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Review of: 2017 Toyota Prius 5dr HB Touring
2017 Toyota Prius Prime: Toyota’s plug-in moves toward prime time
By G. R. Whale
Dec. 13, 2016
With a new basis, doubled previous battery range, unique styling, more refinement and efficiency the Prius Prime is a bigger step than prior years. However, it faces growing competition from plug-ins and full electrics, so it will likely serve a particular niche quite well.
Pros & Cons
- + Fuel economy
- + Quiet, serene cabin
- + Value for money
- - Trunk space
- - Sun visors
- - Rear-mounted charge port
From its low LED-headlight snout to its Kammback tail, the Prime is drawn for function…and more attractive than a sub-Prime Prius. Headlights are very effective, taillights hint at McLaren with glass where the McLaren has exhaust outlets, the double-bubble rear window precludes a wiper and the entire thing slides through the air. I don’t find it as attractively cohesive as an Ioniq or Volt—to each their own.
A few things I found odd: Wheel covers may bail at the first pothole…the alloy wheels could’ve gotten the same look. An aft charging port (most plug-ins I’ve driven put it forward) can be a nuisance at public stations in angled parking, the rear spoiler/lens seems vulnerable to opening damage, and the carbon-fibre hatch could be pricey to repair.
Welcome to an Apple Store.
White imitation leather, metallic white console, dash and trim, a 30-cm vertical touchscreen, full digital dash and sparkling blue vent trim shine, awash in daylight from generous glass.
There’s plenty of room for four (no center rear seat) so long as rear passengers aren’t too tall. Alas I’m “tall” so the sweeping roofline’s compromised headroom kept me out, and more times than not, I bumped my head loading the seat.
Cargo area’s about 550 litres, but the floor is higher than normal and the folded-rear-seat deck. An aft-edge slot stows the power cord with a tire-repair kit left, bin right and bag hooks.
The central “dash” provides speed and fuel, plus warnings and energy-use choices; only basics in the color head-up display are directly in front of you. Offset right is the big display, which washes out in low-lying sun.
Grumbles: Quite slim door pockets, a floppy cargo cover flap and the sun visors, which work great forward but don’t slide in side use, leaving a huge greenhouse. Wear wraparound sunglasses and expect uneven tanning.
Ironically, the resembles-an-Apple-Store Prime does not offer CarPlay or Android Auto, only Toyota’s Entune suite and Siri Eyes Free. The pinch/swipe display’s just begging for it, but tech giants don’t always agree.
Operating logic is reasonably intuitive but get to know it first, then learn which functions disappear when the car’s moving, even with a passenger. An inductive phone charger helps mitigate the existence of just one USB port.
In this top trim lane departure, blind-spot, forward collision mitigation, parking assist and more are standard, but the standard Prius can be upgraded for a modest amount so maybe Prime will follow suit.
All the really cool stuff is underneath, though: shrouded in covers and thick wire harnesses it makes engineers drool.
At 11.5 seconds to 100 km/h Prime is leisurely, but it’s sprightly off the line to about 60 or 65. It feels faster running electric than hybrid and though engine noise is muted you’ll know when the battery’s depleted because the gas pedal then needs more pressure.
Beyond the novelty of using no gas, the Prime is not particularly fun to drive. It does everything competently, suspension soaks up bumps better, gas/battery/brake transitions are smoother yet, it’s generally very quiet and the steering actually feels better than most Toyotas (save for the 86). If you prefer more involvement, a C-Max or Fusion Energi or Jetta provide it.
My worst-case test pitted a fully-charged Prime against a cool-weather 160-km route sea level to 1,700 metres, with lots of elevation change en route, where I recorded 5.6 l/100km; at round trip’s end the average had improved to 4.4. With two more 100-km routes from full charge and remaining driving within the 40-45 km range showing (6.5-7 km/kWh) after every recharge, I did 3.3 l/100 over 582 km.
And it’s a slave driver: Despite the same ambient and cabin temperatures, no seat heaters nor AC, fan low, I scored only 3 of 5 bars in climate energy use, with the Prime suggesting a more “moderate temperature.” Sheesh.
Plug-in range lags a Volt, is ahead of the Fords, on par with a Sonata and slightly better than Ioniq’s anticipated 37 km. Prime’s total range, nearing 1,000 km on a 40-litre tank, is hard to beat.
This depends on location, commutes versus trips and your tax bill. Anticipated at $3,000 over a standard Prius, the Prime is less than nearest-equipped Volt, Fusion Energi or Sonata. But incentives could make Bolt less, and it’s arguably more efficient than Prime. Consider this rating asterisked for too many variables.
Prime is prime everyday transportation—don’t let these scores fool you—and likely to stay that way for years. Consider the variables above to find if Prime is worth more than the Prius for your uses.