ROAD TEST: 2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e Technology

By Shari Prymak

Being one of the first hybrid vehicles to come to market at the turn of the millennium, the Prius managed to grab a hold the hybrid market from an early time. In the years that followed, it would also gain a well-deserved reputation for exceptional fuel economy, rock-solid reliability, and eco-conscious motoring. In recent years, however, the market has become filled with different hybrid vehicle options, including several excellent choices from within Toyota’s own lineup. In order to stay relevant and holds its ground, Toyota has widened the appeal of the Prius by making it available with all-wheel drive.

For only about a $1,000 price premium over the equivalent front-wheel drive Prius, the all-wheel drive model, which Toyota calls the Prius AWD-e, adds a small electric motor to the rear axle designed to help improve traction and grip off the line in slippery conditions. It is a clever strategy which should help attract a few eco-minded shoppers who may have had their minds set on an all-wheel drive crossover, but still prioritize excellent fuel economy. Being a rather sizable, spacious, and practical hatchback, the Prius is more than capable enough to handle typical family car duties similar to a crossover.

Other than being spacious, the interior of the Prius is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, it is a comfortable space to sit that comes packed with useful features including an available wireless smartphone charging pad, heated seats and steering wheel, and Toyota connected services plus Apple CarPlay connectivity (but no Android Auto) for the touchscreen. On the downside, the optional 11.6-inch tablet-like touchscreen which controls all the main features is difficult to use while driving, has dated-looking graphics, and can be a bit unresponsive to inputs. Avoiding it requires going with the base model which uses a more user-friendly 7-inch display and proper buttons for climate control.

Driving the Prius is a pleasant experience thanks to its refined drivetrain, quiet operation, and smooth ride quality. With only 121 horsepower from its hybrid system, power is definitely lacking, but the point here is top-notch fuel economy which is what the Prius delivers. I managed to average 5.0L/100km in mixed city and highway driving with little effort, which is exceptional for a vehicle of this size. Like most Toyota models, the Prius comes equipped with active features such as automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. Blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross traffic alert and intelligent park assist with sonar sensors are available which are nice to see. It is worth mentioning that these features are a bit over-zealous with their audible beeps which only add to the irritating standard beeping you must hear every time the Prius goes into reverse.

The Prius has a starting MSRP of $28,550 and can climb up to $34,250 for the Technology Advanced AWD-e model. Those considering a Prius will likely be compelled by the plug-in hybrid Prius Prime model, which offers all the benefits of the standard Prius plus a dedicated electric range of about 40 kilometres. With a federal electric vehicle incentive of $2,500 plus additional provincial incentives in some parts of the country, the Prime may even be priced equal to, or below, the regular Prius. Another compelling option to consider is the Corolla Hybrid, which, for $24,790 to $26,790, offers many Prius attributes at a significantly lower price point.

Adding all-wheel drive to the Prius has certainly helped make it a more compelling, well-rounded vehicle. Anyone looking for a highly fuel efficient vehicle with top-notch reliability, resale value, and practicality should certainly consider it as an option. With Toyota’s vastly expanded hybrid vehicle lineup, however, it is difficult not to consider other options. The Prius Prime and Corolla Hybrid are both excellent examples of that, both offering better value along with more agreeable styling. In any case, if a hybrid vehicle is on your wish list, Toyota has got you covered.