/10)

The Prius has long enjoyed a high reliability expectation and Toyota has the same as a brand. The 2018 Toyota Prius continues with the new-generation's high marks for dependability. As of this writing, there have been no recalls for the 2018 Prius.

Safety (9/10)

The Toyota brand aims for safety awareness and high safety marks. The Prius carries that with its included high-end equipment as standard, including forward-crash mitigation and automatic braking.

The 2018 Prius received a four-star rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This is down from a 5-Star rating last year. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Prius a top score of "Good" on all of its crash tests, repeating last year's rating.

Performance (8/10)

The 2018 Toyota Prius is not known or expected to be a performance vehicle in any way. It has a reputation for exactly the opposite and lives up to that admirably.

Under its hood is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, two electric motors and a continuously variable transmission. These combine to produce 121 horsepower in front-wheel drive.

Acceleration in the Prius is lackluster at best, and confidence in the merge or pass is nonexistent. The powertrain will complain at every push to get more out of it. The Prius is about efficiency at all costs and that really shows once the vehicle leaves town and needs to perform on the interstate.

We give the new Prius points for its better steering ratio and feel at highway speeds, and for the improvements in noise alleviation, notably vibration damping, that have lessened its previous rattlebox tendencies.

We recommend that those living where the weather gets inclement should either invest in winter tires for their Prius or dispense with the hard-rubber efficiency tires it's equipped with, in favor of all-season radials.

Pricing and Value (9/10)

There is now a Prius model for every budget. The Prius has a higher price than most entry-level compact cars, but that premium comes with the expectation of far superior fuel economy. The Prius definitely delivers on that front, so we'd call it a wash for most who are looking for one as a commuter or short-distance daily driver.

The trim points include the Two, Two Eco, Three, Three Touring, Four and Four Touring, plus the Prime model. The best purchases are the Prius Three and Four models for their cost efficiency in terms of what's included (value). The Prime is a good choice for anyone who drives primarily in town and for short distances with access to a ready plug-in spot.

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Total Score and Competitive Comparison (68/80, 85%)

The Toyota Prius has many competitors, including the newly redone Chevrolet Volt, the Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, Ford C-Max Hybrid, the new Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid and the Kia Niro. On paper, most of these are more expensive than the Prius, but also larger in size and better equipped in terms of interior fitment and daily driveability. The base model Prius options are cheap for a reason.

That being said, the 2018 Toyota Prius reigns supreme in its mission to have the best fuel economy available in a compact car. That alone is enough reason for many people to buy one. The Prius also enjoys a reputation for being reliable and for customer retention, as Prius buyers often return for another when theirs needs replacing.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
Hatchback - FWD
One One (Natl) 4 Cylinder FWD 23475
Two Two (Natl) 4 Cylinder FWD 24685
Two Eco Two Eco (Natl) 4 Cylinder FWD 25165
Three Three (Natl) 4 Cylinder FWD 26735
Three Touring Three Touring (Natl) 4 Cylinder FWD 28115
Four Four (Natl) 4 Cylinder FWD 29685
Four Touring Four Touring (Natl) 4 Cylinder FWD 30565

Car Rankings

Interested to see how the 2018 Toyota Prius ranks against similar cars in terms of key attributes? Here are the 2018 Toyota Prius rankings for MPG, horsepower, torque, leg room, head room, shoulder room, hip room and so forth.

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