Which Toyota Prius Prime Is Right For You … Or Should You Buy A Volt?

Toyota Prius Prime


Toyota Prius Prime

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

What distinguishes the remarkably successful Toyota Prius Prime’s three trim levels, and is upgrading worth the cost … or should you just buy a Chevrolet Volt?

Car and Driver calls the Toyota Prius Prime an anteater, or a platypus, but still prettier than the regular Prius, which looks like it was designed “by people obviously on psychotropic drugs.” 

The publication tested all three Prime trim levels, to see how different trim levels’ equipment affects vehicle weight and performance. All three use the same 95-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, two motors, a planetary gearset that works like a CVT, and an 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The models are within 28 pounds of each other, have the same tires, and pulled nearly identical track stats.

2017 Chevrolet Volt

Before we go into each model, let’s share C & D’s notable impressions:

The Prime does an adequate job masking small road imperfections, but watch out for potholes. It corners well, is very quiet, and feels surprisingly solid. It’s definitely better as an electric car rather than a hybrid, but unfortunately you only get 20 or so miles, and about 12 on the freeway.

You will only get the Prime’s full 121 horsepower in hybrid mode, which won’t get you from zero to 60 mph in under 10 seconds. Put it in EV mode and you have surprising get up and go, but it’s short lived in more ways than one (it takes about 2 seconds longer to hit 60 mph). It will start up in EV mode, and you can leave it there or put it in hybrid mode, or choose EV Auto, which allows the car to determine how to best use its powertrain combination.  The “CVT-like” transmission doesn’t respond well to the engine’s meager power, so you will find it difficult to initiate passing and merging procedures.

In terms of the interior, though the seat coverings vary dependent on the trim, the seats are basically the same, and offer sufficient comfort. Keep in mind that there is no middle seat in back, but the four passengers that you do choose to carry will have enough space. Materials are a typical mix of rubberized and soft-touch, and the layout is simple. The base comes with an intuitive 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system, and the upper trims get an 11.6-inch system. Sadly, the larger screen just magnifies the same graphics from the smaller screen and feels dated. It also takes away physical buttons for climate and audio control, which is a hassle.

The Prime comes in the entry-level Plus, the mid-level Premium, and the top-of-the-line Advanced. According to C & D, this is how they match up:

The Prime Plus starts at $27,985 and includes niceties such as LED headlights and taillights, heated door mirrors, automatic grille shutters, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, a 4.2-inch driver information display, automatic climate control, heated front seats, and a proximity key with push-button start. That equipment largely makes up for the $3625 price premium over the sparsely equipped base, non-Plussed Prius. Apples-to-apples, the Prime Plus is just $365 more than a similarly equipped Prius hybrid, which is called the Three in Toyota parlance. This test model rang in at $28,380, thanks to its $395 Hypersonic Red paint.

Next up the ladder is the $29,685 Prime Premium, which swaps out the Plus’s 7.0-inch infotainment display for a massive 11.6-inch, vertically oriented screen that mimics the built-in tablet in Tesla’s Model S and Model X. The only other upgrades are SofTex faux-leather seat upholstery in place of cloth, proximity-key sensors for the front passenger door and the trunk to augment the Plus’s one in the driver’s door, and an inductive phone-charging pad in the center console.

The top-spec Advanced commands $33,985 and adds a heated steering wheel, a color head-up display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, parking sensors, a self-parking system, and remote controls for the HVAC system. The Advanced also is the only Prime that includes blind-spot monitoring, although adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automated emergency braking, automatic high-beams, and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist are standard on all models. Next to special, extra-cost paint colors, no options are offered on any Prime.

All-in-all, C & D asserts once again that most people would be better off with a Chevrolet Volt. You can fit a fifth passenger, you get more than double the electric miles (53 according to the EPA), it looks nice, it drives and handles better, and it’s more powerful (149 horsepower combined). The publication’s test netted 60-MPGe over the Prime’s 50 MPGe.

Yes, the Prime costs less. C & D writes:

“Given all this, the Prime’s bargain status relative to the Volt seems more like cautious positioning on Toyota’s part than an incentive in its own right.”

The base Volt is $110 more than a loaded Prime Advanced, and $6,110 more than the base Prime. Once you load up the Volt to match the Prime’s best features, it will cost you about $6,000 more than the loaded Prime Advanced. But, C & D still believes that it’s worth it, due to the Volt’s:

” … vastly greater electric-only range, quicker acceleration, and superior dynamics.”

Source: Car and Driver

Categories: Toyota

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71 Comments on "Which Toyota Prius Prime Is Right For You … Or Should You Buy A Volt?"

