Toyota Prius Prime Exhaustive Review: The Good, The Bad, The Verdict

JAN 4 2019 BY DAVID MURRAY 95

The Toyota Prius Prime is a solid, well-priced car, but there are some notable caveats.

Hi, I’m David – A self confessed EV and PHEV enthusiast.  I currently own 5 plug-in vehicles that I rent out on Turo, and I’ve owned several EVs and PHEVs before.  I wanted to write a review of the Toyota Prius Prime and talk about the good and the bad. This review is written mostly for enthusiasts of plug-in cars, and perhaps not so much for the general public who seem to remain mystified by plug-in vehicles.

So, why do I own one of these? Well, I wanted to add another vehicle to my Turo fleet and I was trying to decide between a Chevy Bolt EV or a Prius Prime.  Don’t get me wrong, if the car had been a car “for me” I would have rather had the Bolt. I ended up choosing the Prime because after doing research on Turo, I had decided the Prime would probably rent out more often than the Bolt EV, especially in the area I live in.  Part of my reasoning was that it would also attract customers who were just looking to rent a Prius, thus helping to keep the car rented out and essentially pay the bill on it. So, the reason I picked the car was purely business and not personal bias.

The reason I mentioned this is because I want to set the stage that I’m going to be giving this car a more unbiased review than what you might get from somebody who bought one just to drive for themselves, or what a professional car reviewer might give.

Problem #1 – Finding one.

I live in the Dallas/Ft.Worth area.  When I decided to go with the Prime, I started shopping around for one.  The first thing I noticed is that no Toyota dealers in the Dallas/Ft.Worth area had any in stock.  Literally, none. At first, I thought this might be because the car was selling so well they couldn’t keep them in stock.  So, I drove to the nearest toyota dealer to me, Vandergriff Toyota, and asked them when they were planning to have the Prime in stock.  One thing I noticed is that they actually did not even have any regular Prius hybrids on the lot. Literally, none. The salesmen didn’t know what a Prius Prime was, but said he could order a Prius for me if I wanted.  After he went and chatted with the manager he came back and changed his stance. He said they do not carry the Prime and cannot even order it. Then he tried to sell me a Rav4. Obviously, I left.

I drove to another dealer over in Dallas.  They had a Prime on the lot for giving demo drives, which I took them up on.  However, as you probably guessed, it wasn’t even charged up. They didn’t even have a charger on the lot.  So driving it wasn’t really any different than driving a regular Prius. He said they would happily order a Prime for me, but they were adding an additional fee of like $5,000 over MSRP for the trouble.  I said, no thanks.

I found the same thing time after time when going to different Toyota dealers.  Eventually, I started talking with some Toyota dealers in New York about possibly having one shipped to me.  At first this seemed like an attractive deal. I even paid $1,000 to secure the vehicle I wanted. But in the end, the cost of shipping ended up being much higher than the originally suggested it would be, plus they wouldn’t sell the vehicle to me at the advertised price they had on their website, saying that was for local customers only.  I had to demand they return my $1,000, which they eventually did.

After two months of trying to buy a Prime, I had just about given up.  But then one of the local dealers in Ft.Worth mysteriously ended up with one on the lot.  Of course, they wanted MSRP and not a dollar less. It was a premium model with the color I liked, so I bought it.   That was six months ago. Are things any better today? Barely. I just did a check on cars.com and there are exactly FOUR Prius Primes available in the Dallas/Fort.Worth area.  So, if you really want one, you can buy one. But dealers aren’t exactly going out of their way to stock and advertise them. In fact, during the entire time I’ve owned one, I’ve only seen exactly 2 others on the road.

When the Prius Prime was first announced, I had made a prediction that Toyota would be selling 5,000 of these per month, maybe more, maybe as many as 10,000.  I had many good reasons for saying this would happen. I said that Toyota dealers were used to selling hybrids and they would be eager to sell more, rather than doing like Chevy dealers.  But, it turns out at least in this part of the country, Toyota dealers are treating the Prime exactly how Chevy dealers treat the Volt and Bolt. So, this is a big fail on Toyota’s part. Obviously they aren’t interested in selling more than 2,000 Primes per month.

It’s a great car, as far as cars go!

So, to be balanced with this review, I want to talk as much about the good parts as the bad.  The Prius is actually a really comfortable car to drive. In fact, it’s the most comfortable of any of my EVs.  It has visibility out the sides and rear that go unmatched. That’s one of those things I didn’t use to care much about.  However, since I’m often driving a different car each day depending on what is rented out, I start to notice differences like this.  And compared to the Chevrolet Volt, Tesla, or Fiat, the visibility is amazing.

The Prime has been very reliable.  It hasn’t had any infotainment glitches, freezes, or reboots.  Something I can’t say about the Volt or Tesla. It hasn’t had to go back to the dealer for anything except an oil change.  Again, something I can’t say about any of my other cars. I think it’s safe to say that the legendary Toyota reliability will apply very much to this car.

Every Turo customer has brought the car back and absolutely raved about how great of a car it was.  I haven’t had a single complaint or problem experienced with any of my customers. It is literally a 100% satisfaction rating. This is definitely something I can’t say about the other cars.  Sure, I can say that the Volt and the BMW i3 get like 95% satisfaction, but I can’t say 100%. The Tesla probably comes close, but I haven’t had it long enough to really make the comparison.

The Prius Prime is a modified Prius.

