I first drove the all-new Toyota Prius Prime about a year ago. And I really liked it. It’s fun to drive – for a plug-in hybrid – and it gets really good fuel economy. Especially if you take advantage of charging the battery when you can.
I liked the quirky looks and the fact that it was both recognizable as a Prius but distinctly its own model.
I recently got to live with the Prime for a week, and I have a few every-day takeaways to share if you think this could be your next vehicle.
Wall jack charging in less than 6 hours
One of the biggest selling points for the Prime in my book is the fact that you don’t need a fancy charging station or special wall jack to charge up. You can simply plug it into the same kind of wall jack that you’d use for a hair dryer, and it will charge up in less than 6 hours.
Toyota claims the time to charge a Prime is 5.5 hours, but whenever I plugged in, it said 5 hours, 50 minutes. Because I was charging overnight, I was not able to verify the actual time it took to charge.
I’d also like to point out that the charging cord I had couldn’t reach the wall jack on the other side of the garage. With permission from Toyota, I bought a heavy-duty 12-guage extension cord and was able to charge up quite nicely.
25+ miles of electric-only driving
I am typically not a light-foot when I drive. So, when Toyota said you could get up to 25 miles of electric-only driving on a full battery, I figured I’d get 15 to 20. My first stint of driving after a full charge consisted of somewhat light-footed stop-and-go city driving for about 10 miles.
Then I hit the highway and didn’t spare any punches with the acceleration. I was surprised to find that I actually did closer to 30 miles in all-electric mode in that instance.
On another full-charge drive, I was on the highway the entire time at about 75 mph, and got a few less miles, but it was still in the 23- to 25-mile range, which was a pleasant surprise.
With more braking and less high-speed driving, I could see the Prime consistently getting 25+ miles of electric-only range.
Iffy paired-phone audio
Because my test period included a road trip from Chicago to Indianapolis, I ended up making quite a few phone calls via the hands-free Bluetooth connection. I kept apologizing for the poor connection, and the people on the other end of the line asked: “What poor connection?”
My husband even rated the audio on his end a 7 out of 10 (which is pretty high in his book – nothing gets a 10).
That led me to believe that the poor connection was on my side, not theirs.
The phone paired fine, and it appears that the microphone transporting my voice over the line was also fine. But the return audio was pretty awful through the Prime speakers.
The test vehicle was a base Plus model without the premium JBL audio system, so I’m sure that had something to do with it. But the audio was so crackly, I ended up digging my headphones out of my purse to make additional calls.
Unfortunately, the JBL premium audio is only available on the top-tier Advanced trim ($33,100).
Upgrade your cargo cover
The lightweight cargo area tonneau cover that comes standard with the Plus trim is pretty crappy. It kept coming unbuttoned and would drape over the cargo items I had in the trunk. Anyone looking through the rear window could see there was something hiding under the cover, and if you ever park in a city, that’s a no-no.
Similar to the JBL audio system, the upgraded cargo cover is only available on the Advanced trim.
Get rid of the toilet bowl accents
The Prime is a uniquely styled vehicle – inside and out. And for the most part, I really like it.
I love the kitschy and polarizing exterior design. Plus, the standard cloth seats are durable and attractive – not to mention really comfortable. And I like the central gauges that are stacked over the center console.
However, I do not like the white accents on the center stack and console. I feel like I’m looking at a toilet every time I see it. I cannot get that image out of my head.
But, luckily, there is an available black applique accessory that covers up most of the toilet bowl white so it looks fairly decent.
While this isn’t available on the Plus trim, it is available as an accessory starting at the mid-level Premium trim ($28,800) for a $199 charge. The applique will cover both the shifter area and the lower console.
Lots of up-level standards
The base model for the Prius Prime is the Plus ($27,985), and even though the trappings are bare bones, it comes with a lot of nice standard features including heated front seats, navigation and Toyota Safety Sense.
It also has passive entry on the driver’s side and push-button start.
The test vehicle added carpet floor mats and body side moldings for an as-tested price of $28,418.
The bottom line
Even after 500 miles and 6 days in the Prius Prime, I can still say I really like this vehicle. It’s comfortable for a long drive, and it has just the right amount of power to merge with traffic or pass on the highway.
I only managed to charge up 3 times during the test week and had a final combined fuel economy of 64 MPGe. If I were more diligent with the charging, the EPA estimates 133 MPGe.
Prius Prime is quiet and smooth, and would make a great every-day car.
While I really like the Prime at its base level, if you live in a city or somewhere you park outside on a regular basis, you’ve got to go for the top-tier trim because of the vastly superior cargo cover. But at that level, you’ll also get features like intelligent park assist, a head-up display, heated steering wheel and the premium JBL audio system. It’s totally worth the $5K price hike in my book.