There are plenty of hybrid choices available today from compact cars to SUVs, but none have the name recognition of the Toyota Prius. It’s the first thing that comes to mind when hybrids are mentioned and it continues to be a solid offering in an increasingly crowded segment. Toyota upped the ante with this year’s Prius by finally adding all-wheel drive.
The Prius with all-wheel drive is only available in LE and XLE trims, which eliminates the base L Eco and top Limited that are available in front-wheel drive models. Those two all-wheel drive trims get an EPA-estimated 52 mpg in the city, 48 mpg on the highway, and 50 mpg combined.
Although slightly lower than what the Prius achieves with front-wheel drive, those are still great fuel economy numbers. The added security of having all-wheel drive in a Prius comes at only a small decrease in fuel economy.
Toyota calls its all-wheel drive system AWD-e for electric. There’s no center differential or front-to-rear driveshaft, but rather an electric motor that powers the rear wheels. It kicks in only at select speeds to preserve fuel economy.
The Prius AWD-e uses all-wheel drive at speeds from 0-6 mph and then as needed at speeds up to 43 mph. This is different from typical all-wheel drive vehicles that offer all-wheel drive at any speed.
The idea here is to provide the benefits of all-wheel drive when you need it most. It’s all in the interest of preserving that hybrid fuel economy, which is why people lean toward hybrids in the first place.
Power comes from a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine and two electric motors for a combined 121 system horsepower. It’s a competent powertrain, but it’s not one that will get your blood pumping. Any disappointment on that front should disappear as you see your gas savings.
In addition to good fuel economy, the Prius offers great cargo flexibility. It looks like a sedan, but it’s a hatchback with up to 27.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats. Those seats split-fold 60/40 for added flexibility and with both down, offer 65.5 cubic feet for cargo.
We had the opportunity to take the all-wheel drive Prius for a spin in the snow and it proved a capable vehicle. Wet, slushy stuff with deep ruts did nothing to slow it down despite our best efforts to get into trouble on a closed course.
It recovers quickly and doesn’t get bogged down in heavy snow. If you’ve been using the lack of all-wheel drive on your current vehicle as an excuse to call into work, well, better come up with a new one if you’re considering this Prius.
Choosing all-wheel drive ups your cost, but not by an exorbitant amount. It’s an additional $1,400 on the LE or $1,000 on the XLE making it a solid investment. The 2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e is available in dealerships now so you can be ready for the coming winter.