So, in the world of plug-in cars we often talk about whether a car is built from the ground up to be a plug-in car or not.  Obviously, the Chevy Bolt, BMW i3, and Tesla cars are definitely designed this way. But many other cars are conversions or shared platforms with gas cars.  This is especially the case with PHEVs. In fact, the vast majority of PHEVs were originally gas cars that have been modified. This is abundantly obvious with cars like Ford’s Fusion and C-Max energi.  I think many of BMW’s PHEVs are also clearly conversions.

So what about the Prius Prime?  Well, outwardly, it would appear to be very different from the regular Prius.  But most of what you are seeing is just different body panels. Plus the liftback uses different glass and a carbon fiber construction.  I believe this was most likely done to reduce weight, helping to offset the weight gained by the larger battery.

Inside is a different story.  There is virtually no difference in how the dash layout or instrumentation appears as compared to the regular Prius hybrid.  Not that this is a problem, as the regular Prius isn’t bad. Obviously, the rear seat only seats two, a common complaint about the Prime.  And if you open the hatchback, you’ll see a taller floor, limiting storage space. It’s not as bad as something like Ford’s products. There’s no obvious battery hump, but if you had a regular Prius next to the Prime, you’d clearly see how much cargo area you lost to the battery.

The instrumentation is of course all software based. There are essentially 3 color LCD screens: two small ones for the gauge cluster, and one large one for the infotainment system.  However, it is obvious to me that they’ve simply tacked on a few extra screens to the regular Prius screens. In fact, it seems rather clunky the way it was done. Overall, the EV mode reminds me of early digital cameras that started to include movie-clip capabilities.  It’s like that wasn’t really the main focus of the product, but it was a neat afterthought. That’s sort of how I feel the EV mode stuff was added to the instrumentation of the Prime.

The battery pack placement in the hatchback is another indication that the PHEV aspect was very much added onto an existing vehicle, rather than designing it from ground up.  The charging door is annoying. It’s twice as large as it should be. I understand the reason. It’s because in Japan the Prime gets a Chademo port alongside the J1772. But they chose not to offer the Chademo in the USA. Yet, we still get the huge charge port door.  I feel cheated that I didn’t get Chademo, and I also didn’t get a redesigned quarter panel with an appropriately sized charge door. Another indication that Toyota didn’t plan to sell enough of these to offer the variation.

How does it compare with other PHEVs?

OK, so here’s where things get interesting. The Prius Prime is the 2nd best-selling plug-in vehicle in the USA for 2018 and the best-selling PHEV.  So, that must mean something, right?

The Prius Prime offers 25 miles of EV range.  As low as that sounds, it’s actually not bad. Of the approximately 26 PHEVs currently sold in the USA, it ranks number 4, right under the BMW i3 Rex, Chevy Volt, and Honda Clarity.  However, the Volt is about to disappear, which means the Prius Prime will move up to the number 3 spot shortly. And to be honest, I drive the car fairly often and I rarely ever use the gas engine.  Granted, I am mostly using it for running errands, going to family’s house, and the grocery store. But the bottom line is, 25 miles is more than most people think. That’s about an hour’s worth of driving in city traffic.  It’s about half an hour on the freeway. Granted, most PHEV drivers are always asking for more EV range, and I think that’s only natural. But the reality is 25 miles is enough for a lot of people.

How is the acceleration performance compared to other PHEVs?  The car is so slow that my wife and I have nicknamed it “The Slowmobile.”  (This is a reference from the Futurama Episode “How Hermes Requisitioned his Groove Back.”)  Now, to be fair, it is probably as fast as the average car was 20 or 30 years ago. It does 0 to 60 in about 10.2 seconds (Car and Driver) in hybrid mode, or 12.2 seconds in EV mode.   As far as EV mode goes, the performance is actually pretty decent compared to other PHEV models except the Volt or BMW i3 Rex. But, the hybrid-mode performance is where it really lacks.  For example, the Ford Fusion Energi can do 0-60 in about 8 seconds using hybrid mode.

To be fair, driving around in the city using EV mode is actually just fine.  The 0-30 performance is decent and you can easily outrun the casual driver from a stop light if you need to get in front of somebody.  Where it feels really slow is above 30 mph. Again, trying to be fair I’ve driven the car in EV mode plenty on the highway, even at 80 mph.  It will definitely get you there and during the course of normal driving patterns, it never feels slow. But, when you suddenly want to go fast and you press the throttle to the floor, you’ll find there is no extra power to be had.  Even though the car is technically faster in hybrid mode, I honestly can’t tell the difference. I think it is because what little power it has in EV mode is delivered instantly, whereas the slightly more power it has in hybrid mode is delivered more gradually.  Also, I think the extra power it has in hybrid mode is probably only above 30 mph, which means you won’t notice any difference in regular city driving.

One thing that does go in its favor.  If the battery is charged, it always defaults to EV mode.  And you can push the pedal all the way to the floor and it will stay in EV mode.  Granted, it may not be super fast but at least you don’t have to worry about engaging the gas engine if you try to accelerate too hard, unlike some other PHEVs.

However, there’s one mystery I haven’t been able to find the answer to.  The Prius Prime has more or less the same acceleration performance as the standard Prius hybrid.  Yet, it has a much larger battery pack that can deliver more amps. It also has a larger inverter so that it can have an EV mode that allows the car to operate at any speed in EV mode.  It has the same ICE which outputs the same horsepower. So, in theory the Prius Prime should be able to accelerate a little better than a standard prius. This is, assuming you were operating in hybrid mode and allowing the ICE to run.  So why isn’t it any faster? My guess is they didn’t want it to be faster. I have several working theories as to why, but I’m not sure which of those theories is correct. I’ll be interested to read any comments as to what your theories might be.

