Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
The 2018 Toyota Prius Prime is one of the most fuel-efficient cars in the world. It’s a plug-in hybrid version of the popular Toyota Prius Hybrid and it can be driven over 25 miles on electricity alone, just like a pure electric vehicle. When the battery’s charge is depleted a small internal-combustion engine begins to help power the car, but the Prius Prime still returns over 50 mpg and has a total range of over 600 miles.
You'll Like The 2018 Toyota Prius If...
If you’re looking for a comfortable 4-door hatchback that delivers industry-leading fuel economy, you’ll like the 2018 Toyota Prius Prime. The plug-in hybrid offers over 25 miles of emissions-free electric-only range, over 50 mpg, over 600 miles of total range and after tax incentives, it’s even less expensive than a standard Prius.
You May Not Like The 2018 Toyota Prius If...
If you’re looking for a plug-in hybrid with the most electric-only range, check out the Chevy Volt, which can be driven over 50 miles emissions-free on a full charge. That’s approximately twice the range of the Toyota. Also, the 2018 Prius Prime only seats four, while a standard Prius hybrid can accommodate five.
All-new just last year, the 2018 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid is unchanged this year.
Those looking for a fuel-efficient family car should know the 2018 Toyota Prius Prime only seats four passengers, as its rear middle seat has been replaced by a center console. Seating is comfortable, and the driver’s seat is mounted low, which gives the plug-in hybrid a sporty sports-car-like driving position. Ergonomics is excellent, but unconventional. The shifter is stubby and sticks out of the dashboard. The gauges are digital and mounted far from the driver, near the base of the windshield. But the centerpiece is the 11.6-inch touch-screen infotainment display that’s standard on Premium and Advanced trim levels. Cribbing from Tesla, the big screen provides two levels of information, such as maps and audio controls, with a tablet-like interface.
There’s no risk of the 2018 Toyota Prius Prime getting lost in a crowded mall parking lot. It looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. It wouldn’t look out of place driving around Hill Valley’s town center in Back to the Future Part II. Although it’s the same size and basic wedge shape as the standard Prius Hybrid, Toyota borrowed some cues from its hydrogen-powered Mirai to give the Prius Prime a face all its own. The multi-lens headlights are all LED and look sleek and modern alongside the unique grille treatment. In back, LED taillights wrap horizontally around the trailing edge of the carbon-fiber hatch, which sports "dual-wave" glass and the same carbon-fiber loom as the high-tech Lexus LF-A exotic sports car.
Few cars drive as smoothly or as effortlessly as the 2018 Toyota Prius Prime. From behind the wheel it feels small but substantial. Its steering is light and outward visibility is excellent thanks to a low hoodline, which makes the hybrid easy to maneuver in and out of tight parking spaces. The Prime’s suspension smartly trades handling prowess for an excellent freeway and around-town ride, but the Toyota’s small footprint and low center of gravity give it an unexpected agility no small crossover SUV or full-size SUV can match. It feels light on its feet and it’s quick to change direction. Acceleration, even in Power mode, isn’t exactly brisk, with Toyota saying it reaches 60 mph in about 11 seconds, but the Prime is quick enough to satisfy most drivers and the powertrain is incredibly smooth, combining electric and internal-combustion power with little noise or vibration. And the 8.8-kWh battery pack can drive the Prius Prime for up to 25 miles in pure-EV mode, so if your commute is short you won’t burn a drop of gasoline.
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a 2018 Toyota Prius Prime Plus is pretty reasonable at around $28,000, including the $895 destination charge. A Prius Prime Premium starts just under $30,000, and the top-level Advanced runs about $34,000. Factor in roughly $4,000 in federal tax credits, and the plug-in Prius, with all its fancy hardware, actually undercuts the standard Prius by about $2,400. That’s a pretty solid deal however you look at it, and it’s why we awarded it a KBB Best Buy Award in 2017. It’s also important to note that the new Prius Prime is less expensive than the Chevrolet Volt by several thousand dollars, although it doesn’t have the Volt’s 50-mile EV range or its 5-passenger capacity. It’s also less expensive than the Ford Fusion Energi. Check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for their 2018 Prius Prime, and note that it’s a wise investment, as Prius models tend to hold their value.
There’s the plug-in hybrid drivetrain plus all the various trimmings, of course. The base Prius Prime Plus skips the cool touch screen, though, in favor of 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 dress up the exterior. With no spare tire, three years of roadside service also come standard.
If you want more features, Toyota asks you to buy more Prius Prime. The mid-level Prius Prime Premium gets SofTex faux-leather seats, including an 8-way-power-adjustable driver’s seat, keyless entry, and Qi compatible wireless smartphone charging (sorry, iPhone users). It also gets the big 11.6-inch infotainment screen. Opt for the top-line Prius Prime Advanced and you’ll get a similar screen but backed by a premium JBL sound system. The Advanced also gets 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.
TOYOTA SAFETY SENSE PStandard on every 2018 Toyota Prius Prime is the brand’s Safety Sense P suite of driver assists. Along with autonomous braking and radar-adaptive cruise control, which will keep a set distance from the car ahead, the system includes a pedestrian-detection feature, lane-departure warning and steering assist, which will make small steering corrections for you. Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert are also available.INTELLIGENT PARK ASSISTStandard on the Toyota Prius Prime Advanced, which is the top trim level, this high-tech system uses sensors mounted around the vehicle as well as sonar to practically parallel-park your Prius for you. It first identifies a potential space and then steers the hatchback into the spot as you work the brake pedal and the gear selection.
Under the Hood
The Prius Prime’s 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine provides 95 horsepower on its own, then combines with two electric motors that put out a total of 76 kW; do the math and you get a peak of 121 horsepower. The 8.8-kWh battery pack provides enough juice to drive the Prius Prime just on electricity for up to 25 miles, at speeds up to 84 mph. That works out to 133 MPGe, which Toyota notes is the best rating of any vehicle. In hybrid mode, it beats the regular Prius by a few mpg. Recharge times are about two hours using a 240V charger, or a little more than five hours on a standard 120V outlet. Oddly, the Prius Prime does not support fast "Stage 3" recharging.4-cylinder hybrid (1.8-liter engine with 53- and 23-kilowatt electric motors)95 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm (1.8-liter engine)105 lb-ft torque @ 3,600 rpm (1.8-liter engine)121 net horsepower (1.8-liter engine plus combined electric output)EPA city/highway fuel economy: 55/53 mpg, 133 MPGe (EV mode)
The 2018 Toyota Prius Prime is one of the most fuel-efficient cars in the world. It’s a plug-in hybrid version of the popular Toyota Prius Hybrid and it can be driven over 25 miles on electricity alone, just like a pure electric vehicle. When the battery’s charge is depleted a small internal-combustion engine begins to help power the car, but the Prius Prime still returns over 50 mpg and has a total range of over 600 miles. The Prius Prime’s powertrain has multiple driving modes including a Recharge mode that uses the engine to charge the battery, and its distinctive and user-friendly interior includes a huge 11.6-inch touch screen in some models. After tax incentives the Prius Prime actually undercuts the standard Prius. Three trim levels are available starting around $28,000.