Toyota's Prius has long held the top spot for hybrid vehicles, regardless of segment. However, its spin-off, the Prius Prime, is just as electrifying as the regular Prius. With 25 miles of pure electric charge, this plug-in hybrid has been going strong since it was introduced in 2017. With its comfy front seats and affordable price tag, the 2021 Toyota Prius Prime is an attractive option. But do its pitfalls (a noisy and sluggish engine, to be more precise) hold it back from being what you need? Hang tight as we go through what is new for 2021, what we like about the Prius Prime, what we'd like to see changed, and how it stacks up against some of the top contenders (including its elder sibling, the Prius).
What's New for 2021?
Only a few changes have been made for 2021. The most notable addition is the upgraded Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 bundle of driver aids. This gives you everything from a pre-collision mitigation system with a Pedestrian-Detection feature to road sign assist to adaptive cruise control. It is a more inclusive suite than what Toyota has equipped in the past. Also new for 2021 is Android Auto on the base LE trim level.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Toyota Prius Prime – The Pros
1. A Comfortable Cabin
The 2021 Toyota Prius Prime offers the same level of comfort as the regular Prius. Its cabin boasts some seriously cozy front seats that are sculpted for maximum support. They will conform to your body after you take a seat and have some great ergonomics for helping you keep a good driving posture. The rear seats are even comfy. You don't get much noise from outside, and the climate control system will get you heated up or cooled down quickly.
2. A High Fuel Economy
The biggest appeal of the Prius Prime is its amazing fuel economy. This plug-in hybrid gets 25 miles of pure electric range and is rated for a combined 54 mpg. You will not have to stop and fuel up on gas as much as you would in a gas-powered vehicle, that's for sure. Finding a fuel economy like this is somewhat difficult, but this plug-in makes it possible.
3. The Affordable Price Tag
Hybrids are known for being more expensive than their gas-powered counterparts, and for good reason. They're simply more expensive to make and have a different demand. That's why the Prius Prime's price tag is so attractive; it is significantly lower than some of its rivals. This gives many buyers more leeway to upgrade to a higher trim level and/or add on different options.
4. Standard Smartphone App Integration
Now that Android Auto comes standard on the base LE trim level, the Prius Prime is fully outfitted with smartphone app integration. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both compatible with the Prius Prime's infotainment system and are great alternatives to the built-in navigation system. You simply pair your phone up with the vehicle and use whichever app you want.
5. An Accurate Voice Recognition System
Toyota's voice recognition system works with features like cruise control and the audio system. Simply issue a voice command, and it will control a function for you. This particular system does a thorough job of recognizing natural speech patterns and responding to them accordingly. This keeps your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
6. A Quiet Ride Quality
Want a relaxing ride quality? The Prius Prime is all about smooth sailing around town. While the engine gets a tad noisy on the highway, everything is pleasant while scooting about in the city. This ride isn't floaty and has a suspension that can dispatch small bumps with ease. Having it in EV mode will provide a really tranquil ride.
7. Eco Mode on the Climate Control System
The Prius Prime has a climate control system that works well at heating and cooling the cabin, then maintaining the temperature you set it at. If you are the only person in the car, you can save some energy by switching over to Eco mode, which will blow air solely onto you.
8. Getting In and Out is Easy
Thanks to its ride height and wide door sill openings, getting in and out of the Prius Prime is particularly easy. Rear seat occupants have plenty of space for getting out and, due to how the seats are postured, will not have to scoot themselves forward in order to get out. They can just gracefully slide out. Taller folks will just need to watch their heads since the Prime has a sloping roofline typical for its segment.
9. Plenty of Space
As we have already touched on, the Prius Prime has a spacious cabin. Now that it has a full five seats (yeah, it used to be a four-seater with just two individual seats in the rear; this changed in 2020), the Prius comfortably seats four adults and, if needed in a pinch, a small adult or a child in the rear middle seat. Leg space is abundant, and head space up front is vast.
10. High-quality Materials
Toyota has a habit of using some hard plastics, but they aren't of the cheap-and-tacky variety. The Prius Prime is outfitted with some composites and metals that keep it lightweight but also durable, and everything on the inside looks like it is well fitted together. You should not hear any odd shakes, rattles, or rolls while driving.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Toyota Prius Prime – The Cons
1. The Slow and Noisy Engine
The one big drag that makes the 2021 Toyota Prius Prime annoying to drive is the one thing you really cannot change on it, and that is its engine. The sole powertrain is composed of a 1.8-L 4-cylinder engine that is paired up with a permanent magnet AC synchronous motor and lithium-ion battery for a combined power output of 121 hp. Unfortunately, this engine feels vastly underpowered even by PHEV standards. It is slow to accelerate and likes to grunt when you push it to go. On the highway, it can get pretty noisy. Despite getting a great fuel economy, the engine feels bland and does not do much to excite.
2. Limited Cargo Space
The cabin might be spacious, but the cargo area is not. With just 19.8 cubic feet of cargo space to use, you will have to come up with some creative ways to store your bulkier items. The battery pack is a massive one and takes up a good chunk of the Prime's cargo area. Even a grocery bag is going to be too tall to fit beneath the security cover, and this can obstruct your view out of the rear window. A versatile design, it is not.
3. Bland Handling and Steering
Handling and steering are almost as bland as the engine. The brakes feel numb, but the steering is even duller, providing virtually no connection between the driver and the wheels. Steering is incredibly numb while going along on the highway, and the huge battery pack focuses too much weight too high behind the rear wheels. This limits the vehicle's handling and makes the vehicle feel bulky while cornering multiple times in a row.
4. An Outdated Navigation System
The infotainment system is most decent, but the navigation system is outdated. It limits you to the extreme as to what you can do while the vehicle is in motion, bringing the system to the verge of uselessness. It is better to just sync your smartphone with the infotainment system and use your preferred smartphone-based navigation app instead. Those apps are more up-to-date and less restrictive.
How it Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Toyota Prius Prime vs. 2021 Toyota Prius
The standard Prius is a capable performer, able to get over 50 mpg combined, which just about touches on what the Prime accomplishes. The standard Prius also offers a cabin that is quiet even when the gas-powered engine is running. It won't get noisy on the highway like the Prime's engine. Seeing out of the Prius is easy, so you can move about town without a hassle. On top of that, all-wheel drive is available if you do not want front-wheel drive. On the downside, the Prius gets shaky while going across rougher road surfaces, and you will still have to deal with a sluggish engine.
2021 Toyota Prius Prime vs. 2021 Honda Clarity
The 2021 Honda Clarity is a fantastic direct competitor for the Prius Prime. It has a comfortable cabin that is done up in some seriously chic materials. It also offers an exceptional driving range with strong fuel numbers. The PHEV and EV both offer smooth ride qualities. And, yes, you read that right - you can opt for a standard hybrid, a plug-in, or an all-electric version. Unfortunately, the PHEV is the only one that doesn't have limited availability. Additionally, the touchscreen display can be kind of clunky and frustrating to use.
The 2021 Toyota Prius Prime is exceptional when it comes to its fuel economy and comfort, but that is about the extent of what makes it truly special. The engine takes away any potential thrill, and the overall driving performance lacks real feel. Drivers want to feel connected with the road, and the Prius Prime falls short of doing that. The regular Prime might be a better option if you need a bit more engagement from your vehicle.