What about value for the money?

Here’s where I think the Prius Prime really comes through.  At a starting price of $27,300, it is hard to complain much about the car.  And currently, it still enjoys a federal tax credit of around $4,500, plus I got another $2,500 from the state of Texas.  So, effectively, I got $7,000 off the price of the car, making it considerably cheaper than a regular Prius.

Government subsidies aside, it’s still hard to complain much about the price of the car considering what you are getting.  It’s priced much cheaper than most any other plug-in hybrids, even ones that offer less EV range. For example, the Clarity PHEV starts at $33,400.   The BMW i3 Rex starts at $48,300 and most likely will have less equipment at that price than the Prius Prime base model. So, the only two PHEVs with more range than the Prime also cost considerably more.

So, yes.  I think the Prius Prime is a good value for the money.

Thermal Management

The batteries in the Prius Prime are air-cooled using a fan to force air from the cabin through the battery cells.  This is the same way Prius batteries have been cooled since the very first Prius. This is bound to be better than Nissan’s complete lack of thermal management, but probably not as good as a liquid cooled setup.  The real question is, how will they hold up long-term? I’ve heard stories that some other air-cooled batteries, such as in Ford’s products end up with capacity loss after a few years in a hot climate. It remains to be seen whether Toyota will have that issue.  Historically, Toyota has always had reliable battery packs in their hybrids. But it’s important to realize that a regular hybrid can lose half of its battery capacity and most drivers will never know the difference. In fact, the batteries are sized that way on purpose so that they will last the life of the car, even with degradation.   However, in a PHEV drivers will certainly notice if there is capacity loss, because that will translate into EV range loss.

Another strange behavior I thought I’d mention is the active cooling while charging.  During the Summer, if it is hot outside and I power off the car, it will pop up a message on the screen.  It wants to know if it is okay to run the air conditioner during charging. If I say yes, it will run the AC during charging which will cool the entire cabin, but it will also cool the battery pack.  If I say no, or just don’t happen to notice the message and walk away from the car (which is likely with most customers) then it will not run the AC.

I’m totally baffled by this design.  I can’t really think of any scenario where it would be a problem to run the AC while the car is charging, whether it is indoors or outdoors.  It isn’t like the engine will be running. There won’t be any emissions. Other cars like the Volt or a Tesla don’t ask, they just run the battery cooling by default.  There doesn’t appear to be any setting within the car where you can have this default to yes. So, I have to be careful to remember each and every time I power down the car in hot weather to look for the message and authorize it to cool the battery.

Declining Prius sales

So, the Prius Prime doesn’t sell in huge numbers, which I largely attribute to problem #1 that you read at the beginning of this article.  Despite that, it still accounts for about one third of Prius family sales at this point. This can largely be attributed to the overall decline in Prius sales in general.  And while some people claim the Prius sales are declining because the new body style is ugly, or because people are switching from hybrids to EVs, the real answer is something else entirely.  Toyota is now offering hybrid options in more and more vehicles. People used to buy the Prius because they “wanted a hybrid” and the Prius was pretty much the only game in town worth having.  But now, people can buy a Rav4 hybrid, Camry hybrid, Avalon hybrid, and in a few months they’ll be able to get a Corolla hybrid. These hybrid models are cannibalizing sales from the Prius line.

What’s my final verdict on the car?

Well, admittedly, it’s not a car I’d probably buy for myself.  But the only reason I say that is because there are a handful of better cars on the market.  But not many. If there were no Chevy Volt or Tesla Model 3, I’d probably consider one. The car is slow, but I think the only reason I feel that way is because I’m so accustomed to my other EVs that are much faster.  The EV range also seems low, but again, I think that is because I’ve been spoiled by my other cars which, admittedly cost more money. It’s certainly a car that I would not discourage anyone from buying if they were interested.

My opinion – What Toyota needs to do

Beyond creating a compelling all-electric vehicle (a topic for a totally different discussion), they need differentiate the Prius from their other hybrids.  The need to make it the technological leader again. Personally, I feel they need to drop the standard Prius model completely and make all Prius models PHEVs.  This would require some redesign because the battery needs to be packaged a little better so that there is less cargo compromise. The Volt’s T-shaped battery was perfect for a vehicle that sits low to the ground like a sedan.  However, other battery shapes could work as well.

Then they need to make it clear to their dealers that all dealers need to stock this car.  GM was very lax on this, for reasons that only GM knows the answer. I’m at just as much of a loss on Toyota’s stance and why these cars aren’t stocked and sold at every Toyota dealership.  Why have I never seen an advertisement for the Prius Prime?

Toyota could easily be selling 6,000 to 10,000 PHEVs every month if they wanted to.  Obviously, at this point, they don’t want to.

Toyota PRIUS PRIME

Toyota Prius Plug-In (Prius Prime)
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95 Comments on "Toyota Prius Prime Exhaustive Review: The Good, The Bad, The Verdict"

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The Prime seems to be tailor built to keep regular Prius owners in the Toyota family all while meeting compliance…”Why buy any other PHEV/EV when we can give you a HOV sticker?”…

Do Not Read Between The Lines

It’s not doing a particularly good job. They lost another 10% Prius+Prime sales so down to 77k.
They’re introducing the AWD Prius, so they won’t go all PHEV for now, but with the Corolla Hybrid coming, maybe they will kill the FWD Prius soon.

