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Since its 1997 debut in Japan, the Toyota Prius has been a main staple in the hybrid vehicle market. Although sales have been slowly declining every year since 2012, the Prius is still a popular purchase. Still, how does the Prius manage to stay at the forefront of an ever-expanding market?
This year's line-up features a few noteworthy changes, including the ditching of the Touring trims, the changing of the old trim level names (One, Two, Three, and Four) into Toyota's standard trim level identifiers (L, LE, XLE, and Limited), and the addition of an optional all-wheel drive (AWD) system. Those who live in areas that get pelted by inclement weather conditions should find the 2019 Prius to be a more attractive and worthy purchase with the new ability to equip AWD. Toyota is expecting about one-quarter of its buyers to want to equip AWD on the 2019 Prius.
If you number yourself among that one-quarter of buyers, then your next step is figuring out which trim level will best suit your needs. Unfortunately, for another year running, no 2019 Toyota Prius trim level will feature smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. A glaring omission, yes, but it will not be a total turn-off for Prius fans.
That being said, let us take a look at what each new Toyota Prius trim level has to offer and help you figure out which one is right for you.
Compare the 2019 Toyota Prius L vs L Eco - What is the difference?
Previously known as the Toyota Prius One, the L trim level is the Prius' base trim. For being the line-up's base trim, it is actually quite well-equipped with an array of desirable standard features. The vehicle sits atop 15-inch alloy wheels and is powered by a 1.8-L 4-cylinder engine, which is used to power every trim level on the Toyota Prius. It produces 95 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque. There is also an electric motor that comes standard on every model. It has a power output of 71 hp and 120 lb-ft of torque. Together, this powertrain generates a total of 121 hp.
The L trim, just like the higher trim levels, has a lithium ion battery that powers its front-wheel drive (FWD) models. However, on the new AWD variants, Toyota equips the AWD-e system that comes with a nickel-metal hydride battery. The reason this battery is used on the AWD models is that it can help the Prius perform better in cold weather conditions.
The L Eco, which was formerly the Two Eco, is the Prius' base Eco trim. The Eco variant is a more fuel-efficient version of the L trim. In fact, it adds about 4 mpg over what you get on the L. It is equipped with a 207.2-volt lithium ion battery but has the same motor and gasoline-powered engine. This is the one essential difference that separates the L Eco from the L and marks it up in price by about $1,700. Otherwise, inside and out (and under the hood), the two versions look basically the same.
Both trim levels come with bi-LED projector headlights, LED taillights, daytime running lights, 60/40 split folding rear seats, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, power windows and door locks, and a 6.1-inch touchscreen display with Entune Audio. Also standard across the line-up is Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P), a suite of driver aids that includes lane departure alert and a pre-collision system.
Compare the 2019 Prius L vs LE Trims. What is the difference?
Up one trim level from the L is the Toyota Prius LE. The LE, which was previously referred to as the Prius Two, comes equipped with much of the same standard equipment that can be found on the L. One of the biggest upgrades that you get on the LE is the addition of parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automated parking assist via the Safety Plus package, which gets wrapped into the cost of the vehicle.
There are a few other differences between the L and LE, though they are mostly utilitarian and cosmetic in nature. For example, the LE adds seatback pockets to the front two seats and an intermittent wiper to the rear windshield. There are also a few package options for the LE that are not available on the L. The Appearance Package adds two-toned front bumpers and piano-black side-skirt rocker panels.
Other than those minor additions, there really is not a significant difference between these two trim levels. You are only paying about $1,700 more than the L for the inclusion of the Safety Plus features. This should be enough to get people to buy the LE over the L since the price difference is not that huge and the additional features are often sought-after in new vehicles.
Compare the Prius LE vs XLE with Technology Package - What is the difference?
The XLE trim is where you will really start to notice some variations between trim levels. For example, whereas the 2019 Toyota Prius LE comes with cloth trim in its cabin, the XLE upgrades you to Toyota's simulated leather, SofTex. It is used to line the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and armrests. However, you still get the same cloth fabric upholstery as you would in the LE. Additionally, you will notice that some of the interior colors are a little different on the XLE depending on the interior color option you choose.
Another addition to the XLE is remote illuminated entry on the Smart Key System. Also, it allows you to use the system on three doors as opposed to just the driver's door on the LE. And, unlike the lower trim levels, wireless smartphone charging comes standard on the XLE. This might seem like an insignificant feature to some, but if you rely heavily on your smartphone, it can be quite convenient.
Speaking of technology, that is another key difference between the trim levels. The XLE upgrades you to the Entune Premium Audio system. This means that you get a larger 7-inch touchscreen, six speakers, and a three-month full-access trial of SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Of course, without the ability to use smartphone app integration, some drivers might feel underwhelmed. (But don't worry; that change is coming. Toyota is piloting Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on several of its other vehicles this model year!) The Entune App Suite does come on the XLE, so you can use that to do things like check your stocks or find out what the weather will be like during your daily commute.
Compare the Prius XLE vs Limited Trims. What is the difference?
Want a few more creature comforts for an extra cost? That's what you get with the Prius' Limited (formerly the Four) trim. Granted, some of these features are nice to have, but most of them seem fairly non-essential. Take, for example, the rain-sensing windshield wipers that come standard on the Limited. They are nice to have but not required to make the drive an enjoyable one.
Of course, if you want your Prius to feel luxurious, this is the trim level that best embodies luxury. The SofTex front seats are heated, and the driver's seat is power-adjustable eight different ways. Also, the extra lumbar support that is built into the driver's seat provides a good amount of comfort for those who need it.
The Limited also happens to be the only trim level on which you can choose to equip the Premium Convenience Package. This package gives you Toyota's Safety Connect system, which hosts a huge array of safety and entertainment features. It includes everything from emergency roadside assistance to ten state-of-the-art JBL GreenEdge speakers. You can also equip the Safety Plus Package 2, which adds more features onto the XLE's optional Safety Plus Package. The Safety Plus 2 Package slaps intelligent clearance sonar (ICS) with intelligent parking assist (IPA) onto the Prius.
As far as its included technology goes, the Limited outdoes the XLE mostly just by adding a massive 11.6-inch touchscreen display screen to the mix. As with the XLE, both the Entune App Suite and Entune Premium Audio with Integrated Navigation come standard, so you can still enjoy all of the features offered on those. Pair that up with the optional JBL sound system, and you have a fairly high-tech vehicle.
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Which One Should You Choose?
As far as trim level choices go on the 2019 Toyota Prius, your decision will likely be based on which safety and infotainment features you want to have equipped. It would be nice to have more options for customization, especially when it comes to powertrains, but the recent inclusion of optional AWD is a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of competitors in the hybrid market, and with gas prices dropping, more people will likely want to buy SUVs this year. That's why, if space is an issue for you more so than fuel efficiency, you might want to consider investing in the RAV4 or Highlander hybrid variant.
Otherwise, if you are dead set on getting a Prius, the mid-level XLE is going to be a good bet. While it does not have every single high-tech feature you can get on the Limited, it provides a good amount of desirable features and essentially performs the same as the line-topper. It has just enough extra creature comforts to feel high-quality without blasting you in the face (and bank account) with luxury.
• Compare the 2018 Toyota Prius Trim Levels