What's the first car you think of when you read the word "hybrid?" Ten bucks says it's the car pictured here: the Toyota Prius, a thrifty hatchback that's as well known for its swoopy shape as it is its ability to sip fuel.
The Prius has been a known quantity for more than two decades; this efficient Toyota is the world's best-selling hybrid nameplate. Now in its fourth generation, the Prius received a modest facelift for the 2019 model year, making it slightly less ugly than before (but still not pretty by any means), as well as a number of other updates. Therefore, the Prius rolls into 2020 unchanged, still offering incredible value and efficiency for the money.
Powertrain and specs
Every 2020 Prius has a 1.8-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine and an electric motor-generator, which deliver a combined system output of 121 horsepower. That's not a lot, of course, but it's plenty to move the Prius with adequate pace, all the while allowing it to return superb fuel economy.
For 2019, Toyota added an all-wheel-drive option to the Prius lineup. While normal Priuses use a 3.6-amp-hour lithium-ion battery pack, the so-called AWD-e model has a 6.5-amp-hour nickel-metal hydride pack. This battery is better under colder conditions where all-wheel drive is necessary. The AWD Prius has a small electric motor mounted to its rear axle, which produces 7 horsepower and 40 pound-feet of torque -- just enough oomph to help the back tires move through snow or gravel.
The standard 2020 Toyota Prius is EPA-estimated to return 54 miles per gallon city, 50 mpg highway and 52 mpg combined, making it one of the most efficient gasoline-powered cars available today. A special Eco model, which has special tires and small aerodynamic tweaks, improves those ratings to 58 mpg city, 53 mpg highway and 56 mpg combined. On the other hand, the addition of all-wheel drive reduces the Prius' efficiency somewhat, with the AWD-e model rated at 52 mpg city, 48 mpg highway and 50 mpg combined. That said, in our testing, we've frequently seen efficiency numbers in the high 50s and low 60s; as always, your mileage may vary.
Overall, the Prius' cabin is functional and easy to use. Upfront, all of the important vehicle gauges are arranged in a center-mounted digital cluster, allowing for a commanding view of the road ahead. The small, blue gear selector is a bit finicky, but otherwise, the Prius' interior is pretty straightforward.
The 2020 Prius is a compact car, but offers plenty of head- and legroom for both front and rear passengers. The hatchback shape provides added versatility; you'll find 24.6 cubic feet of space in the trunk, which expands to 62.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. This gives the diminutive Prius SUV-like hauling ability.
Here's one area where the Prius gets a nice boost for 2020. Most models come with a 7-inch touchscreen -- an upgrade over 2019's 6.1-inch screen -- which now features Apple CarPlay, in addition to things like Bluetooth, a CD player, Wi-Fi hotspot and aux and USB inputs. Android Auto is not compatible with this system.
The top-shelf Prius Limited comes with a larger, 11.6-inch touchscreen, which offers the same set of features as the smaller setup, but includes embedded navigation. That said, you can't get the Limited trim with all-wheel drive, so AWD-e models are stuck with the smaller screen. Android Auto isn't available here, either.
Happily, every Prius comes with Toyota's Safety Sense P suite of active driving aids. This includes pre-collision braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with steering assist, automatic high-beam headlights and full-speed adaptive cruise control. Features like blind-spot monitoring and parking sensors are available on LE trims and higher.
The 2020 Toyota Prius starts at a very affordable $24,200, not including destination. That's for the L Eco model, which offers the best fuel economy rating of any Prius.
LE, XLE and Limited trims come in at $25,410, $28,250 and $32,375, respectively, the latter two getting niceties like larger, 17-inch wheels (as opposed to 15s on other models), LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, an eight-way power driver's seat, Qi wireless smartphone charging and more.
All-wheel drive is only available on the LE and XLE grades, priced from $26,810 and $29,250, respectively.
The Prius' key competitors are the Honda Insight sedan, hatchback, Kia Niro crossover. None of those vehicles offer all-wheel drive, but we like the Insight for its more handsome design, better-quality interior materials, and more engaging driving experience. The Niro offers a lot of functionality thanks to its more upright shape, and it offers more onboard technology than the Prius, too.
The 2020 Prius is currently available at Toyota dealerships.