Just so you know, the HOV stickers in CA are only good for a couple years (they are also very difficult to remove) and because the Prius is an electric it is subject to the up to $150 registration premium because it helps you avoid the gas tax. So it is not a slam dunk. Now many hov lanes are just as packed as the regular ones and $150 goes a long way when you are buying gas for a 50MPG auto,

Great review, David!

Agreed! And I also think it’s baffling that Toyota isn’t pushing their dealerships to sell the car

Do Not Read Between The Lines

Well, if they’re in Texas, not a ZEV state, so they have no reason to push it.

I think Toyota limited production of the Prime for its first year or two so that they can work the bugs out before moving to more mass market level of production. There’s also probably little profit in the car at this point, and I expect they’re putting some thought into managing the 200k federal tax credit threshold, too.

When they introduced the Prime, I remember some executive quoted as saying that they expect it to move to mass market sales the way the second generation Prius liftback did.

the 25 miles electric here in the north becomes 15 meagre miles……

Here in Northern California, the 25 mile electric has become 31 for me.

I see low 30’s during the summer here in Minnesota. So, range drops to low 20’s in the winter

The article ends with a wild, unsubstantiated claim. Otherwise a good read.

The subheading says – My opinion. He ended by letting us know that he has an opinion, and he shared it. He also keeps that separate from the section with his Final Verdict. So, this is definitely ok.

I like wild, unsubstantiated opinions, Steven!

Bahaha

The writer is clearly offering his personal opinions. The concluding section even includes the qualifier “Personally, I feel…”

I welcome more articles written from a personal viewpoint! Thanks, InsideEVs; let’s see more of these. 🙂

I’m certain Toyota has the ability to build a much better BEV and if they ever get the message it will probably be well done. Btw the Prime is one ugly sucker. 🙂

I think you covered the salient points.
Good Review.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

If you care about efficiency, and the range is sufficient, and the performance is sufficient, and you don’t insist on a higher seating position, and you can plug it in, and you don’t mind the looks, this is the vehicle for you.

But it probably isn’t.

So much hassle and fights with dealerships to get a mediocre PHEV like Prime? Just go for BEV or PHEV of another brand.

“After he went and chatted with the manager he came back and changed his stance. He said they do not carry the Prime and cannot even order it. Then he tried to sell me a Rav4. Obviously, I left.” i wish there was some middle ground between Tesla and the dealership model. I don’t want to barter with a salesman when making such a large purchase, but i’d also like quality, timely service when things go wrong which Tesla seems to be dropping the ball on. (which is understandable given how much they’ve grown, but still annoying)

I guess Tesla service quality depends where you live. Their service center and mobile service have been excellent for me. I got a loaner at the service center and they texted me at every point during the service that day. Another time, mobile service meet me at my home to replace a dash part. I had a second mobile service at my work where they did a free tire rotation (first one only).

Independent dealers do not help with sudden volume growth — rather the opposite I’d say…

It’s true that customers would likely get better service: but only because sales growth would be limited the same as service capacity growth, i.e. there would be fewer customers to begin with…

I have been driving Prius PHV (Prime) in Finland for 18 months now – it is ultra reliable and almost zero emission in City. 25 miles is something you can easily achiece in summer conditions as mix City + highway.

I think Toyota has already all the tech available for any size BEV:s – for US I think the challenge is wrote in this article – Their Dealers are not insisting PHEV or BEV:s from Toyota – as soon as Toyota sees market demand = Dealer demand they will deliver BEV C-HR (already 2019-2020 in China), RAV4 and probably Prius as well.

Before 2025 every major manufacturer will provide mass market BEV:s including Toyota – the true race is just about to begin..

They only created a proper BEV division in late 2016 — so we won’t see any serious offerings before 2021 at least. ICE conversion compliance cars — like the mentioned C-HR — will never be competitive, or sold in meaningful volumes.

That’s how history repeats. Spreading a mantra of an ambiguous nature is how it starts.

The comment of “serious offerings” is so vague, it promotes the creation of a narrative. An enthusiast could claim anything they want and just adapt statements later on to appear to fit the outcome.

We’ve seen this before. It begins again…

Plus make it way less ugly….

Love the “slowmobile” nickname! Toyota is doing EVs/PHEVs a disservice (possibly on purpose) by perpetuating the myth that they have to be boring and slow.

Jeez – come to Maryland to buy a prime, they still have leftover 2017s (YES 2017!) on the lot.

Informative review David…thx. I wanted a Prime but the storage volume, reduced ground clearance and back seat tipped the scales to the PHEV Ioniq…which was also a bit less $ up here. Too bad because the local Toyota dealer is the only shop within 300 km to invest in the training/equipment for PHEVs

I own 2017 Prius model two now.

Reasons to buy a Prime:
1. 25 miles of EV range and we now have solar panels.
2. Federal tax incentive and Texas grant money.

The reasons I did not buy a Prime:
1. Stopping distance is greater that the Prius by about 4 feet
per the tests I have seen on line. Toyota should have upgraded
braking system.
2. No spare tire. Toyota should offer self sealing tires.
I could not find any self sealing 195/65r/15 tire size.
There is a lug wrench but no jack.
3. Less seating space and less trunk space.
4. No rear wiper.

I am looking forward to owning PHEV or EV in the future.
Good Luck to All
Jack

There IS a jack. It’s under the rear seat. And an air compressor.
I think that the stopping distance is just the extra weight on the same (?) tire size. Upgrade would need to be tire size, and that would lower efficiency and range, I believe.

we prefer without hesitation the Volt,here in the North!!!

