Competes with: Honda Insight, Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
Looks like: Current Prius, but fewer sharp elbows in new front and rear
Drivetrain: Gas-electric hybrid system with 1.8-liter gas engine and a pair of electric motor/generators; combined hybrid system output for 2018 was 121-hp for front-wheel drive; all-wheel-drive adds electric motor on rear axle for traction as needed; continuously variable automatic transmission
Hits dealerships: To be announced
Toyota’s current ad slogan is “Let’s Go Places,” and a new all-wheel-drive Prius will add more places and more seasons for the refreshed 2019 version of its signature hybrid. The option Toyota calls AWD-e already has been offered in Japan. It adds an electric motor on the rear axle for traction as needed, but there is no mechanical connection to the electric/gasoline hybrid system in the front.
Related: More 2018 L.A. Auto Show Coverage
The new AWD-e option is the featured attraction for the 2019 Prius, and Toyota says it expects it to be taken by up to 25 percent of buyers. But it’s not the only change for the Prius, which also gets front and rear styling tweaks, some new colors and wheels, and new badges for its trim levels. Out is the longtime number system for seven versions and in is a simpler system with trim names in line with other Toyota vehicles: L Eco, LE, XLE and Limited, with the new AWD offered on the LE and XLE trims. The 2019 Prius will be unveiled Wednesday at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto Show; pricing and an on-sale date are still to be announced.
The 2019 gets reshaped standard bi-LED headlamps and LED taillights for energy efficiency. There also are redesigned bumpers, but the rear keeps the signature split rear glass with integrated spoiler. New colors for 2019 are Supersonic Red and Electric Storm Blue.
The AWD-e models will get a new two-tone, 15-inch alloy wheel. They also will offer some additional Toyota accessories, including cargo crossbars for roof rack attachments — useful for your kayak.
The interior largely carries over. Toyota says that the AWD-e model, which has a bigger battery under the rear seat and a rear electric motor, will have the same 65.5 cubic feet of total cargo space as a front-drive Prius with the standard 60/40-split, folding rear seatbacks lowered. It has not yet provided a capacity with the seatbacks raised; the 2018 front-drive Prius offers 27.4 cubic feet or 24.6 cubic feet behind the backseat, depending on trim level. The more upscale XLE version of the Prius AWD-e also gets upgraded vinyl interior trim, heated front seats and an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat.
All 2019 Prius models have the trademark central display cluster, with a 4.2-inch information display and a vertical-oriented touchscreen. A 6.1-inch touchscreen is standard on the AWD-e models along with three USB ports and six-speaker audio. The Prius Limited models get a big 11.6-inch touchscreen system with in-car navigation and premium JBL audio. A head-up display is optional. Toyota says the 2019 Prius version of the Entune multimedia system includes iPod connectivity but makes no mention of the Apple CarPlay support that has been added to some new Toyotas.
Under the Hood
All Prius models have the same gas-electric Hybrid Synergy Drive system for the front wheels and a continuously variable automatic transmission. The system uses 1.8-liter high-efficiency four-cylinder engine and two electric motor/generators and the combined hybrid system output was rated for 2018 at 121 hp.
All-wheel-drive adds a separate, magnet-less electric motor in the rear (Toyota’s first use of such a motor). It provides additional traction as needed up to 43 mph and also kicks in from a stop to 6 mph for additional initial pep. The electronically controlled system has no mechanical connection to the front-drive hybrid system. While the front-drive Prius models use a lithium-ion battery, the AWD-e uses a new-design nickel-metal hydride battery that Toyota says has been developed for better performance in cold weather.
All models get efficiency boosts from aero design, active grille shutters and electronically controlled regenerative brake and air-conditioning systems. Official 2019 EPA mileage ratings are not yet available (see 2018 here), but Toyota estimates that front-drive models will deliver the same 58/53/56 mpg city/highway/combined for the L Eco model and 54/50/52 mpg for the other trim levels. It estimates that adding the all-wheel-drive system will result in a not-much-lower mileage rating of 52/48/50 for the AWD-e models, a very high rating for an all-wheel-drive vehicle.
Safety and Warranty
All 2019 Prius models have a standard Toyota Safety Sense P package of safety and driver assistance tech with camera and radar sensors. Features include a front collision system with automatic braking and pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams and full-speed adaptive cruise control. There also is an external pedestrian and bicycle alert when the Prius is operating in battery-only power. Adaptive headlights are optional on the XLE trim level and standard on the Limited.
Warranty coverage includes a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty with coverage of five years/60,000 miles for the powertrain and eight years/100,000 on the battery and other specific hybrid components. There also is two years/25,000 miles of free factory-scheduled maintenance.
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