Toyota Prius: A Hands-Down Champ

The popular hybrid reigns with its value, reliability, utility, and jaw-dropping fuel economy

Toyota Prius

Vehicle layout: Compact 4-door hatchback, 1.8-liter inline 4, electric motor (121 hp combined), CVT, FWD

MSRP:  $24,395 (base), $33,861 (well equipped)

MPG, city/hwy/combined: 54/50/52

Crash-test ratings: NHTSA overall: five stars. IIHS: good. Top Safety Pick Plus (with optional front-crash prevention) 

Spare tire: Compact temporary or tire-inflator kit, depending on the trim level

Final assembly: Japan

toyota prius

The fourth generation of arguably the world’s best-known hybrid, the Toyota Prius hatchback, was introduced in 2016. Three years later, its exterior styling is still considered bold and polarizing—folks seem to be either okay with it or hate it (nobody claims to love it). 

The Prius’ roomy interior is fresh and futuristic, with a multilevel dash, glossy white plastic accents, upscale soft-touch materials, and supportive, comfortable seats. LED headlights and taillights, dual-zone automatic climate control, and Toyota’s suite of advanced safety features are standard equipment. There’s also lots of cargo space with the rear seatbacks folded down.

The current Prius is much more engaging to drive than previous versions. The steering feels precise, there’s minimal body lean in turns, and overall handling is improved—almost sporty—thanks in part to a new, independent rear suspension. All in all, the car feels solid and delivers a smooth, firm, relatively quiet ride.

The Prius’ raison d’être is, of course, its outstanding fuel economy: 52 mpg in combined city/highway driving for most versions and 56 mpg combined for the fuel-miserly Two Eco trim. And with an MSRP from around $24K for a basic Prius One to about $33K for a well-dressed Four Touring, the Prius is an excellent value.

What’s not to like? Just a couple of things: leisurely acceleration (but you can always switch to Sport mode) and the lack of a temporary spare tire on the Two Eco, Four, and Four Touring trim levels (a tire-inflator kit is provided). 

For 2019, the Prius might receive some minor available upgrades in its entertainment and safety systems. The Prius is also available as a plug-in hybrid, the Prius Prime, which has an all-electric range of up to 25 miles.

Photos courtesy of Toyota

With the Auto Club's free Car Buying Service, members can enjoy a no-hassle experience when purchasing a new or used vehicle. Get estimated pricing and access to online inventory before visiting a AAA-recommended dealer near you. For details, go to AAA.com/auto or call 1-800-709-7222.