On The Road

New Toyota Prius has a ‘glaring’ problem

Toyota Prius
Mike Hagerty/Special to the Town Crier
The latest Toyota Prius comes with a lot of standard equipment, including an 11.8-inch touchscreen that does a poor job reflecting the sun – no matter the direction.

By Mike Hagerty

Eight years ago, the Toyota Prius was on a roll. Upwards of 200,000 of them sold in 2012.

But last year? Just under 70,000. And that figure is for the “Prius family” that includes the Prius Prime and the now-discontinued Prius C. Oh, yeah – and that sales figure is off 20% from 2018.

What happened? Lots of things. The radical restyle for 2016 came as sales were beginning to cool off and – despite evidence that Prius buyers liked unusual styling, seeing it as a way of announcing to the planet that they were saving the planet – it would appear Toyota went a bridge too far.

Then there were the electrics – cars that needed no gas at all – such as the Chevy Bolt, the Kia Niro EV, the vastly improved second-generation Nissan Leaf and, of course, the Tesla.

And there were people who, come trade-in time, decided they wanted something bigger and nicer, and that fuel economy didn’t matter as much – people who bailed on hybrids and electric vehicles altogether.

But the Prius is still here. And though selling 70,000 of them in a year isn’t setting the world on fire, it’s not extinction, either. In comparison, Ford sold only 3,000 more Mustangs last year. There were several dozen other cars, including the BMW 3-Series and Lexus ES, that had lower sales than the Prius.

Under the hood, the Prius features a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor. The combined output is 121 horsepower. There is no Ludicrous mode. Zero to 60 mph will take 10 seconds. Well, maybe 10.5. What you get in return for your patience is an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 54 mpg in the city, 50 on the highway. Your mileage may vary, but my experience is that I always hit the EPA number in a Prius. Can’t say that about every car.

Our tester was the 2020 Toyota Prius Limited. The base price of $32,375 gets you a lot of standard equipment, including Intelligent Park Assist, a premium audio system with navigation and an 11.8-inch touchscreen, a head-up display and wireless phone charging.

And before we go on, a word of warning about the 11.8-inch touchscreen. That word is “glare.” It doesn’t matter what direction the sun is, the glare and reflection on the monitor is a deal-killer. Unless it’s nighttime (when it still reflects any light out the passenger window or approaching from behind), you’ll be fighting reflections constantly.

As for extra-cost options, the tester came with a moonroof, upgraded 15-inch wheels, illuminated door sills and alloy wheel locks. As tested, with $955 handling fee, the bottom line on the window sticker read $34,586.

Regular On the Road readers know that we’re not in the practice of taking shots at cars. However, it is just hard to make a case for the 2020 Toyota Prius Limited. There are more fuel-efficient vehicles that are faster and better looking and, after tax credits, work out to about the same money.

That said, if anyone could develop a compelling next generation of the Prius, it’s Toyota. Until then, though ...

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