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The Volt is also eligible for the full $7500 tax credit (if you qualify) while the Prius Prime is not. This narrows the price difference.

Yes, this is an important distinction while the tax credits are still around, and most people seem to not realize this effectively hidden price increase on a Prius Prime due to its small battery.

…but only helpful to those who are eligible to use the entire credit.

A lease makes everyone eligible so no excuse there. I was looking into leasing one recently and it looks like you can get one for under $150/month after credits. What a great deal this is for people that think they will suffer from range anxiety in an BEV.

Honestly the Volt is a great car! It almost has the electric range of a first gen low range EV and it seemlessly converts to gas when the time comes. It has good acceleration like all EVs.

The Volt is perfect for anyone uncertain about going EV only. In fact it’s great for a second long range car to augment an EV only primary car.

I think GM did a lot right with the Volt concept and the second gen successfully addressed any issues the first version had. In an ideal world the Volt would dramatically outsell the Prius Prime. Unfortunately a lot of eco-conscious people will just go with a Prius Prime by default, even though it’s a slug.

Hopefully solid sales of PP will​ at least convince Toyota to get it’s head out of it’s ass when it comes to EVs.

Or, should you LEASE a BMW i3 REX.
>>> YES <<<

-Actually may be cheaper to lease the BMW than the Prius Prime Advanced.

-Only 500% Better then Prime Advanced.
-Smooth acceleration
-Sophisticated BMW Suspension
-MUCH QUIETER, with the battery in the floor.
-Nicer Interior, must better materials.
( Cloth, Wool and Leather material available that BLOW Away the Prime. )
-WHY SUFFER with just 25 miles of range???
Only question is, do you have a BMW dealership willing to sell you one.

Hint: Us a buying service like Consumer Reports, True Car buying service to get a lower than list price and a good lease.

Yes, I concur about Prius Prime pricing.
After you see what you get with the BMW i3 REX, clearly Toyota pricing is $5000 to $6000 too high.

Lease offer to Lease offer, the Prime is by far over priced.

Reality would disagree with you. Toyota is selling them as fast as they can make them which says to me they are extremely adept at pricing their product to the market and are the opposite of the fools you claim they are. Bottom line is that the ‘right’ price is the price that the market will bear….which is what every freshman level economics class teaches because it’s true.

Or, is it buyers with “asymmetric information”.
If you haven’t priced and test driven an i3, sure, you could be happy with the Toyota CMAX/Prime.

Some additional advantages of BMW Rex
Frequent visits to dealer to replace expensive tiers
When u need the Rex on long trip, you also get the drivetrain error, and you get confused if u should goto the dealer instead.
Rest all is fine

I own a Cad ELR and a Volt. Great cars. Extremely quiet, smooth handling, quick throttle response, average 100 plus mpg on both & just Fun to drive.

If I had never owned a Volt or Spark then I probably would have bought a Prius Prime if it were available 2 years ago. And I would have been perfectly happy with it.

I would not personally consider buying a Prime now. I would buy a Volt or an i3 Rex. Similarly, I would buy a Malibu hybrid or ioniq before a standard Prius.

But the Prime is an adequate first plug in, is incredibly efficient and is very well priced. If I were a deficated prius driver, the Prime is a no brainer!

Well said

I’m certain he meant, “- if I were a DEDICATED Prius driver….”, but that typo gave me a good laugh! L 🙂 L

LOL darn iphone keyboard autofill.

Wish I had an edit button! XD

LOL! Autocorrect is not our friend!

I thought you meant that certain brands of cars’ drivers are Constipated.

I couldn’t disagree with that either.

The Prime = Tolerable, and labor intensive, with just a 25 mile range, you’ll ALWAYS be plugging in, rain or shine, and it drives middling.
The BMW i3 is Amazing.

I test drove both.
I leased the BMW.

When you have an phenomenal car like the BMW i3 REX to pick from, you have to wonder where did Toyota stash that engineering money for the Prime, because they didn’t spend it.

Toyota went cheap on Prime development.
BMW spent good money for Outstanding results.

We are enjoying our Prius prime it handles well comfortable and I concur fun to drive . The LED lights are incredibly bright .
The EV battery is rated at 25 miles we are now at 36 miles after a full charge. After 1500 miles we are averaging 114 miles total mpg and ev

Volt’s only drawback is no power seats. With 50+ mile EV range, MUCH better look, Apple Car Play. US made for those who like to boost US industry and jobs.

Prius sales are likely brand loyalty with so many Prius’s out there.

But the look. How they are selling any of the new Prius is hard to explain the design is so awful.