Oliver
Thanks for info . Found this at Toyota website.
Toyota 2018 Prius Prime Quick Reference Guide
page 52 of 68 show jack location.
https://www.toyota.com/t3Portal/document/om-s/OM18W3QRG/pdf/OM18W3QRG.pdf
I carry air pump and tire plugging kit now even with having a spare tire.
It would be good to have the self sealing tires for Prime.
Wider tire can shorten stopping distances.

Good Luck to All
Jack

Sorry Page 50 not 52
Toyota 2018 Prius Prime Quick Reference Guide
page 50 of 68 show jack location.
https://www.toyota.com/t3Portal/document/om-s/OM18W3QRG/pdf/OM18W3QRG.pdf

Good Luck to All
Jack

You don’t need a rear wiper just put rain X on the window and it runs right off. And there is a jack that comes with the car.

Interior design is annoying, very. One year with the Prime after three years with V, and the lost third back seat and cargo is huge. Lack of cup holders really impacts! There are odd curved areas in door trays that no cup will fit- why even there? Battery takes away boot cargo and once anything is in the rearview is greatly diminished. Seat design overly scooped and sporty that child carseat difficult to safely insert. Back seat area cramped and seats do not recline enough. All due to battery- well, yes, that’s the purpose of the power, but I do not recommend this vehicle. Redesign for both recharge power and full use by people is needed. Other than the price, all the limits we find our choice would be different had we known.

The thing that makes me the most angry is when dealerships don’t have any plug-ins available at all and yet when an ICE SUV gets released at an auto show, it’s fully stocked in all dealerships two months later. When my mother and I went to the Mercedes dealership in the Huntsville Alabama area we told the guy we only wanted to look at the GLC350e. And of course they didn’t have it or any other plug-ins and the sales person didn’t even know what that was. And then he slyly said but we have so many other amazing suv’s Like the glc300 and gle. And as a result of not having plug-ins or EV’s even close to available, my mother bought the ICE GLC300… I hope automakers finally get their act together because this makes me so angry and frustrated when they have the tech and low polluting and pleasant cars we want but refuse to supply and sell them.

“And as a result of not having plug-ins or EV’s even close to available, my mother bought the ICE GLC300”

Well, there you go, unless / until consumers change their strategy, why would a dealer when its working for them and they can sell the car they want to .
Dont blame the dealer, blame your mother !

Totally agree – I ALWAYS tell the dealership that unless you show me a vehicle that I can plug-in, I’m not interested.

I’m surprised Toyota sells any at all. It takes the cake for being one of the most butt ugly cars ever released, plus you loose the fifth seat. I had the misfortune of seeing on in public and had to hold back the gag reflex.

Good write up, David, however you whiffed on one fact. The Prime is not #4 on range for PHEVs. Kia and Hyundai have models with 26-29 miles range, and the Pacifica has 33 miles range. Prime ties the Fusion Energi and only beats the pathetic European 12-16 mile offerings of Mercedes and BMW.

Thanks for posting that correction, PhEVfan!

I was aghast to see the writer claim the Prime is #4 in EV range among PHEVs, when it’s actually near the bottom of the list of what’s available in the U.S.

The writer is of course entitled to his opinion, but every review of the Prime should begin and end with the fact that most other PHEVs have better EV range than the Prius Prime, and some significantly better.

This week I was trying to cajole a Prius driver about parking at a DC charger in an otherwise packed parking lot

From experience I’ve learned to not come across as a Charger Cop but she got very defensive about her putative right to “use” the charger spot

I explain to these people that these are EV **charging** not parking spots (that’s also the law here) but her counterattack was how do you know I wasn’t going to charge, I have the app

That’s when I pointed to the J1772 charger 30’ away…

People.

I bought one last spring, there were a ton of them on the lots back then. It’s an OK commuter car for what I mostly use it for, I’m getting 94mpg, not bad. It’s also good for running errands around town, don’t use the gas engine for under 25 miles. In the summer I was getting 34 on electric, now 25 in winter. I also have a 2004 Prius that I have for a spare car, I have 140k miles on it. The one thing that bothers me is that it does not come with a spare tire!

I don’t get all the comments about a lack of spare tire. Most new cars these days don’t come with a spare; just an aerosol can of “tire fix”.

Most people I know just call AAA if they have a flat tire. Personally I’d rather have an actual spare and change it myself, rather than wait for AAA, but that’s just me.

Nice write-up. We had a 2010 Prius as backup for our BMW i3-REx. But when the BMW went down for a motor mount problem, driving the 2010 without dynamic cruise control and automatic emergency braking was a deal breaker. We sold the 2010 and bought a 2017 Prius Prime in Rhode Island.

I took a cheap flight and after a night in a motel, drove 1,200 miles home in less than 24 hours. One tank of gas half way home and the rest were bathroom and coffee breaks. Toyota’s standard TSS-P with dynamic cruise control, emergency braking, and lane keep assist made the long trip easy.

We call the Prime a ‘3 trip’ car around town versus the ’10 trip’ BMW i3-REx. On the highway, they are both great as my wife and her dogs appreciate the more frequent BMW fuel stops. In contrast, the 200-300 mile legs in the Prius Prime can really make the miles fly by. The shorter wheel base of the BMW means on some highways it can ride like a ‘rocking horse’ compared to the Prius Prime ‘comfy chair.’

Toyota here in the UK are still spending money on advertising both Toyota and Lexus as ‘plug in free electric driving’ and ‘self charging electric driving’ for their cars.
The Prius Prime is available but it is not easy to see online if you are buying a normal Prius or a Prime…
I guess they are waiting for H2 to ‘take off’… 🙂
Madness.

