Coming off Toyota Canada‘s best sales year ever in 2019 with 237,091 vehicles sold, one of the highlights on the sales chart is in their electrified vehicle portfolio. There were 34,698 electrified Toyota and Lexus vehicles sold in 2019, representing 14.6% of Toyota Canada’s overall sales and a resulting in a whopping 45.1% year-over-year growth.
With Toyota’s ever-expanding hybrid/plug-in hybrid (PHEV) lineup, which now includes electrified versions of the popular Corolla, Camry, RAV4, Highlander models, it is easy to forget the car that co-pioneered the hybrid car segment, the Toyota Prius. For its twentieth model year, Toyota has given the Prius some updated technology to keep it fresh until the next generation arrives, and we borrowed a 2020 Toyota Prius Technology AWD-e for an in-depth winter evaluation.
Since the second generation, the Prius has taken on quirky and unconventional styling that has aged unexpectedly well. Our tester arrives wearing an Electric Storm Blue paint job and a face that is unmistakeable as any other car. In an era where the edgy Tesla Cybertruck exists, the current fourth generation Prius’ styling has suddenly become acceptable and an interesting alternative to the boring everyday sedan and crossovers. The styling is functional as well, delivering a low coefficient of drag of 0.24, which in turn helps with maximum fuel efficiency. The way to distinguish between the AWD-e and a regular front-wheel drive Prius is by the presence of front foglamps, standard on all-wheel drive models, and our Technology trim comes with a different wheel design that looks much better than those in other trim levels.
The Prius’ hybrid powertrain contains a 120-horsepower 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine regardless of its drivetrain option. Priuses were never known to be fast cars, but we find that the combination of electric and gas power aided the Prius to move quicker than the power figure suggests. The engine does sound buzzy in acceleration, similar to many naturally aspirated compact sedans, but the overall response is better than what its reputation leads. With the help of Toyota’s Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and an Electric On-Demand All Wheel Drive (AWD-e) system, the Prius delivers power to its front-wheels until it detects slippage, which would then automatically send power to all four wheels to ensure proper traction. In real world testing, the system works together seamlessly, and we were able to observe the technology in action through the monitor located atop the centre console.
Built around the latest Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, the Prius is a nimble driving companion. While steering weight is light, there is good information transmitted to the driver. The low centre of gravity helps the Prius to create a smooth and comfortable ride. There are three drive modes available on the Prius. The EV mode keeps the car running on its battery power only for short distances, but we found that it struggles to stay on EV mode during normal commute as it would not allow enough throttle to get it up to speed before kicking in the gas engine. The Eco mode is the default drive mode, and it does a great job with maintaining the fuel inputs as well as the air conditioning system for the right balance between operation and fuel efficiency. Power mode sharpens the throttle response and offers the driver the most power when needed.
With a fuel economy rating of 4.5L/100km city, and 4.9L/100km highway, Toyota boasts that the Prius AWD-e has the best fuel economy of any all wheel drive vehicles based on Natural Resources Canada 2020 Fuel Consumption Guide’s published ratings. Our observed fuel economy for the week was 5.1L/100km, which was impressive considering it was a city-heavy commute with plenty of AWD engagement to get us through the heart of winter. The Prius AWD-e has a fuel tank capacity of 40 litres, and accepts regular grade gasoline. Those wanting the longest drive range possible should consider the regular front-wheel drive only Prius, as it has a bigger 43-litre fuel tank with rated 4.4L/100km city and 4.6L/100km highway fuel economy figures.
New for 2020 is the inclusion of standard Apple CarPlay on all Prius models. The Prius Technology AWD-e model comes with a gorgeous 11.6-inch tablet style touchscreen that houses the infotainment and the standard embedded navigation systems. The minimalistic centre console design looks clean and futuristic; however, it came at the expense of user-friendliness as many of the basic functions are only accessible through the touchscreen menus. The standard six-speaker sound system in this top trim model is shared with the rest of the lineup, with room for improvement to take advantage of the quiet cabin.
The tall roof and low floor design opens up good head and legroom for its occupants. Visibility is good all around, with an unusual view out back thanks to the split window design on the rear hatch. Certain features such as power-adjustable driver’s seat, driver lumbar support, and power moonroof that are standard in the front-wheel drive Prius Technology model are curiously omitted in this Technology AWD-e model, and its overall equipment list is below average for its class. Cargo capacity is measured at a practical 697 litres, and the rear seats can be folded 60 / 40 to create extra room when needed.
A key selling point of the 2020 Toyota Prius is the standard Toyota Safety Sense P system across the lineup, which includes Automatic High Beam, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Pre-collision system with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert systems. The inclusion of all driver’s assist technology across the model line up is on par with its key rival, the Honda Insight, and ahead of the Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid, which offers the full suite in its top Ultimate trim only.
Pricing of the 2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e starts at $29,550, topping the standard Prius model by $1,000. Our tester’s Prius Technology AWD-e model starts at $33,450, and it came with the $1,800 optional Advanced package, bringing the as-tested price of $35,250. It is priced on the high side when pitted against the Honda Insight Touring ($32,490) and the Hyundai IONIQ Hybrid Ultimate ($31,849), but many would consider the added winter driving confidence with its all-wheel drive system a worthwhile premium.
The 2020 Prius Technology AWD-e’s greatest rival is actually from across the showroom floor with the 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid LE AWD. Despite being a base trim level, the RAV4 Hybrid is similar equipped as our tester with a more powerful hybrid powertrain and better overall driving dynamics. It also comes with standard Android Auto connectivity for the non-iOS smartphone users, and all for a slightly less MSRP of $32,350.
As Toyota Canada further develops its electrified vehicle lineup, it will be interesting to see the plans they have for the Prius, as it evolved from being the only hybrid in the family to being in an awkward position between the Corolla Hybrid (reviewed here) and the RAV4 Hybrid (reviewed here). The 2020 Toyota Prius Technology AWD-e is still relevant and a solid offering in the compact car segment, and we hope to see Toyota continue to push the envelope with the Prius model in future generations.
2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e
2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid
2020 Honda Clarity Touring