2021 Toyota Prius FAQ Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Jun 04, 2021

As the summer of 2021 kicks off in an increasingly post-pandemic United States of America full of antsy travelers eager to get on the road, the price of a gallon of gas is higher than it has been in years. And that makes hybrid cars like the 2021 Toyota Prius suddenly more appealing.

Rated to get as much as 56 mpg in combined driving, roomy enough to carry five people, and offering as much cargo room as some SUVs, the 2021 Prius is a hypermiler’s dream car. But it’s no longer the only game in town. The Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid is thrifty in its own right, and some traditional midsize sedans such as the Honda Accord Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and Toyota Camry Hybrid supply excellent fuel efficiency in a more conventional body style.

Nevertheless, when you’re seeking maximum mileage and utility in a proven package, the 2021 Toyota Prius is tough – but not impossible – to beat.

What’s new for the 2021 Toyota Prius? - Find the best Toyota deals!

Toyota last redesigned the Prius for the 2016 model year and has made several changes to the car since then. For 2021, Toyota adds standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0) advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) and commemorates the nameplate’s 20th anniversary by building a limited run of 2,020 examples of the confusingly named 2020 Edition.

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2021 Toyota Prius 2020 Edition Red Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

What are the 2021 Toyota Prius configurations?

Toyota builds two versions of the Prius, which comes only in a 5-passenger hatchback body style. The one we’re reviewing here is the standard gas-electric hybrid model, which comes in L Eco, LE, XLE, 2020 Edition, and Limited trim levels. An electronic all-wheel-drive system is optional with LE and XLE trim.

The other version of the car is called the Prius Prime. It is a plug-in hybrid offering about 25 miles of driving range on electricity before switching to gas-electric hybrid operation. It has slightly different exterior styling and is available in LE, XLE, and Limited trim. This review does not include commentary on the Prius Prime.

What is the 2021 Toyota Prius price?

Prices for the 2021 Prius range from $24,525 to $32,650. Additionally, you’ll need to pay a destination charge of $995.

What is the 2021 Toyota Prius cargo space/trunk space?

Depending on the trim level and whether or not the Prius has AWD, the car offers between 24.6 cubic feet and 27.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind its rear seat. Fold the back seat down, and the car can haul between 47.9 and 50.7 cubes of cargo.

What is the 2021 Toyota Prius gas mileage?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the 2021 Prius should return the following fuel economy in combined driving:

  • 56 mpg for the L Eco
  • 52 mpg for LE, XLE, 2020 Edition, and Limited
  • 49 mpg for LE e-AWD, XLE e-AWD

During testing of a 2021 Prius 2020 Edition, the car averaged 47.5 mpg. With its fuel tank capacity of 11.3 gallons, the driving range amounts to just more than 535 miles. You’ll need to stop for gas right around the 500-mile mark.

Is the 2021 Toyota Prius safe?

The answer to this question is complicated. Because Toyota now includes its TSS 2.0 collection of ADAS as standard equipment on all Prius trim levels, the car is safer than it was. 

However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says the Prius offers no better than Acceptable protection to the front-seat passenger in a small-overlap, frontal-impact collision. In this respect, the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid performs better.

As this review is published, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not given the 2021 Prius a crash-test rating.

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For this review, we evaluated a 2021 Toyota Prius 2020 Edition. It had Supersonic Red paint and no options, resulting in a price of $31,295, including the destination charge.

How is the 2021 Toyota Prius interior?

The Toyota Prius sits low to the ground, so you don’t step into the car as much as you fall into it. This gas-electric hybrid was the first Toyota built on a new global platform intentionally designed to lower a vehicle’s center of gravity to make it more fun to drive, and the low seating in the Prius is a byproduct of that engineering decision.

2021 Toyota Prius 2020 Edition Interior Dashboard

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Toyota has always made the Prius a little weird and wacky, and that’s true of the current model. A row of digital displays lines up under the center of the windshield like a filmstrip of data. Forward of this instrumentation, the infotainment system resides on a pod that juts out of the dashboard, with air vents above the screen and the climate controls, transmission joystick, and driving mode buttons beneath the display.

Steering wheel controls operate the filmstrip’s data panels, the ADAS settings, and the stereo. The adaptive cruise control lives on a short and stubby stalk to the lower right of the steering wheel, using a design that dates as far back as the mid-1990s.

The result is an “open concept” cabin that takes more than a few minutes for acclimation. But acclimate you will. 

Quality levels are about what you would expect, the Prius featuring a mix of soft and hard surfaces. Gloss black trim shows lots of dust and fingerprints, and while the test car’s SofTex simulated leather looked and felt like the real thing, it tends to trap sweat and easily wrinkles clothing.

