2017 Toyota Prius Plug-in Prime

Toyota has been openly skeptical about the market potential for plug-ins. The carmaker dipped its toes into the market several times—with limited releases of two RAV4 EV models, an electric version of the iQ minicar (which failed to reach production) and the original Prius Plug-in—but Toyota remains mostly committed to gas-electric hybrids and the multi-decade rollout of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

With the Prius Prime—which is a new name for what is the second-generation Prius Plug-in—Toyota is joining the growing pack of automakers positioning plug-ins as more than mere low-volume experiments. It's a capable, affordable, and sizable hatchback that will keep your gasoline usage to a bare minimum.


The Toyota Prius continues to be the quintessential hybrid gas-electric, more than 16 years after its introduction. Every aspect of the Prius—from its drivetrain to its shape—has been fine-tuned for maximum fuel economy. Critics have long disparaged the Prius’s dorky wedge-shaped silhouette, even as others in the industry mimic its aerodynamic profile.

The Prius is less of a sore thumb on roads these days—especially after the 2016 model spiced up Prius styling with sharper angles, attempting to offer hints of a more muscular, less efficiency-obsessed car. The current gas-electric Prius’s coefficient of drag is lower than ever at 0.24—but the midsize hatchback now conveys a touch more attitude.

The Prius Prime aims to dial that attitude up further with a more sculpted front fascia sporting a blacked-out grille and strips of LED fog and tail lights. From the back, the Prime adds a sweeping curvature to the geometric look of the fourth-gen hybrid model.

2017 Toyota Prius Plug-in Prime

One look at the Prius Prime tells you that it’s no longer a regular Prius with a plug as an afterthought. It’s positioned as the special premium Prius.


Toyota boosted the drivability of this generation of the Prius with a stiffened chassis and improved suspension. The Prime also allows for electric-only driving at speeds of up to 84 miles per hour. That means drivers can stay in electric mode even on the highway.

The higher electric-only output is available thanks to significant changes to the car’s powertrain configuration. The current Prime can use both motors at the same time—vastly increasing power output from the battery alone. Top power output in electric-only mode is now more than 91 hp. Nobody expects stellar acceleration from a Prius, and the Prime stays on the script with a zero-to-60-mph run in the calm 10-second range. Of course, the raison d’etre of the Prius, in all its forms, is to save fuel—not provide driving excitement. If a more visceral connection with your ride is critical to you, the Prius Prime (like other models in the lineup) might not be the car for you.


With the Prius Prime, Toyota addressed the main knock on its predecessor: a small battery and puny electric range. The Prius Prime provides an EV-only range of 25 miles thanks to its 8.8-kWh lithium-ion battery pack—which doubles the capacity of the former 4.4-kWh pack. Granted, 8.8 kWh is still small compared to some competitors—most notably the Chevy Volt—but the high overall efficiency of the Prime makes up the difference. The Prius delivers 54 mpg when running on gas compared to the Volt's 42 miles per gallon.

Thanks to the jump to 25 miles of all-electric range, the Prime achieves an overall 133 MPGe rating. That makes it one of the most efficient vehicles on the road, even when compared to full battery-electric cars.

Real world fuel economy, of course, depends on usage. If your driving patterns tend to yield shorter trips with frequent opportunities to charge in between, the Prius Prime could almost completely eliminate gas station trips from your routine.


2017 Toyota Prius Plug-in Prime

The Prius Prime charges in about 5.5 hours from a standard 120-volt household outlet and in a little over two hours from a Level 2 charging station.

Some drivers might find the Prius Prime’s small battery liberating compared to other plug-ins. If you miss a chance to charge you’re only losing (at most) 25 miles of electric range, and with a fully drained battery, the car can still (according to its EPA rating) get 54 mpg in fuel economy. That's impressive.

Many shorter range plug-in hybrid owners choose to skip the hassle and expense of installing a Level 2 charging station in their homes. Since the vast majority of electric vehicle charging is done overnight—leaving plenty of time to reach capacity using a 120-volt outlet—reducing charge periods down to a couple hours is usually not necessary.

Passenger/Cargo Room

2017 Toyota Prius Plug-in Prime

The most notable change to the interior of the Prius Prime is Toyota’s decision to turn the car into a four-seater. This one’s a bit of a head-scratcher, particularly as the Prime’s leading competitor, the Chevy Volt, goes in the opposite direction now offering room for three in the back.

The Prius on the other hand—while not the most comfortable car in the world for rear middle riders—has always been a real five-passenger vehicle. The gas version of the fourth-generation continues to seat five, though the Prime does not. Evidently, Toyota feels that not only is a fifth seat not necessary for this particular vehicle but it’s actually better off without one. (For what it’s worth, Toyota says removing the seat helped to lighten the vehicle.)

In addition to the seating configuration, the Prime distinguishes itself from the non-plug Prius with technological amenities like an optional 11-inch touchscreen display. In terms of range, performance or exterior styling, no one would ever mistake the Prime for a Tesla, but Toyota is offering consumers Tesla-ish infotainment amenities should they choose to pay for them.

2017 Toyota Prius Plug-in Prime


The Toyota Prius Prime earned the highest Top Safety Pick Plus designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). To qualify for Top Safety Pick, a car needs to earn a rating of good in five tests—small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints. The vehicle must also have an available front crash prevention system that earns a rating of advanced or superior.

The Prius Prime offers a number of standard safety features included in Toyota’s Safety Sense P suite, including collision alerts, automatic braking, and dynamic cruise control. Optional safety features include head-up display, automatic high-beams, and blind spot and cross-traffic monitoring.


The 2018 Prius Prime Plus is attractively priced just under $27,300, including destination charge. The Prime’s Premium trim level starts at $29,00, and the top-tier Advanced begins at $33,300. If you consider the $4,000 federal tax credit, the plug-in Prius provides its 25 miles of all-electric capability while potentially undercutting the price of a conventional Prius by a couple thousand dollars. In fact, it’s the least expensive plug-in hybrid on the market.

The base Prius Prime Plus uses a 7.0-inch color infotainment display with an integrated rearview camera and navigation, USB port, and phone and music connectivity through Bluetooth. Also standard is Toyota Safety Sense P, which bundles full-speed adaptive cruise control, pre-collision with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with steering assist, and automatic high beams. Cloth covers the heated seats, push-button start is standard, and fog lights add a nice design feature to the exterior. With no spare tire, three years of roadside service also come standard.

The mid-level Prius Prime Premium gets faux-leather seats, including an 8-way-power adjustable driver's seat, keyless entry, and Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging. Notably, it also gets the desirable big 11.6-inch infotainment screen. Move up to the Prius Prime Advanced to get that screen, controlling a premium JBL sound system. The Advanced also brings a remotely controlled climate control system, heated multi-function steering wheel, color head-up display, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and backup sensors with parking assist.

2017 Toyota Prius Plug-in Prime

Purchase Process

The Prius Prime is available in all 50 states. If you plan on shopping for a Prime in an area where Toyota dealers may not be as familiar with plug-in hybrids, you may want to do a little extra research before hitting the dealership. This preparation, which might make you more knowledgeable than the sales staff, will allow you to fend off questions about spending more up front than a conventional hybrid—and help you stay resolute about your commitment to own a car that’s even more efficient and green than Toyota’s iconic gas hybrids.

Toyota Prius Prime (Plug-in Hybrid) specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $27300
Est. tax credit: $4500
Technology: Plug-in Hybrid
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 4
EPA Range: 25 miles electric + gasoline
Battery size: 9 kWh
Charging rate: 3.3 kW

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