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Fuel-Sipping Champ: 2018 Toyota Prius Test Drive Review

Almost since its global introduction in 1997, the Toyota Prius has epitomized the expression “it’s lonely at the top,” since it’s has few true competitors to worry about.  With the recent introductions of the Hyundai Ionic and Honda Insight, however, the 2018 Toyota Prius finally seems to be getting some true rivals. With these competitors new to the market since the last time we sampled the fourth-gen Prius, we decided to spent a week in a fully loaded 2018 Toyota Prius Four Touring to see how it holds up.

2018 Toyota Prius

2018 Toyota Prius Exterior

Forget the wedge-shaped hatchback design of past Priuses, the 2018 Toyota Prius definitely has a look that stands out for all the right reasons. Even if you don’t love it, it’s hard to deny that the new Prius isn’t more appealing than past designs, and it’s even more daring – not a trait Toyota’s design has been known for in the past – than the Prius’ key rivals. Despite this edgy, new look, the 2018 Toyota Prius is still extremely aerodynamic, with a drag coefficient of just 0.24.

This new design is far more organic than past versions of the Prius, and features fluid lines and plenty of light-catching creases. Up front, the face has narrow grille opening with hybrid-specific blue Toyota emblem, and the uniquely shaped headlights help reduce some of the visual effect of the short, sloped hood. Likewise, the rear of the Prius uses similar cues including the stretched taillights, two-piece rear glass, a blacked-out C-pillar, and there’s even a slight hint of a trunk, which harkens back to the original Prius sedan. This tester sported the Hypersonic Red ($395) paint, and it looked even better paired with the 17-inch alloy wheels. These wheels are the biggest distinction between the standard trim levels and the Touring models, and this package also adds integrated fog lights with LED accents and a sportier rear fascia.

2018 Toyota Prius

2018 Toyota Prius Interior

From the outside, the 2018 Toyota Prius is a huge departure from its predecessors, but the interior is about what we’ve come to expect from this hybrid hatchback over the years. Even though it still has the quirky instrument panel design that includes a center-mounted gauge cluster and the Prius’ signature shifter, the cabin is still quite stylish. The hatchback design has always allowed the Prius to offer a spacious cabin, and the 2018 Toyota Prius gets even better with the a revised rear suspension and smaller battery pack opening up even more room for five passengers and still enough space for 27.4 cubic feet of cargo.

The 2018 Toyota Prius comes standard with content such as Smart Key System with push-button start, a 4.2-inch multi-information display and the base Entune infotainment system with a 6.1-inch touch-screen display. Stepping up to the Prius Four Touring adds Toyota’s Softex eco-friendly faux leather (with heated, power-adjustable front seats) and the upgraded Entune system with navigation and a 11.6-inch vertical display. This tester went a step further with the $1,205 Premium Convenience Package (adding a 10-speaker JBL audio system) and an extra $248 for the all-weather floor mats and cargo tray.

2018 Toyota Prius

2018 Toyota Prius Powertrain

The highlight of the 2018 Toyota Prius is its advanced, fuel-sipping powertrain. Under the hood, the Prius uses a 1.8-liter Aktinson-cycle four-cylinder engine mated to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission and a pair of electric motor/generators. With the exception of the base Prius Two, all other trim levels utilize a lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery. Total system output is 121 horsepower and 105 lb-ft of torque, but the most important numbers for any Prius buyer are the fuel economy figures. For this 2018 Toyota Prius Four (and most other trim levels), the car has EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 54 mpg in the city and 50 mpg on the highway**. And this isn’t even the most-efficient Prius model, as the stripped-down Prius Two Eco (58 city/53 highway**) and plug-in Prius Prime ( 133 mpge) are even better!

One of the best parts of driving the 2018 Toyota Prius is that you don’t have to drive like a hypermiler in order to meet or exceed official fuel economy ratings. On top of that, the wider stance and a double wishbone rear suspension help the new Prius handle better than its predecessors, with a ride that can be surprisingly fun. The new hybrid components and smaller battery pack developed for the fourth-gen Prius add to the fun factor, as they mean a reduced curb weight, as well as more interior volume.  As is the case with most hybrids, the Prius’ brake regeneration lends a noticeable squishiness to the brake pedal, and slight delay in the overall responsiveness. This is a hybrid, not a sports car, after all.

2018 Toyota Prius

2018 Toyota Prius Safety

Not only is the 2018 Toyota Prius an incredibly efficient family vehicle, but it is also one of the safest. The Prius carries a five-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, thanks to standard safety features including eight airbags and the Toyota Safety Sense-P, which includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Auto High Beams and Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. This tester also had the no-cost-option Safety Plus Package adding Intelligent Clearance Sonar with Intelligent Park Assist.

2018 Toyota Prius

2018 Toyota Prius Overall

Thanks to the Hyundai Ionic and Honda Insight, the 2018 Toyota Prius has its most serious competition in the hybrid’s 21-year history, but Toyota’s green-car icon isn’t ready to relinquish its crown as the king of all hybrids just yet. The improved styling and efficiency only give the world’s best-selling hybrid even more mass-market appeal, and that includes the plug-in version of the current fourth-gen Prius, the Prius Prime.

As always, with a starting price of $23,475*, the 2018 Toyota Prius is as affordable at your local AutoNation Toyota dealership as it is at the pump. Add in the content (both standard and optional) available on the 2018 Toyota Prius Four Touring, and you’re looking at an as-tested price of $33,703. No matter which extreme you look at, the 2018 Prius goes green while saving you lots of green.

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on 2018 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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