New 2020 Version of Prius Prime Seats Five Passengers

By · May 16, 2019

Toyota Prius Prime

For more than a year, the Toyota Prius Prime has been the second best-selling plug-in vehicle—surpassed only by the Tesla Model 3. Now the new 2020 version of Prime, due as early as June, will become even more accessible and attractive when its back row expands to accommodate a fifth passenger and adds two USB ports.

The new Prius Prime starts at $28,530. The enduring popularity of the plug-in Prius is due to its low entry price—combined with the availability of a $4,502 federal tax credit (and local incentives), the versatility of a hatchback, and the ability to drive the first 25 miles purely on electrons.

One of the biggest drawbacks—besides lackluster acceleration—had been the use of two captain chairs in the second row, limiting the model to a max of four passengers. The 2020 version replaces the two seats separated by armrests and cup holders with a bench that accommodates three backseat passengers. Two added USB ports add a nice gesture of convenience.

The 2020 Prius Prime also now offers Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa voice commands as standard features. (Android Auto is still not available.)

Consider a Plug-in Hybrid

While most of the EV world’s attention remains on Tesla and other luxury automakers beginning to offer pure electric cars with more than 200 miles of driving range, it’s easy to lose sight of an essential fact about American drivers: Our commutes are less than 40 miles a day.

Many drivers in the US could virtually eliminate their gasoline consumption and emissions with a plug-in hybrid like the Prius Prime. After its 8.8-kWh battery is depleted, the Prius Prime maintains an official EPA fuel efficiency of 54 miles per gallon. Total vehicle range is more than 600 miles.

The Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, which had provided 53 miles of all-electric range, was discontinued in 2018. Sales of the larger and more expensive Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, which offers 48 miles of range and is available in all 50 states, lags behind the Prius Prime—despite the Toyota offering half its electric range.

Competing plug-in hybrid models from Hyundai and Kia also offer slightly more range than the Prius Prime. And yet, the practicality, familiarity, and wide availability of the plug-in Prius should put the Toyota on the shopping list for anybody deciding against a pure EV but considering a new plug-in hybrid.

The design and powertrain for the new 2020 Prius Prime remain unchanged. However, in addition to becoming a five-passenger model, the 2020 model brings a premium feel via black interior accents replacing the previous white accents. The sun visor is extended, and the seat-heater buttons were relocated for better usability.

Toyota also updated the terminology for the Prime’s trim levels—shifting to the LE, XLE, and Unlimited designations for other models in the lineup. The midrange XLE version starts at $30,430, while the top-of-the-line Limited carries a suggested starting price of $34,430.

Savvy car buyers should also keep their eyes open for remaining copies of the outgoing Prime model. It might limit passenger capacity to four people, but attractive lease deals reportedly can be found as low as $300 a month (with approx.. $2,000 due at signing).

About one-third of Prius sales these days are represented by the plug-in model. That’s a harbinger of things to come as the entire car market adds more plug-in hybrid variants.

New to EVs? Start here

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