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2021 Toyota Prius

2021 Toyota Prius

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$24,525 — $32,650 MSRP
29
Photos
Hatchback
5 Seats
49-56 MPG
(Combined)
Key specs of the base trim
 — 
Compare 5 trims

Overview

Is this the car for you?

The Good

  • Fuel economy
  • Handling
  • Front-seat roominess
  • AWD availability
  • Many standard safety, driver-assist features

The Bad

  • Road and wind noise
  • Brake-pedal feel
  • Drivetrain responsiveness
  • Some ride harshness
  • Aging multimedia setup
  • Backseat cushion height
2021 Toyota Prius exterior side view

What to Know

about the 2021 Toyota Prius
  • Android Auto joins Apple CarPlay in most trim levels
  • Gas-electric hybrid drivetrain
  • Five-seat hatchback
  • Front- or all-wheel drive
  • 7- or 11.6-inch touchscreen
  • Prime plug-in hybrid version also available

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2021 Toyota Prius Review

from the Cars.com expert editorial team

By Kelsey Mays

The verdict: Sky-high fuel efficiency with front- or all-wheel drive remains the main draw for Toyota’s iconic Prius hybrid, even as the aging current generation grows less competitive in other ways.

Versus the competition: When Toyota unveiled this generation of the Prius more than five years ago, we lauded the car’s advancements in handling and interior quality. The intervening years, however, have seen rivals catch up on fuel efficiency and pull ahead in refinement and other technologies — though none yet offer all-wheel drive.

Toyota added the option of AWD to the Prius two model years ago, and it remains one of the most fuel-efficient cars of its type, at least before you look at plug-in vehicles. The AWD Prius comes in LE and XLE trim levels; we evaluated an XLE. The Prius can be had with front-wheel drive in five trims, including a limited-run 2020 Edition that commemorates two decades since the Prius debuted. (Heritage notwithstanding, it’s a baffling move; slapping “2020 Edition” on a 2021 model invites needless confusion, not to mention a constant reminder of a year everyone wants to forget.)

Related: 2021 Toyota Prius AWD-e: Real World Gas Mileage

Besides the 2020 Edition, changes for 2021 include some augmented safety features and new Android Auto smartphone connectivity on most trim levels (Apple CarPlay remains standard). Stack up the 2020 and 2021 Prius or compare 2021 trim levels. Note, we separately cover the Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid with an EPA-rated 25 ...

The verdict: Sky-high fuel efficiency with front- or all-wheel drive remains the main draw for Toyota’s iconic Prius hybrid, even as the aging current generation grows less competitive in other ways.

Versus the competition: When Toyota unveiled this generation of the Prius more than five years ago, we lauded the car’s advancements in handling and interior quality. The intervening years, however, have seen rivals catch up on fuel efficiency and pull ahead in refinement and other technologies — though none yet offer all-wheel drive.

Toyota added the option of AWD to the Prius two model years ago, and it remains one of the most fuel-efficient cars of its type, at least before you look at plug-in vehicles. The AWD Prius comes in LE and XLE trim levels; we evaluated an XLE. The Prius can be had with front-wheel drive in five trims, including a limited-run 2020 Edition that commemorates two decades since the Prius debuted. (Heritage notwithstanding, it’s a baffling move; slapping “2020 Edition” on a 2021 model invites needless confusion, not to mention a constant reminder of a year everyone wants to forget.)

Related: 2021 Toyota Prius AWD-e: Real World Gas Mileage

Besides the 2020 Edition, changes for 2021 include some augmented safety features and new Android Auto smartphone connectivity on most trim levels (Apple CarPlay remains standard). Stack up the 2020 and 2021 Prius or compare 2021 trim levels. Note, we separately cover the Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid with an EPA-rated 25 miles of all-electric driving range on a full battery charge before the gas engine kicks in. (Here’s more about the main differences between a hybrid and plug-in hybrid.)

Gas Mileage: The Reason Anyone Buys a Prius

The Prius’ mileage leader is the L Eco, a base trim level that’s good for an EPA-estimated 56 mpg combined. Among plug-free cars, that rating trails only one rival: the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid, whose base trim level, Ioniq Blue, gets an EPA-rated 59 mpg combined. That said, the L Eco trim accounts for less than 10% of Prius cars listed in Cars.com’s dealer inventory as of this writing. Most shoppers will end up with other trims of the Prius, which the EPA still rates a very good 52 mpg combined. 