Also the lack of adaptive cruise as even an option.

“Also the lack of adaptive cruise as even an option.’

The Volt has adaptive cruise option. Do you mean the Prius Prime doesn’t offer adaptive cruise?

That’s because it is standard!

Always cracks me up to see folks with US Flag stickers, even WWII Vets, driving 100% Japanese made Prius’.

Really, are you 90?

“beauty is in the eye of the beholder”
I wish reviewers & people in general would get off this ‘looks’ nonsense.

Car and Driver calls the Toyota Prius Prime an anteater, or a platypus, but still prettier than the regular Prius, which looks like it was designed “by people obviously on psychotropic drugs.”
Car and Driver seem to be the ones “on psychotropic drugs.” What a puerile comment!

Now I will contradict myself to say the F150, most beloved of US vehicles is, in Aussie parlance ‘as ugly as hat-full of a$$holes!’

Just by looks alone, Volt – hands down.

Prime is technically now a midsize by dimensions, while Volt classifies as a compact. Toyota hogties the Prime by giving it 4 seating positions, not 5. I don’t believe Toyota foresaw GM adding that half seat in back of Volt. It was something GM’s analytics showed was important to consumers. Now, if GM could match the Cruze, built on the same platform, the next Volt should they build one, would meet many more people’s needs for rear seat occupancy.

Crazily enough my sister and her husband looked at a used Volt and didn’t like it based on the lack of a center back seat. I convinced them to look at a new Volt, just to see, not expecting anything to come if it, and they ended up leasing one that day! The back seat is important to a lot of people (gen2 is also a significant upgrade in a lot of other ways too).

Yes, the middle seat completes the equation for many with kids. But please, never stick an adult in that middle seat. It’s just not made for that. 😉

I agree with the majority of posts here though. The Volt is better in nearly every way – looks, performance, utility, etc. – except price, though price is more comparable with the larger tax credit on the Volt that most people don’t even think to consider.

Many people get 70+ miles of range in their 53 mile rated Volt, before the gas engine kicks in to go as far as they may need to without stopping to charge.

The only place the Volt doesn’t really shine is if you are brand loyal to Toyota.

The only place the Volt doesn’t shine is reliability.

There, fixed it for you.

It’s really hard to not give the edge to the Volt. Really the only drawback is the manufacturer GM vs Toyota otherwise the Volt is superior at any level especially looks, built quality and electric range.

Not often you’ll find someone claiming GM has a better build quality than Toyota.

Much worse than average reliability on 2016 Volts would indicate you are dead wrong.

*interior built quality *
If you actually go test a prime you will be shocked but the amount of cheap plastic used. It truly is an expensive economy car.

Blind spot warning should be standard,not only on the top option. But at least they offer vegan friendly seats. Volt and bolt give you dead animal skins on top options only.

Agreed. Also, it baffles me that leather is still considered to be the “premium” option over cloth. The look, feel, and smell of leather is inferior to quality cloth seats. I would actually pay more for cloth.

Agreed! I have ‘cried in the wilderness’ for decades about the leather con. Baking hot in summer, freezing in winter, slippery and sweat-retaining. Oh, the power of ‘marketing’ added to the appeal to pomposity!
Suddenly, I feel “the need for TWEED!”

Fake leather on my Prime. Good and durable. I initially preferred the new second generation Volt until I discovered the fancier saftey options came with leather seats and the homely, pricey, larger wheels. That killed it. I’m not a vegan but really don’t want animal skin seats.

The Prime Advanced IS rather weird looking. The new Prius is too. Too angular. It must not negatively affect aerodynamics though I’d expect a Chevy Camaro or Corvette shape to be optimal.(I am a pilot)

The Prime does great for around our city driving. Since December 2016, we’ve only filled up the gas tank once.
I occasionally force it to run the engine.

In winter a full charge (5+30 on 120V) house current was worth 25 miles EV range. Summer it’s 32 miles. Spouse assumed the Prime as her car!

The loaded safety features are welcome. I would hope these sensors become increasingly standard on more cars.

The Prime “leather” is hot in summer, while the rest of your body is comfortable from the AC, your back will be hot. Absolutely no breathability.

Test Drives are a good thing.

After surviving in a paltry LEAF for 45,000 miles, and now a Tesla for the last 61,000 miles, I can’t see the need for carrying around a whole ICE drivetrain when batteries alone can do the job….with performance and style to boot (Tesla)….

I know there’s gonna be plenty of naysayers about Tesla’s cost, but there are plenty of used Model S on the market in near new condition for a reasonable price….

