Toyota revamps the Prius hybrid for 2019 with some exterior styling modifications, interior design tweaks, a change in trim-level nomenclature and, most notably, the availability of all-wheel drive.
Redesigned features of the 2019 Prius include the front bumper, headlamps and tail lamps. The effect is a less wild-looking but still unconventional style.
In the passenger cabin, the color black replaces the previous white for accents around the shifter, on the steering wheel and on the center console. Two more USB ports have been installed, the Qi wireless phone charging tray has been enlarged to suit today’s bigger smartphones, and a heated steering wheel is now standard on higher-level trims.
Prius models no longer have the numeral names used previously and are now labeled similarly to other vehicles in Toyota’s lineup: L Eco, LE, XLE and Limited. All-wheel-drive is available on LE and XLE grades, identified by AWD-e, as Toyota calls it.
There are two bold new colors for the 2019: Supersonic Red and Electric Storm Blue.
Pricing with destination charge included starts at $24,700 for the L Eco model and tops out at $33,130 for the Limited.
My tester was the Prius LE AWD-e model, whose base price is $27,310. It’s unusual to be given a tester that isn’t a top-of-the-line version, but in this case it made good sense. Once I got over the hardship of a manual-adjustment driver seat without heat, and no satellite radio or navigation, I took a closer look at the car’s pricing, and appreciation ensued. A midsize hybrid car manufactured by the highly regarded Toyota brand coming in comfortably less than $30,000? Nice. But there’s more: Another $395 could be shaved off by not opting for the tester’s Supersonic Red paint.
The Prius AWD-e system uses an electric motor powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery that can withstand extreme temperature changes. An independent electric magnet-less rear motor powers the rear wheels from 0 to 6 mph, and after that when needed, up to 43 mph. So you get extra stability when taking off and during slippery road conditions while still maintaining excellent fuel efficiency in general. The Prius LE AWD-e is EPA-rated at 52 mpg city, 48 mpg highway, and 50 mpg combined.
The test week didn’t include any snowy situations where the Prius could really show me its mettle, but around Snohomish County roads and highways there was a distinct display of peppy performance, great handling, steering and braking, and a sturdy but comfortable ride in a wonderfully quiet cabin with generous amounts of space for passengers and cargo.
The exterior and interior revisions are positive ones, and the tester, in spite of its low-ish position on the 2019 Prius trim level ladder, was still equipped with gobs of safety features and essential conveniences like a tilt and telescoping steering wheel and a smart key system. Front fog lights and power heated outside mirrors were also among the standard items. A six-speaker Entune audio system was on the list too, with Bluetooth and a 6-inch touchscreen.
The Toyota Prius is one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles you can buy, but even without that huge asset, it’s still a terrific car, especially now with the option of all-wheel drive. By the way, the price difference between front-drive and AWD-e models is $1,400.
2019 TOYOTA PRIUS LE AWD-e HYBRID
Base price, including destination charge: $27,310
Price as driven: $28,152
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.