The Prius AWD, meanwhile, employs an additional electric motor at the rear axle, which powers the car continuously from a stop, then as-needed up to 43 mph. There’s no mechanical connection to the main powertrain, which pairs two electric motor-generators with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. A power-split device with continuously variable properties doles out power to the wheels.

The whole of it makes for a combined 49 mpg in EPA ratings — short of the front-drive Prius but outstanding for an AWD vehicle that isn’t a plug-in. Our real-world testing returned results consistent with the car’s rating, with 46.6 mpg according to our calculations based on fill-up mileage ( 51.5 mpg on the trip computer) after 215 miles of mixed highway and suburban driving.

What You Give Up to Get There

As with most hybrids, electric operation alone is possible at low speeds under light acceleration, with the engine kicking in for anything beyond that. Under a combination of engine and electric power, the Prius has enough oomph; I needed most of the drivetrain’s reserves to claw my way up to 40 mph with 17 bags of mulch aboard — at least several hundred pounds — but power felt workably adequate. 

That’s not to say the drivetrain is all that responsive. Press the accelerator while already in motion, and the Prius hesitates a beat or two before raising rpm to pull noisily ahead. Most modern CVTs implement quicker rpm transitions to mimic a step-gear downshift, but such programming usually trades fuel efficiency for responsiveness, so I seldom observe it with the CVT-style transmissions many hybrids use. The Prius, unsurprisingly, does none of that: Engine revs meander up or down in a slow, old-school fashion.

A few other downsides persist. Toyota’s regenerative brakes — a feature employed in all hybrids — impart a nonlinear pedal feel reminiscent of the technology’s early days. Response is tentative in the first inch or so of pedal travel, then becomes suddenly sharper as you press harder. So-called pedal linearity has improved among many hybrids over the years, even as a few non-hybrids introduce new forms of it.

Ride quality and noise abatement also remain areas that could use improvement. At highway speeds, our test car’s efficiency-oriented Bridgestone Ecopia tires let out quite the howl, with adjacent trucks matching the ambient noise. The suspension sorts out minor bumps well enough, but anything significant sends turbulent aftershocks through the body. The Prius is not especially comfortable or quiet.

Is this the penalty for sky-high mileage at an affordable price? Maybe; the rival Honda Insight is no bank vault, either. Mass-market hybrids aren’t known for sophisticated suspensions or gobs of noise insulation, but some execute those things better than others. A redesigned Prius will probably improve on such aspects, and with the current Prius entering its sixth model year for 2021, time for a new version is nigh.

By contrast, the Prius’ hybridness has little bearing on its other deficiencies. Most trims get a touchscreen measuring just 7 inches diagonally — an inch short of what you’ll find in the base version of many mass-market cars — with modest screen resolution and undersized volume and tuning knobs. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa integration are included with the 7-inch system, but they require a tethered connection as opposed to the wireless integrations that are expanding industrywide. Upgrade to the front-drive Prius Limited and you get the Prius Prime’s 11.6-inch vertically oriented touchscreen, but it confoundingly loses Android Auto connectivity. See our impressions of it otherwise.

Where It Still Shines

An early example of Toyota’s well-executed TNGA platform, which now underpins many other cars, the Prius boasts improbably good handling. The steering has a touch of vagueness on-center, but it communicates lively feedback as you turn the wheel into corners. Body roll is nicely controlled, and the AWD model shows unexpected balance if you slide it around — something the Bridgestones easily allow.

Space efficiency, at least up front, is also among the Prius’ strengths. The low center console leaves good space for your knees and thighs, and all but the tallest drivers should find sufficient headroom, even with the seat elevated all the way. The backseat is a bit low to the floor, so adults may find their knees uncomfortably elevated, but we found sufficient clearance to fit bulky rear-facing child-safety seats behind a 5-foot-6-inch front passenger. (That’s not to say, however, that the Prius passed Cars.com’s Car Seat Check with flying colors; parents with young children should check out our full scoring.) 