Is the 2021 Toyota Prius comfortable?

Aside from the leg workout you’ll get while getting into and out of the Prius (and your sweaty backside), the Prius is comfortable. Versions of the car with SofTex also have heated front seats and a heated steering wheel, but ventilated front seats are unavailable. 

The rear-seat passengers do not get air conditioning vents, so they’ll be extra sweaty on hot days. Taller adults fit just fine, but not with much room to spare. Don’t plan on carrying five grown-ups in the back seat. Three younger children should be no problem.

Single-zone “smart flow” automatic climate control is standard and includes a pollen filter. You can choose to use an Eco setting that concentrates its effectiveness only on the driver, saving a little bit of gas. But it also means your passengers will be extra, extra sweaty.

If your takeaway is that the Prius is not comfortable on hot days, you are correct.

Does the 2021 Toyota Prius drive itself?

No. The answer to this question, regardless of the vehicle, is no until U.S. regulators approve Level 3 ADAS systems. And even then, only a few expensive luxury cars will offer it at first, and it will likely operate only at lower vehicle speeds.

However, with the addition of TSS 2.0 for the 2021 model year, the Prius now offers Level 2 hands-on driving assistance in the form of adaptive cruise control and lane-centering assistance. You must hold on to the steering wheel and pay attention, but this system can make highway driving easier.

Byproducts of using the Prius’s lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, and lane-centering assistance systems include incessant beeping and an added sensation of artificiality to steering that is already lacking in terms of feel.

Does the 2021 Toyota Prius have AWD?

Yes, the 2021 Prius offers AWD. You can get it with LE and XLE trim, and it harms both fuel economy and cargo space. Plus, it’s an electronic system employing a small electric assist motor at the car’s rear wheels and is active only at lower speeds. So, unless you really need this feature, perhaps a good set of snow tires or simply staying home during blizzards would be the better choice.

Is the 2021 Toyota Prius fun to drive?

Perhaps unexpectedly, a Prius could make you smile from time to time. But no, the car isn’t fun to drive in the traditional sense.

For example, if you enjoy the challenge of driving, you might find pleasure in hypermiling a Toyota Prius. By trying to beat your best fuel economy number or attempting to keep the EV driving mode engaged for as long as possible, the Prius can scratch the itch of self-competition. If you’ve ever gotten stuck behind a slow driver in a Prius (and who hasn’t?), this is probably what’s going on.

Alternatively, you can take advantage of the Prius’s Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) and its inherently low center of gravity, which is dropped even closer to the ground by the hybrid’s heavy battery pack and electric motor. 

There is genuine athleticism to be found in this car, whether we’re talking about the immediate electric torque as soon as you step on the accelerator or how the car hugs a corner with a remarkably flat stance. Starting with XLE trim, the Prius even offers larger 17-inch wheels with 215/45 tires, but they’re anything but sticky. 

This car’s handling impresses only because expectations are so low when you first drive it. Ultimately, a Prius is best when used for the daily commute by people who don’t care much about what they drive as long as it doesn’t cost much to own and operate.

IS THE 2021 TOYOTA PRIUS A GOOD CAR? - Find the best Toyota deals!

According to J.D. Power data, the Toyota Prius is a dependable car. It ranked in third place in the J.D. Power 2021 Vehicle Dependability Study, tied with the Toyota Corolla. However, in the J.D. Power 2020 Initial Quality Study and the J.D. Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution, and Layout Study, the Prius did not rank among the top three vehicles in the compact car segment.

2021 Toyota Prius 2020 Edition Red Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

In addition to offering dependability, the 2021 Prius is a good car in terms of its effortless fuel efficiency, roomy interior, and commodious cargo hold. Anyone who buys a vehicle solely to transport themselves from Point A to Point B will love the affordable Toyota Prius.

What is the 2021 Toyota Prius competition? - Find the best Toyota deals!

The most direct competitor to the Toyota Prius is the Hyundai Ioniq. It has a similar shape and comes only as a 5-door hatchback. Plus, it offers much better ownership perks, has better safety scores, and in addition to hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants, Hyundai offers it as a pure electric car with 170 miles of driving range

The Ioniq is the better vehicle between the two, but if you want one, you’d better hurry. Hyundai is likely to discontinue the existing Ioniq model as it transitions the Ioniq name to serve as a sub-brand for a family of coming electric vehicles.

Alternatively, you could choose the Honda Insight. Based on the Civic sedan, the Insight is about the same size as the Prius and offers about the same efficiency, but it has a conventional trunk instead of a more practical hatchback.

Otherwise, your choices include the Honda Accord Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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