If you want pure efficiency and eco-friendly driving without the hassle of plugging in your car, the 2018 Toyota Prius remains at the top of the heap. Pretty much nothing short of a plug-in hybrid will return better real-world results.
We've had a 2016 Prius in our long-term test car fleet, and after more than a year we averaged about 50 mpg, even with thousands of miles spent in brutal Los Angeles traffic. We also appreciate the Prius' practicality and comfort, with its generous cargo area and smooth ride quality. Of course, the Prius compromises on acceleration and handling, proving less rewarding to drive than many traditionally powered vehicles. There's also the question of Toyota's infotainment system, which lacks some functionality, and the car's questionable styling.
If you're shopping for a hybrid, know that there's more competition than ever. The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid actually claims slightly higher EPA-rated fuel economy than the Prius and offers a longer warranty. It certainly has a more functional interior with better technology, too. However, the Ioniq is even less satisfying to drive than the Prius, and it's a less comfortable place to spend time. There's also the Kia Niro hybrid, which has the look of an SUV, and a slew of midsize hybrid sedans to consider.
Still, there's a reason the Prius remains the king of the hybrid cars. If you put a premium on efficiency and value, you won't be disappointed by the Prius.
The 2018 Toyota Prius is a four-door hatchback that seats five passengers. It's available in seven trim levels: One, Two, Two Eco, Three, Three Touring, Four and Four Touring. The compact Prius C and plug-in Prius Prime are different models covered in separate reviews.
Power for all Prius trims comes from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a pair of electric motors/generators. Their combined 121 horsepower is sent through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) to the front wheels.
The Prius One and Two are similarly equipped, with the One missing a few minor features, such as a rear window wiper. Otherwise, standard feature highlights for both include 15-inch wheels, automatic LED headlights, LED running lights and taillights, heated mirrors, keyless entry (driver door only) and ignition, automatic climate control, dual 4.2-inch driver information screens, adaptive cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, and a 60/40-split folding rear seat.
Also standard is a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, voice recognition with Siri Eyes Free, and a six-speaker audio system with a USB port, an auxiliary audio jack and a CD player. Standard safety features include automatic high beams, a rearview camera, forward collision warning, forward collision mitigation with automatic braking, and lane departure warning and intervention.
The Prius Two also currently comes with the Safety Plus package as a no-cost add-on, which includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors and automated parking assist.
The more efficient Prius Two Eco is equipped with ultra-low-rolling resistance tires, a lighter lithium-ion hybrid battery, an inflation kit instead of a spare tire, and illuminated keyless entry. The rear wiper that comes standard on the Two trims is not offered, nor is the Safety Plus package. It returns an impressive 56 mpg combined (58 city/53 highway).
Inside the Prius Three, you'll find simulated leather on the steering wheel and armrests, white interior accents, a wireless phone charging pad, and the Toyota Entune premium infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen, navigation, satellite radio, HD radio, and access to apps such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, OpenTable and Yelp when paired with a smartphone running the Entune app.
The Prius Four comes with automatic wipers, simulated leather upholstery with contrasting white stitching, heated front seats, a power driver seat with adjustable lumbar, seatback storage pockets and a rear cargo cover.
Standard equipment on the Three Touring or Four Touring includes everything from the corresponding Three or Four, plus 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, LED clearance lights, unique rear bumper styling, and imitation-leather upholstery with contrasting blue stitching.
Note that the aforementioned Safety Plus package is also a no-cost add-on for the Three and Four. The Prius Three and Four (but not the Touring versions) can also be upgraded with the Advanced Technology package, which consists of a sunroof and a head-up display. Finally, the Prius Four and Four Touring can be equipped with the Premium Convenience package, which includes a 10-speaker JBL audio system, a self-parking system and Safety Connect emergency services. The Safety Connect system that can be added to Prius Four and Four Touring is subscription-based (with a one-year free trial) and includes automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator, and one-touch access to roadside and emergency assistance.