Same thing in France except I don’t know if the primé is sold. But also I don’t care.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

Yes, it is sold in France.

Great write up and testimony about the EV marketplace in the US. After reading many of the comments, I think the dearth of Primes in Texas is actually two-fold:
1) A mindset, i.e. “we don’t need EVs in Texas”, (“we don’t Tesla here either”) .
But of much more consequence:
2) Texas Toyota dealers cannot sell enough Primes to make a profit compared to other models. Simply, the money isn’t there. If they could sell 10-25 month, you’d see plenty on the lot. They just don’t sell enough, compared to Camrys , 4Runners and Corollas. My guess is dealers need to buy qty XX Primes annually before any worthwhile incentives kick -in.

I’ve owned a 2011 Prius (Hawaii), 2013 Plug-in (Rhode Island) and now 2018 Prime Advance. Much improvement over 2013 model, with crazy Z lights, I too miss the third seat in back but can delay with it. I did have to black cover the weird white center interior panel, and bought a black cover for weird white piece on steering wheel. Yes it’s not a Tesla 3, but about 20k cheaper once you get the Tesla options you really want.

I live in Dallas too, but easily ordered mine from McKinney TX (Mel) but typical MSRP with no upcharge. All my purchases were MSRP due to limited stock, though some other states have rebates. Prosper Tx would do the same (Prosper had some on lot but not Prime Advance). 2018 was first year Texas was even allowed to sell Plug-in PRIUS, so the dealers are still learning and getting inventory stripped from high volume states. It did takes months to get the grey advance one I wanted, but happy. Now if only Apple Play… 😉

In australia we have no prisus prime
And toyota advise as in there hybride adds
YOU DONT HAVE TO PLUG IT IN
AS IF THATS AN ADVANTAGE

In Europe and Australia Toyota positions its hybrids against diesels. Since many of the German hybrids sold there are PHEVs, customers often think hybrids have a plug. The no-plug marketing is intended to counter that view to better compete against diesel.

@David Murray
“Of course, they wanted MSRP and not a dollar less. It was a premium model with the color I liked, so I bought it.”

David if you wanted to buy another EV for your fleet and the dealer won’t sell for less than MSRP, I’d suggest purchasing through the Costco Auto Program where the purchase price is already pre-negotiated by Costco below MSRP. You don’t need to be a Costco member to get the pre-negotiated price, but a Costco member would have to go online to get you a referral code. You pick the options you want at a pre-negotiated price. It is a no hassle, no haggling purchase, and the dealer doesn’t try to play games because complaints to Costco could lead to removal from the program.

David, if you had to take a long road trip from your home base Dallas/Fort Worth to say New York or Seattle, which EV in your fleet would you take? Prius Prime, Model 3, i3 Rex, or other?

“The Prius Prime offers 25 miles of EV range. As low as that sounds, it’s actually not bad.”

It’s not merely bad, it’s very bad. The Honda Clarity PHEV has an all-electric EPA-rated range of 47 miles. Toyota has been making hybrid EVs in much greater numbers that any other auto maker, for many years; why don’t they have a PHEV with a range which puts every other to shame?

Because Toyota isn’t at all interested in making and selling compelling plug-in EVs, that’s why! Toyota is the company that keeps telling us there is no market for BEVs, while promoting fool cell cars (and the “hydrogen economy” hoax) as “the future of automobiles”.

“I just did a check on cars.com and there are exactly FOUR Prius Primes available in the Dallas/Fort.Worth area.”

In other words, Toyota is treating the Prius Prime as a compliance car. Toyota isn’t at all interested in selling the Prime in large numbers in the U.S. Despite that, the Prime is the #2 PEV seller in the U.S. this year, according to InsideEVs’ own Monthly Sale Report Card. Imagine how much more they could sell if it was made available in all 50 States!

No sense of patience, eh? Toyota has been focusing on global distribution, refining production along the way. Rushing to sell more in the United States would have been pointless. It’s very difficult to argue that it wasn’t sensible waiting until dust had settled from the inevitable GM fallout.

In the meantime, real-world data from owners is being shared. In my case, I’m averaging 125 MPG despite several 80 mph trips from Minnesota through South Dakota to Wyoming and back. My entire commute is EV, so the spin about range being bad is a load of greenwash.

Global distribution? That’s pretty funny when David couldn’t even easily buy in Dallas, TX. As for bogus 128 MPG, I’ve been averaging infinite MPG, and I suspect you’d be closer to infinite if you had Clarity PHV instead.

You mean Toyota has been focusing on doing everything they can to kill BEVs, right? They bet on the wrong horse (fool cells). Instead of cutting their losses and embracing the winner, they’re still trying to make people believe BEVs have no future. Releasing “slowmobile” PHEVs with low range is part of that strategy.

Do you even realise how pathetic your regular attempts to present Toyota’s tardiness as a positive sound?…

Toyota has regional dealer groups of which two, Gulf Coast and Southeast are notorious for being anti-Prius and anti-Prime. So a lot of Primes come from out of state in those regions. Fortunately, there are great deals in New England and in 24-30 hours it can be driven home.

Bob Wilson

The only reason that Prime gets 100% satisfaction rating is because those people who are willing to take a Prime for rental already don’t expect much from driving dynamics. Prime is designed for Prius lovers. And it does a good job at that.

It is self selection bias at play.

