After the regular Toyota Prius hybrid received a major overhaul in terms of style and features in 2019, people assumed that similar upgrades would be forthcoming for the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid too. However, while the Prime has been modified for the 2020 model year, it is not nearly the bumper-to-bumper facelift that many industry analysts had hoped for.

With the 2020 Prius Prime, Toyota has opted for nips and tucks in a few key areas rather than major reconstructive surgery. This is largely the same hybrid hatchback as previous models. The biggest change is that a third seat has been added to the center-rear, making the 2020 model a true five-seat vehicle. Previous models technically only sat four people. Additional cupholders have also been added. Despite the lack of major changes, the Prius Prime remains a reliable vehicle and a worthy option for environmentally conscious drivers.

Exterior Styling

The Prius Prime still looks the same on the outside. For the 2020 model, Toyota chose to focus almost exclusively on the car’s interior rather than make changes to the exterior. The plug-in version remains largely indistinguishable from the Prius gas-electric hybrid on which it is based.

While many reviewers continue to take issue with the style of the Toyota Prius, the fact is that most people do not purchase this hatchback for its looks. Owners of the Prius Prime are likely more concerned with getting good gas mileage or making a smaller environmental impact than they are with turning heads on the street.

Models and Prices

In terms of available models and prices, the 2020 Prius Prime comes in three trimlines that have been designed to streamline options for potential buyers. The Limited trimline replaces the previous Plus, Premium, and Advanced trimlines.

LE: This entry level trimline comes in a five-door hatchback that is powered by a 96 horsepower, 1.8-liter engine. Front wheel drive is, of course, standard. Other standard features sure to appeal to owners include cruise control, power windows, keyless entry, satellite radio, wireless phone connectivity, and a voice activated radio.

Starting Price: $27,600

XLE: Move up to the XLE trim and you get all the previously mentioned features, plus a voice activated navigation system, automatic temperature control, a telescopic steering wheel, and real time weather displays on the touchscreen control panel.

Starting Price: $29,500

Limited: The 96 horsepower, 1.8-liter engine remains the same in the top end Limited trimline. However, this version of the Prius Prime comes with four-wheel drive, as well as internet access, programmable headlights, a blind spot sensor, head-up display, and rain sensing windshield wiper blades.

Starting Price: $33,500

Engine and Transmission

Toyota has not made any significant changes to the 2020 Prius Prime under the hood. The plug-in Prime still uses a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that works jointly with an electric motor linked to an 8.8-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. The Prime achieves 54 miles per gallon when used in the combined gas-electric cycle. On a full tank of gas, and with a fully charged battery, the Prius Prime can go 640-miles.

In the electric-only mode, the Prius Prime can only go 25 miles, the same distance as in previous models. Don’t confuse this for a full electric vehicle. As mentioned, the top level Limited trimline comes in a four-wheel drive option that may be enticing to some people who want a little more rugged performance from their hybrid.

Interior

The interior of the Prius Prime is where the upgrades have been focused, and those upgrades are geared more towards functionality than style. As mentioned, a third seat has been added to the rear of this hybrid hatchback and Toyota is doing its best to sell the 2020 model as a family friendly vehicle.

However, most reviews of this car agree that it would be extremely difficult to fit three fully grown adults in the back. Children could squeeze in, but adults would be a tight fit. Other interior upgrades include two new USB ports for the rear seats, sun-visor extensions, and black plastic interior accents that replace the previous white colored accents. The seat-heater buttons have also been relocated to make them more convenient.

Features and Equipment

The big news in terms of features is that the 2020 Prius Prime hybrid is finally compatible with Apple CarPlay. Owners can also use Amazon Alexa to make in-car music purchases and access the car from home to check on how the battery is charging and the current fuel level. Prius Prime owners can also turn the car on remotely to preheat or cool it. Safety features are generous depending on the trimline. Standard safety features available in all trimlines include a knee airbag, four-wheel ASB brakes, and rear child safety locks.

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is one of the main selling features of the plug-in Prius Prime gas-electric hybrid. As mentioned, the Prius Prime achieves an Environmental Protection Agency-rated 54 miles per gallon when used in the combined gas-electric cycle and can travel 25 miles when used in the electric only mode. Fully gassed and charged, the Prius Prime can drive from New York City to Detroit one-way without stopping, and there would still be gasoline leftover when you reach your destination. You don’t buy a Prius for its towing capacity or 0-to-60 speed, so the massive fuel savings are one of the Prius Prime’s most notable features.

The Good

  • Third seat added to the rear of the vehicle
  • Now compatible with Apple CarPlay
  • Four-wheel drive option available in top trimline

The Not-So-Good

  • Exterior remains unchanged
  • Difficult for three adults to squeeze into the backseat
  • Electric only driving range has not improved

The Last Word

Toyota has not given the Prius Prime the overhaul that it gave to the main Prius lineup, causing some reviewers to be disappointed. However, the 2020 Prius Prime remains a solid choice for anyone looking to buy a plug-in hybrid. Owners still get a reasonably well-equipped hatchback that gets fantastic gas mileage and is good for the environment. Whether you’re trying to save the planet or just embracing the future of electric/hybrid driving, the Prius Prime is a great place to start.

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