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Toyota refers to the 2021 Prius Prime as their most advanced hybrid vehicle yet, and they are not joking. Long has the regular Prius dominated the hybrid market, and now the Prius Prime is joining rank. It debuted in 2017 to some solid reviews. It is one of the most affordable hybrid vehicles out there, yet it is still loaded to the brim with Toyota's current-gen technology. Everything from smartphone app integration to LED headlights comes standard.
Although its engine is more lackluster than the regular Prius', it is absolutely one of the most fuel-efficient powertrains out there. Paired up with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT for short), this 1.8-L 4-cylinder engine comes with an electric motor and battery pack to make it a hybrid. You can drive this vehicle for about 25 miles on pure electric charge (which comes out to about 153 mpge), and the gas engine gets an EPA estimated 54 mpg. Those are numbers that we can dig.
Just bear in mind that electric all-wheel drive (AWDe) only comes on the regular Prius; the Prius Prime is front-wheel drive (FWD) only. Also, the battery takes around 5.5 hours to charge on a 120-volt power source. If you use a Level II power source (240-v), it cuts the time down to just 2 hours. So, if you want a rapid charge, you'll want to get that Level II charging capability.
The trick to getting the most out of your Prius Prime is to pick the trim level that best suits your needs. And you can pick from three: the base LE, the mid-tier XLE, and the line-topping Limited. Since they all share the same powertrain, you won't get any options to upgrade your power output, but you will get more standard driver aids and infotainment features as you climb up the trim level ladder.
That's why we're going to review each of the 2021 Toyota Prius Prime's three trim levels. We will go over their different features and, in the end, let you know which one we think offers the best overall deal for the average buyer in this segment.
Compare the 2021 Toyota Prius Prime LE vs XLE - What is the Difference?
The base LE trim sets you up with a respectable list of standard features, not to mention the fact that you get a no-cost maintenance plan and 24-hour roadside service as part of the Toyota Care plan for new vehicles. As we already mentioned, you get the standard 1.8-L 4-cylinder engine, which has a sequential multi-point EFI induction system with intelligent electronic throttle control. The electric motor is a permanent magnet AC synchronous motor with a 600-v maximum voltage. There is a lithium-ion traction battery with 351.1-v. A CVT and FWD come standard, as does an independent MacPherson strut front suspension paired with a multi-link rear suspension. Front and rear stabilizer bars also come equipped. This vehicle has electronic power steering with power-assisted rack-and-pinion. The brake system is composed of power-assisted ventilated front disc brakes, solid rear discs with built-in regenerative braking and the Star Safety System.
On the outside, these two vehicles might look pretty similar at first glance. There are, however, a few details that distinguish them. These trim levels both come with daytime running lights that are LEDs and have an auto-on/off feature, but the LE has quad-LED projector headlights with auto-off only. The XLE's are auto-oin/off. They both have the same LED brake lights and taillights, a grille overlay done in patterned acrylic with an active grille shutter, special Prius Prime badging, heated and power-folding side mirrors, 15-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels that come with dual-tone wheel covers, and variable intermittent windshield wipers that are linked with the washers. You also get a dual-wave design on the rear glass, a roof-mounted fin-style antenna done in the chosen body color, and a charging port that has illumination and a charge percentage indicator. To that, the XLE adds a smart charging cable lock.
Both trim levels' cabins come complete with a smart -flow climate control system that has a pollen filtration feature built into it. They also share an integrated rear-facing camera, a 4.2-inch dual multi-information display (which shows information like Eco Savings Record and an energy monitor), five-passenger seating with a 60/40-split folding rear seat with a center armrest equipped with cupholders, a full speed range dynamic cruise control system, and SofTex trim on the tilting and telescoping multi-functional steering wheel. A digital instrument panel shows data on the hybrid fuel system's power meter, the current fuel economy, and the odometer. The LE has a 6-way adjustable driver's seat and 4-way adjustable front passenger's seat, both of which are fabric-trimmed and have a heating function. The XLE gets upgraded to SofTex leather trim with an 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar support.
The LE has a smart key system on the driver's door and a push button start, but the XLE upgrades this with remote illuminated entry. Automatic up/down comes on the power windows, and there are power door locks, dual illuminated vanity mirrors on the front sun visors, and a rear center console that adds extra storage spaces. There is a lightweight tonneau cover for the cargo area too. A single 12-volt auxiliary power outlet is situated up front. The rear and cargo areas both get lights, and there is a standard 120-volt charging cable.