“Prime is designed for Prius lovers” That has to be it, because I just don’t see it. The value just isn’t there when far better Clarity PHV can be had for $2K to 3K more.

David Murray said:
“I think it’s safe to say that the legendary Toyota reliability will apply very much to this car.”

Speaking of legendary Toyota reliability, an automotive research firm analyzed data to determine the top 15 cars that original owners kept for 15 years or longer. Toyota cars held 10 out of the 15 spots, and had 6 cars in the top 7 spots. That’s very impressive!

https://drive.google.com/drive/mobile/folders/1tVAqQlbDlX115W7f5QvjR05BS5osBPen

https://www.iseecars.com/cars-kept-15-years-2019-study

Which is why I wanted a Prius EV and pestered my local Toyota dealers about it.

They usually just replied with the standard “Nobody wants an EV” lie.

As things stand my next car will not be a Toyota.

They aren’t marketing the Prius Prime much like GM didn’t market the Volt. I don’t think either of them wants/wanted to sell high volumes of these PHEVs. CAFE standards? Long term product ‘research’? Other reasons?

We are in 2019 and still Toyota has not launched Prius (Hybrid/Plugin) and this shows their lack of interest in selling fuel efficient vehicles. As long as they can sell so many vehicles, they are not going to bother.

When Corolla Hybrid launches, I don’t know what will happen to Prius sales.
I hope at lease Honda sells more Clarity’s.

Extremely well written article . I live in France . The government has cut all financial inventives to buy PHEV’s . You can only get help for electric cars in 2019. As to know Toyota do not make an electric car! Looking at the sales figures of the Tesla 3 I would say they should keep the standard Prius and then make a full electric car. PHEV’s are doomed!

Interesting article. One question i have is, you say the PP is the second best selling PHEV, yet your experience is its really difficult to buy? How to square that circle? Some dealers in states you didnt try must be selling them like crazy?

Toyota focused on their global distribution, sending a small number of supply to each of their markets. The first year there were 51,000 available in total. That’s quite good for a production including new tech, specifically the carbon-fiber hatch and the aero-glass rear. Last year was likely around 60,000 available. This is how you establish a foothold, working out details of how to approach mass distribution by testing out each of the customer bases ahead of time. Again, it made no sense whatsoever rushing to our particular market knowing the GM fallout could be rather intense. We all saw how GM wasted tax-credits on Volt for conquest sales, They should have been focused on changing their own status quo instead, so they would be able have momentum built to take advantage of the phaseout period, much like Tesla did. Toyota is clearly using their tax-credit allocation carefully, with the hope of doing the same thing. This is why Prime inventory was low in many places and non-existent in others. Being able to grow sales to a sustainable & profitable level takes careful planning. Toyota now has a market to tap that won’t constantly face competition with Volt. In fact, the… Read more »

Sensible comments. It’s a darn shame that GM is wasting the last 2 quarters of full federal tax credit without trying to push any plug-in to mass sales.

They mostly sell them in ZEV states, where they get valuable credits.

I’m surprised David even got a NY dealer to consider shipping to TX, as that violates the exclusive deal Toyota has with their Gulf States distributor. They can’t prevent you from picking it up in person, but most ZEV states are so far away only the most hard core buyers do that.

They should offer a Rav4 PHEV. I bet such a car would be a huge success

If US market potential for decent PHEV SUVs was as good as people here keep claiming, shouldn’t the Outlander PHEV — having no real competition thus far — be a total blockbuster?…

I am writing from Europe, where the equivalent of a gallon of gas usually costs between 6 to 7 US dollars. Here, the Outlander PHEV has been the most sold PHEV vehicle for a longtime. US is another history because there you have cheap fuel.

Yeah, but people here keep claiming a PHEV SUV would be a huge hit in the US…

I am happy with my 2017 prime. I have 20,000 miles about half of which are all electric. The features I like the most are dynamic cruise control and a radio knob.
It does all things well and nothing great other than efficiency which is number one.
Most critics want superb acceleration without paying the price in efficiency or battery life. There is far less profit in a prime than a Tacoma, so why would a dealer invest time in selling the prime? Having one on the lot may even discourage truck sales. (ICE bias)
I bought mine over the phone and drove to Atlanta to pick it up. I paid list price and have enjoyed having a vehicle that is unique in my area. I also put in solar panels, both the car and solar system is still cheaper than a Tesla.
Bottom line, I am frugal and proud of it.
It isn’t the car for everybody but it fits well on those who desire comfortable efficiency.

Nice article–I appreciate your personal perspective. We have 26,000 miles on our 2017 prime, never has needed any repairs, in contrast to our 2016 Volt which had multiple minor problems. We bought ours below MSRP from Toyota Hollywood, and had it shipped to us in Colorado–here we get both the federal tax benefit plus $5000 from State of Colorado, bringing the net price for us (including shipping, but before local taxes) to below $20K, a considerable bargain for a new electric car. Ours is a striking blue, and its appearance gets many positive comments. We can beat muscle wagons off the line, and find it quite zippy except going up a long hill. With snow tires, it is quite nimble in winter in the mountains–we drive it everywhere, we bought a wheel so we could keep a full-size spare in back so we were comfortable on our many dirt roads. We car-camp with it, although the cargo space is tighter than in the Volt. We nearly always get in the mid- to high 50s mpg running just on gas, after the electric range is gone. Adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning etc. are great. Ours charges in 5 hours from a… Read more »

I didn’t know that before you said it, but I like the fact that the car asks permission to do things. GM is just too arrogant. They could ask if it is ok to start the engine in my ELR, but there is no choice – it automatically running the engine at a relatively hot 32 deg F. Also, there is only 1 day grace period if the fuel is over a year old. That is brain dead since the car will burn off all its gasoline, when you might be going on a long trip a week or 2 later.

