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The Toyota Prius is the best-selling, most well-known hybrid vehicle and has developed a good reputation since its inception way back in 2001. The 2021 Toyota Prius lives up to the expectations that we have developed for a Prius. With a fuel economy of over 50 mpg, the Prius is a standout performer in its segment and will save its drivers a lot at the pump.
There are more things to enjoy about the Prius though. For example, the cabin remains pleasantly quiet during any trip, even when the gasoline-powered engine kicks into gear. Maneuvering this vehicle around is also incredibly simple since it is small and has expansive outward visibility. Getting all-wheel-drive as an option is also a nice touch since having AWD can make driving on slick roads a lot easier, especially if you live in a cooler climate where inclement weather is common.
So, what are the downsides to owning a 2021 Toyota Prius? The most inconvenient thing the driver might find is that the instrumentation panel is placed awkwardly, kept out of the driver's direct line of sight. Also, acceleration can feel a bit too slow at times, especially while trying to get up to speed on the highway. The ride quality also tends to get bumpy on rougher surfaces, and with the cabin being so particularly quiet, they really become more noticeable. And, to top it all off, the infotainment system comes across as being somewhat outdated; upgrading the system will prove to be far more current-gen.
The 2021 Toyota Prius might not appeal to everyone, but it will be an attractive option to many who are seeking to save money on gas and get a lot of standard features for a reasonable price. But which of the Prius's trim levels might be the right one for you? We will examine each of the trims and sub-trims that are available on the 2021 line-up. In the conclusion of this trim level comparison review, we will let you know which 2021 Toyota Prius trim level we think provides the most bang for your buck.
Compare the 2021 Toyota Prius L Eco vs LE - What is the Difference?
Let's kick things off with the base trim, known as the L Eco. This trim level comes with a lot of features for the price, which makes it an attractive buy for those on a tight budget. What all does it come with though?
The L Eco's exterior features projector beam low- and high-beam bi LED headlights that have an automatic on feature. The LED daytime running lights are able to be automatically turned off and on as well. There are also LED stop and tail lights, clearance lights that are LED, a grille shutter that is active, and side mirrors that are able to be folded and have a heating function. The door handles are the same color as the body, and there are standard 15-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels that come with full wheel covers. The variable intermittent windshield wipers are washer-linked, and the roof-mounted antenna is color-keyed.
The LE simply adds an intermittent windshield wiper to the rear window. Otherwise, it looks almost exactly the same as the L Eco.
What of the inside? Well, it looks pretty contemporary and feels plush with comfort. The L Eco features a Smart-flow climate control system with a filtration system to keep pollen from entering the cabin. The multi-information display is sized at 4.2 inches and reads off data including an energy monitor, ECO Wallet, driver assistance systems, and climate control. The front seats are trimmed in cloth fabric with the driver's seat being 6-way adjustable and the front passenger's seat being adjustable 4 different ways. On the LE, this gets upgraded to have extended seatback pockets.
The rear seat is a 60/40-split folding seat with a center armrest. The cruise control system (which is dynamic radar) has a full speed range, and there is a tilt and telescoping steering column that allows for a lot of adjustability for the driver. There is a digital instrumentation panel that shows information for the fuel gauge, speedometer, average and current fuel economies, power mode indicators, and distance until the tank is empty. There is upper door trim that features a chrome accent and a soft-touch door armrest with interior door handles done in chrome trim.
Push button start comes with the Smart Key System, the power windows have auto up/down functionality, and the center console is done in matte black with a storage compartment beneath the lid. Up front, there is one 12-volt auxiliary power outlet and extendable dual sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors. In the rear cargo area, you get a light as well as the dome light in the cabin. The front and rear outboard occupants also get one cup holder and one bottle holder each.
Both of these trim levels come with a 6-speaker sound system bundled into the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto comes standard, as do a USB media port, 2 USB charging ports, Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free phone usage and audio streaming, wi-fi hot spot connectivity, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
Safety features are also pretty extensive. Both the L Eco and LE get the Star Safety System (which has features like stability control, traction control, and brake assist), a tire pressure monitoring system, a vehicle proximity notification system, and Safety Connect (composed of features like emergency assistance, automatic collision notification, and roadside assistance). Toyota Safety Sense comes equipped as well, bundling helpful driver aids like a pre-collision system (which includes a pedestrian detection feature), an assist that traces lanes, a lane departure warning with a feature that assists with steering, and road sign assist. A rear-view camera is also standard.
To this, the LE adds blind spot monitoring and intelligent clearance sonar with intelligent parking assist.