As far as infotainment goes, the LE gives you a standard 7-inch touchscreen display with its system. This system includes a CD player, sound system equipped with six speakers, a USB media port, two USB charging ports, smartphone app integration, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The XLE will upgrade you to a premium audio system with built-in navigation on the 11.6-inch split-screen display. You also get HD radio, advanced voice recognition, Siri Eyes Free, and HD Radio Predictive Traffic and Doppler Weather overlay.
Many of the same safety features come on these two trims. Both trim levels are equipped with the Star Safety System (which includes enhanced vehicle stability control and traction control), a tire pressure monitoring system, and a vehicle proximity notification system. They also have Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which is Toyota's suite of driver aids. This gives the Prime pedestrian detection on its pre-collision warning system, steering assist on the lane departure alert, automatic high beams, lane tracing assist, road sign assist, and full speed range dynamic radar cruise control. Hill start assist, a tire repair system, an engine immobilizer, and three years total of roadside assistance.
Compare the 2021 Toyota Prius Prime XLE vs Limited - What is the Difference?
What do you get when you upgrade to the line-topping Limited trim level? Is it worth the cost? Let's start by looking at the additions made to the Limited's exterior. It gets LED fog lights and windshield wipers that are able to detect rain, but that is the extent of the alterations that you will find.
Inside, you do get more features. There is a remote air conditioning system equipped, and there is an upgraded steering wheel that is wrapped in leather. HomeLink and a compass get built into the Limited's auto-dimming rear-view mirror. There is a heavy tonneau cover for the cargo area that has a sliding capability.
The infotainment system gets upgraded with a JBL 10-speaker sound system which comes with its own subwoofer. A color head-up display gets added to the list of safety features, which includes data on the battery charge and features from Toyota Safety Sense 2.0. Intelligent Parking Assist (IPA) comes equipped as part of the Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) feature. Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert comes standard as well.
Keep in mind that all three trim levels come with the same warranty coverage. There is a Basic Warranty that goes for 36 months/36,000 miles (whichever you reach first). The powertrain warranty lasts for 60 months/60,000 miles. The Corrosion Perforation goes for 60 months or unlimited miles, and the restraint systems are covered for 60 months/60,000 miles. Also, the hybrid systems have a 96-month/100,000-miloe warranty, and the hybrid battery is covered in the CA Emissions states for 120 months/150,000 miles.
2021 Toyota Prius Prime: Which Trim to Choose?
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There you have it. That is the extent of what is offered on the 2021 Toyota Prius Prime. The Prime is definitely different than the regular Prime. The hybrid powertrain is what will likely attract most buyers upon first inspection. The second will likely be the price tag. The Prime is one of the most affordable hybrids on the market, but is it really worth it?
Yes, to an extent. If you can tolerate the Prius Prime's sluggish gas-powered engine, you should like the Prime. This is a vehicle that is more focused on efficiency than anything else, but it does come with a lot of Toyota's preferred, current safety and infotainment features. And there is a lot of decent warranty coverage to benefit from. The Prius Prime also offers its buyers some comfy front seats that are sculpted for support. Also, the Level II rapid-charging time of just about 2 hours is really reasonable.
Which trim level is going to offer you the best deal though? Which one is most worth your hard-earned money? We happen to think it is best to go middle-of-the-road on the Prius Prime and select the XLE trim level. The LE trim level is quite basic - perhaps a little too much for the cost. You get an okay amount of features, but they just are not that exciting. If you want to make up for the lackluster power and noisy nature of the engine, you are going to have to spend a little bit more money on the XLE.
We also have to say, we would not pick the Limited since it really does not add enough extra features to justify the price hike. It just feels like a more expensive XLE with a few minor additions. The JBL sound system is the only worthwhile upgrade, but we wouldn't recommend jumping up in price just for that.
The XLE has a good balance of features for the price. It gives you most of the driver aids that you need and all of the infotainment features that you could possibly want. The navigation system works well, but you can still use your smartphone nav app instead by easily syncing the phone with the car's infotainment system.
At any rate, 25 miles of all-electric range is a pretty good deal. The Prius Prime is one of the most affordable plug-in hybrids on the market and can be quickly charged. Just go for the XLE trim in order to get the most bang for your buck.