I don’t get why the pubic and most auto manufacturers are so hesitant to jump fully into the EV market…

Since it seems we can’t have a post about any PHEV without some EV purist coming on here and complaining about the vehicle having a gasoline engine… Perhaps ever article written about a BEV we should have PHEV people complain about those NOT having a gas engine.. Wouldn’t that be annoying? Or maybe we could just not do either one and we’d all get along a lot better!

Well, the prime is so bad at being a plugin hybrid, it really invites the criticism.

“I don’t get why the pubic and most auto manufacturers are so hesitant to jump fully into the EV market…”
The reason is right there in what you typed…

As an owner of two PHEVs (Ford Fusion Energi and Chevy Volt), I disagree that all BEV electrics like the Tesla are better. First of all, most daily commutes are less than 50 miles, meaning in an all electric BEV you will be carrying around an extra 200 miles – 50 miles = 150 miles of lithium ion batteries with you that you hardly use. The weight of this surplus battery is close to 1000 lbs (if not more), which is far heavier than carrying around a backup ICE engine that weighs 200~300 lbs at the most, not to mention the backup ICE engine is much, much cheaper. When you do need to go more than 50 miles say on weekend getaways, I much prefer using a backup ICE engine than a large battery anyways, given the inconvenience of charging up compared to filling up.

Your weight numbers are off. The Bolt battery weighs 960 pounds so “excess” is like 600 pounds. I suspect gas tank, exhaust, ICE, tranny etc is pretty close.

Then there is the maintenance on said ICE. As far as cost, you are correct but that advantage diminishes every single day.

Now – I don’t know numbers but I really suspect the Bolt is faster than an EV mode Ford. I also suspect the Bolt has more cargo area.

So – you can cherry pick the ICE advantages (and you are way off on weight) or you can cherry pick big battery advantages.

I have a Leaf and an S. Would have gotten a PHEV if one met my needs but I do really like not having an ICE.

The Prime is the New Toyota CMAX.
It also loses all trunk space with that 300 lbs of battery in the back. This is really the worse engineering design on the market.

The ride is really damaged by that battery, even with the new independent rear suspension. Rough roads are not kind to the Prime.

Cargo volume of the Prime: 19.8 cubic feet vs Chevy Volt at 10.6 cubic feet.

That has to be with the seats down.
Otherwise the usability of the hatch area is nonexistent, except for duffle bags.

I don’t think so. The Prime’s 19.8 is 7.6 cubic feet less than the regular Prius’s 27.4. Here’s some quotes from reviews: ” Prime’s cargo floor is raised to accommodate the larger battery – leaving a 3-inch step down to the folded rear seat back – but the area is wide at the rear and includes some under-floor storage space. Despite losing some space to the larger battery, cargo room remains quite good. The higher floor steals some of it and results in a 3-inch drop down to the folded rear seatbacks, but the area is wide at the rear with an under-floor bin beneath. In any case, there’s still more usable (or at least, expandable) space than in any hybrid sedan, which typically sacrifices some or all of its ‘pass-through’ capability by placing the battery up against the back of the trunk wall.” — Consumer Guide “On the downside, cargo space in the Prime is reduced by more than seven cubic feet compared to the Prius. This is due to the larger 8.8 kWh battery residing under the raised cargo floor, equipped with almost twice as many Li-ion cells. But at 19.8 cubic feet accessible through a large hatch… Read more »

The drive comparison of a pure EV like the Tesla is just 1000% better then a car like the Prime. You really have to drive it to understand.

Yes, on paper, a Prime is a good option.
But, if you take two test drives, you’ll walk away with understanding.
The Prime is destroyed by real world driving.

For example, when you get used to a real EV, and get back into a Prime, you’ll ask yourself: “Does this car need a new muffler, is there a hole in the exhaust?” What is all that road noise! Why is this car so loud?

I’m glad BEVs work for you. The fast charging network where I live is inadequate to support longer trips.

The reason is money. Teslas are expensive. If you’re into used cars, then you can get a used Volt quite cheaply, much more cheaply than a Tesla.

I personally feel that families with two cars could easily have one of them be an EV (especially if it’s a Bolt or Tesla), but there are a lot of one car families who simply cant go all-electric.

And that’s before we even talk about the lack of choice in EVs. In California there are about 16 EVs for sale. Most of them are functionally identical to each other (small, short-range hatches/sedans). And half of them aren’t available outside CARB states. You simply can’t satisfy the entire spectrum of needs with 8 models or 16.

