Sunday, June 20, 2021
Reviews 2021 Toyota Prius Prime Review: Tax Breaks Make It A No-Brainer

2021 Toyota Prius Prime Review: Tax Breaks Make It A No-Brainer

While PHEVs are typically riddled with compromises and limitations, if there’s no extra cost for the technology, then it’s the way to go


  • Base price for the Prius in Canada is $28,050, $24,525 in the US.

  • The PHEV Prime version starts at $33,550 in Canada, $28,220 in the US.

  • Depending on the Province you live in, a Prime is the same price as a regular Prius.


One day, I’d like to get some insight into what was going through Toyota’s large collective mind when, barely two years after launching the Prius in 1997 and less than a year before launching it in North America, GM pulled the plug on the EV1. Did they, for a moment, think their hybrid-only compact car was to become a commercial failure? Was the world against electrification? Had they wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in developing and building the first-ever mass-produced hybrid vehicle?

2021 Toyota Prius Prime | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Or, on the other hand, did someone imagine that the Prius would transcend Toyota and essentially become a brand unto its own? The result, as you all well know, is that the Prius became the symbol of Toyota’s green efforts and the face of hybrid powertrain technology. Since the launch of the first Prius, Toyota’s sold more than 15 million hybrids globally of which the Prius (and ex-family members) account for about 50%.


The Prius is its own brand

The Toyota Prius’ popularity is easy to understand. Then, and today more so than ever, the Prius combines exceptional efficiency with versatility and in design that clearly points out your concern for the environment. When I say “today more than ever” has to do with the recent introductions of the AWD-E version and the subject of this review, the plug-in version, aka the Prime.

 

2021 Toyota Prius Prime | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

There isn’t anything to say about the 2021 Toyota Prius’ design. It’s to some tastes and completely at odds with others. Either way, it’s absolutely unique to the car and helps identify it. The cabin is equally unique and just as unconventional. The central upper-display pod takes a moment to assimilate but is quickly adopted.

The cabin is generally spacious and comfortable. Although the battery cuts trunk space from about 700 litre to about 560 litres, it’s still functional. The rear seat is good for two adults and there’s enough space for two average human adults up front.

2021 Toyota Prius Prime | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The 11.6-inch touchscreen display, as fitted to my tester which was a Prime Upgrade, is not so easily appreciated. The display is slow-ish to respond, the resolution is sub-par, and it frankly looks cheap. For this reason alone, skipping the Upgrade and saving $2,800 is the best course of action.


Hybrid efficicency

Both versions feature the same powertrain. The 1.8-litre 4-cylinder engine, coupled to a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor, produces a combined 121 horsepower, or 1 horsepower more than the regular hybrid.

2021 Toyota Prius Prime | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Compared to the hybrid, the Prime PHEV holds an 8.8 kWh battery pack in its midst. When fully charged, it provides the Prius Prime with 40km of full-electric autonomy. Normally, I’d scoff at this number, pointing out how limiting and compromising this supposed asset is but, I can’t in this case.

Given that the battery is relatively small, it requires only 5.5 hours to recharge on a regular 110/120V outlet. As well, despite the Prime’s 350lb weight gain over the Hybrid, it still manages to consume as little or even less than the non-plug-in. On paper, the base Prius averages 4.5L/100km while the Prime needs only 4.3L/100km. In other words, in the real world, there’s no real penalty that I’ve typically come to associate with misleading plug-in hybrid technology.

2021 Toyota Prius Prime | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The 2021 Toyota Prius Prime is also plenty agreeable to drive. The mindset, from behind the wheel, is that of relaxed driving. This sentiment blends wonderfully with the plush and cosseting ride delivered by the car and its properly sorted structure. There are a number of drive modes included but the only truly useful one is the EV Auto which maximizes the use of stored energy in the battery.


A PHEV that actually makes sense thanks to incentives

That is, as long as there are incentives. Depending on the Province you live in, the available incentives reduce the Prime’s final price to that of, or below, the Prius Hybrid, thus voiding all reasons not to get one. If you can stick to 40km commutes and always plug it in, you’ll practically be paying yourself to drive.

Like most PHEVs however, there’s no real-world fuel consumption advantage over a hybrid so the $5,500 premium for the Prime pays only for 350lbs of dead weight. The point I’m making here is that if you live in Quebec or BC, go for the Prime. If you live in another province, do the real math.

2021 Toyota Prius Prime | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

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Matt St-Pierre
Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai

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