Yes, you can ‘fool’ the car by taking a gas can and putting a gallon of gas in the thing to get the average age of the gas back barely under a year, but it is this kind of nonsense – same with the heater, that you have to play games with the car to kinda get it to do what you want.

I have a Prime with 50k miles on it now. Without writing a whole review– I love the car, Great hardware, lousy but functional software. By lousy, I’m referring to the user interface. It works fine. What’s not mentioned in your review is that the prime gets incredible GAS mileage, unlike the Fusion and Volt. I’m getting ~70MPG without using the battery. My Fusion and Volt colleagues are seeing about half that. If you have a long commute and must go gas for it, this is a great car.

My 2017 Volt gets 50 mpg in MA under the conditions you must be experiencing to get 70. And my EV range in summer with sensible driving is usually 75 miles when my Prime friends usually get about 30 -35. For a particular commute, you’d have to do the math to see how a combination EV and hybrid modes would compare between the two cars, but I’d be surprised if the Prime was much more efficient overall unless the commute was very long.

Too bad for the author that he didn’t check out the DC market. We live in NC where there are very few Prius Prime plug-in cars available for sale. We took a weekend trip to Virginia and bought a beautiful blue Prius Prime for $4k off of MSRP. The dealer had 116 Primes in his network! Also, while the article is reasonable and mostly accurate, what is this riff that the Prius is slow? OK, not fast but I haven’t had a nano-second difficulty getting on freeways with time and space to spare. Also, I regularly get more than 25 miles to a charge. We live at 2950′ and once got about 40 miles albeit partially downhill to Asheville. Yeah, your right, I think the PP is a great, safe, well engineered, reliable and efficient car. No matter how hard I try to, I can’t get less than 50 miles per gallon and got 200 MPG on that trip to Asheville.

I have a 2018 Prius Prime and I have found not many regular 4 cylinder cars can keep up with it from a light. I drive in power mode 100% of the time and tend to drive heavy on the gas and averaging high 50s to 60 mpg without plugging in. I drive in California an average 75 to 80 mph on freeway on average, very responsive power and feels more powerful than a mazda 3, ford focus or honda civic when driving. I have yet to have one of those cars be able to out accelerate me when people try to speed up when they see a prius trying to move over. Reviews should be redone with power mode driving. It’s my 4th prius, my last 2 made it over 500k on original equipment, 2009 and 2012 prius plug-in.

I live in Vancouver, Canada (Pacific West Coast) and luckily, the dealership has a demo. Surprisingly, the salesperson told me right away that they lose sales on the Prime, and to go for a hybrid Rav4 instead. I was quite surprised/disappointed as she didn’t even give me a chance to try both. I definitely want a plugin vehicle to qualify for the HOV lane sticker.

Anyways, perhaps in certain areas (esp. the interior) there is less education / concern for the environment, most people want to drive big gas guzzlers?

Crangess McBasketballs

Great review! I have a 2018 Prime and love it. One issue with the review, however, is the complaint that the Prime lacks acceleration and a general slowness. This is easily changed with the Drive Mode button. Put it into “power” or even “normal” mode and she’ll take off like a rocket. The regular “eco” mode is slow to accelerate but that is part of the versatility of this car!

Hi there. Loved your totally unbiased review. Top marks. Toyota have made & marketed the prime as an extension of the current model. Think “the best Prius yet”. Most car dealers only think of this months sales, & treat all customers like they only need a dinosaur car because that’s what the boss wants. Think stuck in the past management. Toyota have made this prime cheap by adapting its global platform to have segment appeal. Hence the carbon rear hatch & lack of glitzy extras to keep weight & costs down. They are working on a fully electric vehicle, but won’t commit to the technology until the next battery generation can give them better range, less weight & lower cost. Tesla are on their third generation of battery but still haven’t found lighter weight or more energy dense materials. Toyota stands for reliable, which translates to conservative engineering & styling. I still like the prime over its compeditors because of the cost benefit ratio.
Cheers. MC.

Living in Los Angeles area, I rarely drive more than 6 miles to anything. I have a 2015 Prime that only gets 11.5 miles per charge but it can bet by with a 10A outlet. You can plug it into a lamp socket fused at 10A not the 220V or 20A special power outlets the new Prius requires to go the additional mileage. I haven’t made any long trips since January when I filled up but I do drive every day to take the kid to and from school, then shop, or go to a restaurant. I am down to 1/2 tank. 135MPG. Not bad. I just plug it in when I get home. And with solar, the power is free. Not a bad deal in anyone’s book. Other interesting things. The wheel bearings are ball type so it is very smooth. Brakes don’t wear out because much of the slowing is done with the generators charging the batteries, and the tires still have almost all their tread and the car has over 60K miles now. And with the seats down you can stuff a 4×8 sheet of plywood in the back even if you can’t close the hatch. I… Read more »

The new (2017 and 2018) Prius Prime does not require a 220V or 20A special outlet; it will charge from a standard outlet.

You really need to consider the Honda Clarity. I’ve owned on since 11/2017. Consistently 45-50 EV miles (55+ in spring, Texas summers cut the range); a solid 40mpg highway in HV mode. Much larger interior than the Prius Prim or Volt; true 3 passenger rear seat. Good acceleration in town or entering the freeway.