Because I have a 40 mile round trip commute (20 each way), I have gone 2k miles on approximate 2 gallons of gas in my Volt. And yet it was a pleasure to drive up to SanFrancisce from LA a couple months back. It’s rock solid, with seating for 5 in a pinch (albeit literally). It’s also fast like a mini Tesla, especially in the super fun sport mode. According to C/D, Volt is 0-60 in 7.6 vs. 12.2 for the Prime in Electric mode (which hopefully is most of the time). The Volt beat the prime in their comparison, 209 to 175 total points. http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/2017-chevrolet-volt-premier-vs-2017-toyota-prius-prime-advanced-comparison-test-final-scoring-performance-data-and-complete-specs-page-4

Base Model 3 to be 5.6 sec 0-60 or maybe even better with the larger battery (I’m hoping for a 5.2). Performance models to follow will no doubt be in the 3’s Giddyup!

But agree – Volt is better than prime….

With EVs,I don’t think 0-60 is a good measure of quickness. It’s more about off the line acceleration. There aren’t all that many times that you go 0-60 when driving around town (only once when you first get in the freeway). Meanwhile you go 0-30 numerous times.

There’s also the instant response when you hit the accelerator. It’s so much smoother than a gas car which has to change gears first.

Glad to see that most of the people here realize how superior the Volt is. Especially when you realize that it can be had for the same price, or less, than the PP. That’s because of the higher tax credit and better dealer discounting.

If only regular people did enough research to realize.

I guess the PP will be a good entry point for people to the plug-in world. Maybe they’ll buy a better product from a manufacturer who is serious about EVs next time.

I’m afraid with just 25 miles of range, this will be their last electric.

I thought it was crazy Motor Trend picked the Prime for its “much better hybrid mode”.

With Volt, you get a whopping 4 second faster 0-60, and it’ll do it all electric.

Picking a PHEV by who’s got the better hybrid mode is like picking a cruze by the life boats. I’d rather pick the car that doesn’t need to bail me out of all-electric mode so soon.

Couldn’t agree more…

Would never buy a Toyota Hybrid –until Toyota gets serious about EVs — they are 100% off my list.

The prius is a lot more efficient on gas only though

Which it needs to be to make up for only going half the distance in all-electric mode.

We have a 2017 regular hybrid Prius. The average mpg given all kinds of driving (mountains, city, interstate, country roads, both of us driving) nearing ,6000 miles on the odometer is 59.9. Better than a smaller Prius C. As for the utility of a Prime it fits a niche for around town driving nicely. 24 to 32 miles range. Bigger batteries take longer to charge. How do I do that on a common 300 mile trip I take? If you really want to criticize Toyota (I am a fan), pick on Entune and their proprietary maps system. Purchase map update chips? Yep. Google maps and Android Auto. How about it Toyota?

“Bigger batteries take longer to charge” is almost completely irrelevant. You get about the same miles of range per hour of plugging in at an AC charger whether using a Volt or PP.

Bigger batteries charge faster, you get more miles per hour than you do with a smaller battery. It just takes longer to go from 0% to 100% on a bigger battery.

IMO the Prime isn’t a bad offering, each to their own. Compared to a volt it is cheaper and its a Toyota which means the dealer, reliability and build quality is probably better in most cases.

I don’t think I would would be critical of anyone who bought a Prime when they could have had a volt. They are close enough not to really worry about. If I had a Prime which I drove to work I’d fill up every 2 months. If I had a volt it would be never but if my commute was 7 miles shorter or I could charge at work there would be no difference between the 2 cars. The long trips would be about the same.

Clearly there will be some difference and it will be big in % terms but it won’t be that huge in $’s and c’s terms.

I’m A EV guy now (driving a leaf and getting a Model 3 hopefully soon!) but if I were buying one — it would be the Volt hands down. The Prime just looks chincy and I’m not sure where Toyota / Lexus is going with their styling — but it is NOT good…..

This question is five years late. It is time to move on. At present the BoltEV is a no-brainer.

With a Chevy Bolt next to a Toyota Prius Prime, the Bolt is much more fun to drive. Prius does have its hangers on, that will stay in a Toyota until Tesla Model 3, Possibly?

Every time I read articles like this I wish GM would drop the price of the Volt to compete with the Prime. If the volt started at $27.5k I am sure GM could sell enough of them to make it profitable at the lower price. They could also take big chunks out of the hybrid market.

toyota has unfortunately been left behind in the electrics market… 🙁

i would have to say volt is better…plus it has a instrument cluster. 🙂

i’ve had 4 priusi and now have a volt to do all my driving.i won’t bad mouth the prius,i’ve driven 100s of 1000 s of miles in them.i purchased all used at very good prices.BUT the volt is so much superior in every way that there is no argument.