Happy 20th anniversary Toyota Prius, but wait, you might be asking, how can the Prius possibly be celebrating its 20th birthday in 2021? Part of it comes down to timing, but Toyota also wanted to use the occasion to celebrate the over 1.9 million sales that the Prius has managed to achieve since it first appeared back in 2000. Despite this edition being fashionably late to the party, Toyota is confident that the 2020 Edition can still be a solid sales player, but does it stand out enough from other green rivals?
Tasteful Evolution And Sleek Red Paint Adds Some Pep To Prius’s Step
The exterior styling of our Supersonic Red-hued tester is still unmistakable out on the road. While it has preferred to slowly evolve over the years versus adopting a bolder suit of clothes like some of its other rivals, the Prius is still distinctly a hybrid. Buyers that choose to go with the 2020 Edition get to choose from two colors, the fore-mentioned Supersonic Red and Windchill Pearl.
Either color is paired with 17-inch wheels that are slathered in piano black accents. The blacked-out treatment also extends to the headlights, the badging, and the mirror housings. This flavor of Prius also comes with standard b-LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, and full LED taillights/ Along with the blacked-out accents, Toyota designers also color-keyed the door handles and even the rear spoiler. All of these changes make an impact on the Prius, and they allow the 2020 Edition to stand out a bit more than standard Prius models.
But while the design-focused touches play a role in helping the 2020 Edition stand out, they do little to hide the fact that the Prius is losing ground to rivals in terms of design. The core aspects of the current model’s design are starting to age, and with some rivals like the Hyundai Kona, Kia Niro, and the Honda Insight all featuring fresher design elements, the Prius is in danger of potentially being an afterthought in the eyes of style-conscious consumers.
2020 Edition Prius Interior Embraces Functionality But Lacks Special Touches
If you have spent a fair amount of time in a Prius, chances are that you will be familiar with the core essentials that are present in the cabin. The basic design is still a unique exercise in sci-fi-inspired futurism with plenty of curves, the unique digital instrument cluster, and the clean design used for the center console. Supersonic Red-equipped models like our tester have a blacked-out interior that’s supposed to enhance the sporty vibe of the Prius, and at first glance, it certainly appears to have succeeded in this mission. But while the comfortable leather seats help occupants soak up the miles, they do little to distract you from the fact that there’s not enough specialness to readily identify that you are in something unique.
Granted, you do get 2020 Edition adorned floormats and a nifty key fob sleeve, but other than that, there’s nothing else that advertises its specialness. The seats don’t have any logos. The rest of the cabin doesn’t have any obvious visual indicators that you are in a limited production special edition version of the Prius. That’s a shame because the cabin does have other details that are pretty impressive for its $32,000 price point, with the smoked grey accents, chrome door handles. The darkened air vents adding some much-needed variety to the otherwise Teutonic-looking cabin. Our tester had plenty of head and legroom, with even rear passengers having a generous amount of space to stretch out and relax.
An eight-way power-adjustable driver seat is reserved for the driver, with the front passenger making do with a four-way adjustable manual throne. Both seats are heated, and the slick center console is where you will find the gear selector. It still requires a brief learning curve, but it’s actually a pretty easy shifter to use once you get the whole process down. The windows in our tester do a good job of letting in plenty of light. Still, the rear window occasionally causes the screen for the infotainment system to be covered in glare in certain situations. Speaking of that 7-inch screen, it’s very responsive, but buyers will have to connect their phones to Toyota Entune to get access to navigation. Thankfully, 2020 Editions like our tester get Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa standard with Android Auto finally joining the party for the 2021 model year on virtually all trims (Limited models are excluded.)
Carryover Performance Hardware Still Sips Gas, Still As Slow As Ever
Toyota recently revealed that it’s out to make the bulk of its vehicles more fun to drive, with track-focused appeal being a higher priority. While models like the Supra and the recently unveiled GR86 are clear recipients of this youthful push, the Prius prefers to have fun in its own distinct way. The engine is the same 1.8-liter four-cylinder that first appeared in 2017, with two electric motors providing it extra amounts of electrified oomph. It still makes 121 horsepower, and 0 to 60 can be likened to a spirited jog versus a formal sprint.
As mentioned, the Prius has its own definition of fun, and it trades any semblance of track readiness for the art of how far it can go on a single drop of gasoline, with our tester rated at a very impressive 52 mpg in combined driving. As a result of this green-focused pursuit, the Prius functions best as a daily commuter with the engine in its element in city driving.
Freeway driving revealed that road and tire noise is still an issue the Prius gets to deal with. but the regenerative braking in our tester was very linear. While you get a good amount of pushback from the system when the Prius is tasked with hard stops, the pedal still does a good job communicating to the driver, and the grabby feel here is not as extreme as some other rivals that we have become used to. The Prius does come with a pure EV driving mode, but the range is small and is really meant for short-distance driving like in your neighborhood or a bustling downtown hub. This small amount of pure EV range also causes the Prius to fall short of newer entries like the Niro, which allow you to go farther on pure electron power.
As of this writing, 2022 model year Prius’s are on the verge of entering dealer lots, but buyers looking to get into the Prius family will be greeted with a base price of $24,525 which will cover the cost of a base L Eco model. As the name implies, this model is about as basic of a Prius as you can get and puts fuel economy ahead of things such as comfort and technology. The 2022 model year is also the first year for Toyota’s all-new AWD-e system, which can be added to the $27,135 LE and $29,575 XLE trims.
Our 2020 Edition tester had a base price of $29,875, with minor optional extras helping to push the final price to $32,043, including the $995 destination fee. This pricing helps the 2020 Edition Prius be an exciting opportunity for buyers looking to add some form of sportiness to the Prius. There’s no denying the number of extra styling chops that this special edition brings to the Prius as a whole.
But while the addition of AWD-e and other minor updates have helped the Prius regain some of its luster, the appearance of rivals that offer more mileage and better baked-in value will inevitably force the Prius to rethink some of its core identity. We look forward to seeing what emerges from the proverbial mist, especially regarding some of its interior technology and the latest hybrid powertrain that will undoubtedly be a key part of any updated Prius model.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.