Of course, we cannot compare these two trim levels without first going over their mechanical specs. They pretty much share the same ones. Both trims come equipped with a gas-powered 1.8-L 4-cylinder engine that gets 96 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque. THat is paired with a permanent magnetic AC synchronous motor and a lithium-ion battery that generate a total power output of 121 hp. An electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECCVT) comes with it, and front-wheel drive (FWD) is also standard.
Compare the 2021 Toyota Prius LE vs XLE - What is the Difference?
There are a few upgrades that get slapped onto the XLE trim level. For starters, the headlights get upgraded to auto on/off, and drivers can opt for an adaptive front lighting system and power tilting and sliding power moonroof. The windshield wipers gain a rain sensing capability.
The interior gains upgraded SofTex-trimmed heated front seats with the extendable seatback pockets, and there is lumbar support for both the driver and front passenger. The steering wheel is also wrapped in SofTex and has a heating function. There is also plenty of SofTex on the door armrests, and there are more soft-touch surfaces to be found on the XLE than on the lower trim levels. Smart Key gains illuminated entry, and Home Link gets included as part of the auto-dimming rear-view mirror. The center console is done in black semi-gloss material, and there is a qi-compatible smartphone wireless charging pad included.
A color head-up display can be added as part of an optional package, but all of the safety features remain the same. Mechanical specs remain the same as well.
Compare the 2021 Toyota Prius XLE vs 2020 Edition. What is the Difference?
The 2020 Edition gains more stylistic changes over the XLE. On the exterior, you will see variances such as the black grade and model badging, piano black bezels on the LED accent lights, a color-keyed rear deck spoiler, and 17-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels with their lug nuts painted black.
The cabin gives you more unique features, such as a set of 2020 floor mats and key glove, a shift knob done in piano black, and smoked vent registers on the center and sides. Aside from that, though, the standard features remain the same. The 2020 Edition is essentially the Prius's 'blacked-out' version.
Compare the 2021 Toyota Prius 2020 Edition vs Limited Trim Level. What is the Difference?
The Limited is the line-topping trim level and builds quite a bit upon what the lower trim levels give you, which is already quite a lot. On the outside, the Limited changes things up by standardizing the adaptive front lighting system that has auto-leveling headlights. It also upgrades to Titanium-finished 17-inch alloy wheels done in a 5-spoke design.
The big change inside is that the Limited gets upgraded to the 10-speaker JBL sound system that comes with the 11.6-inch split-screen design infotainment system. This whole system wraps in features such as an advanced voice recognition feature. Also, the color head-up display gets tacked onto the list of standard safety features. Just don't expect to find any major changes to the mechanical specs; those are essentially left alone.
Compare the 2021 Toyota Prius Limited LE AWD-e vs XLE AWD-e. What is the Difference?
You can choose to shake things up a bit by opting for one of the two AWD-e variants: the LE or the XLE AWD-e. Let's start with the former. These two variants essentially take everything that you find on their front-wheel drive variants and gives them the electronic all-wheel-drive system.
As you might reasonably expect, with any AWD system, fuel economy takes a hit. AWD-e was first introduced to the Prius line-up for the 2019 model year, giving drivers a choice between drivetrains - finally. But is it really a good choice?
This system adds an electric rear motor that drudges up 7 hp and 40 lb-ft of torque. Only the electric motor does the driving for the rear wheels, thereby taking some of the pressure off of the gas-powered engine. When it comes to launching, the motor will shift into gear between 0 and 6 mph, and it will go up to 43 mph for traction.
Is there a noticeable difference while driving? Not really. You might feel it while really rounding hard through a turn or pressing down on hard on the accelerator. Otherwise, it feels the same as the FWD. But it can make a difference come winter and spring when roadways are slick.
Just keep in mind that the AWD-e also has a different battery. Instead of the standard lithium ion battery, these variants get a nickel-metal-hydride battery. Sure, it is heavier, but it boosts performance in colder temps. Of course, it does add a little extra weight to the vehicle overall.
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Which Trim to Choose?
As far as the 2021 Toyota Prius goes, it is hard to go wrong with any trim level. Of course, there are a lot of competitors who are throwing their hats into the arena, and Toyota is really having to go all-out to compete. That's why you should expect a lot from them this year.
Personally, we recommend sticking with the mid-level XLE. Get the AWD-e if you live in a colder climate where that extra traction and stability really come in handy. Otherwise, the basic FWD version should do. This trim level has those nice heated front seats and the handy wireless charging pad, making it feel just luxurious enough without causing the price tag to jump up too high.
• Compare the 2020 Toyota Prius Trim Levels