We measured 13.1 cubic feet behind the Prius’ backseat, a figure comparable to our audits for two other smallish hatchbacks, the Mazda3 (13.1 cubic feet) and Subaru Crosstrek (13.0 cubic feet). (Note that our independent accounting of cargo space differs from manufacturer specs, which we’ve found overrepresent hatch space, underreport trunk volume and are unreliable for comparison.)

The Prius earned top scores in most crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but suboptimal results in the passenger-side small overlap front test kept the vehicle from garnering one of IIHS’ influential, if widespread, Top Safety Pick awards. Still, Toyota’s long list of safety and driver assist features is impressive: Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure steering assist and automatic high-beam headlights are standard, as are adaptive cruise control and hands-on lane centering. Those last two features can both operate from a standstill all the way up to highway speeds. New for 2021 is the latest generation of Toyota Safety Sense, which adds more detection capabilities, and all but the base trim level get a blind spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert. Top trims add curve-adaptive headlights.

Should You Buy a Prius?

The Prius starts around $25,500 for the cheapest front-drive trim. That’s roughly commensurate with Toyota’s immediate competition, and the base Prius doesn’t skimp on multimedia features or safety and driver-assist tech, as some rivals do. Optional AWD adds a modest $1,000-$1,400 to the Prius’ mid-level trims, depending on specifics; the cheapest AWD Prius lands comfortably under $30,000 (all prices include destination charges).

Ascending trim levels add items like faux-leather upholstery, heated front seats and a power driver’s seat. Oddly enough, you can’t get certain top-of-the-line features on any AWD model, and niceties like a memory driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control and genuine leather are unavailable on any 2021 Prius.

Loaded with factory options, the Prius tops out around $34,500. You should be able to find plenty of examples well below that, given about two-thirds of the new 2021 models listed on Cars.com are priced at or below $30,000. Still, budget-conscious shoppers might find wider affordability on the Insight, with 82% of its new 2021 models priced at or below $30,000 on Cars.com.

That said, the venerable Prius is bound to find plenty of shoppers. The current generation shows its age through its drivability and multimedia tech, but lower trim levels offer a good mix of value and efficiency — especially with AWD, a capability that hybrid shoppers would otherwise need an SUV to get.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

Consumer Reviews

What drivers are saying

4.4
10 reviews — Read All reviews
Exterior Styling
(4.4)
Performance
(4.4)
Interior Design
(4.5)
Comfort
(4.4)
Reliability
(4.5)
Value For The Money
(4.4)

Read reviews that mention:

(4.0)

MPG , AWD , Easy to stain Seats, No Spare Wheel

by SaraW from Seattle , Wa on May 4, 2021

I really enjoy this car. My only dislikes are the materials used on the interior are easy to stain and difficult to clean. I like the Apple Car Play. Read full review

(5.0)

Handles like a sports car!

by JoanPuzzler from Lititz PA on April 24, 2021

The car handles very similar to a VW GT that I drove. It hugs the road when going through curves or turns. It is also very quiet. Read full review

Safety

Recalls and crash tests

Recalls

The 2021 Toyota Prius currently has 0 recalls


Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2021 Toyota Prius L

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Child Seat Anchors (Latch)

Ease of Use
good

Crash Avoidance and Mitigation

Front Crash Prevention
superior

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Headlights

Overall Rating
acceptable

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
acceptable
Driver Torso
acceptable
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Small Overlap Front - Driver Side

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/Thigh
good
Lower Leg/Foot
good
Overall Evaluation
good
Restraints and Dummy Kinematics
good
Structure and Safety Cage
good

Small Overlap Front - Passenger Side

Overall Evaluation
acceptable
Structure and Safety Cage
good

Small Overlap Front - Passenger Side - Driver Injury Measures

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/Thigh
good
Lower Leg/Foot
good
Restraints and Dummy Kinematics
marginal

Small Overlap Front - Passenger Side - Passenger Injury Measures

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/Thigh
good
Lower Leg/Foot
good
Restraints and Dummy Kinematics
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Warranty

New car and certified pre-owned programs by Toyota

New Car Program Benefits

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    36 months / unlimited distance

Certified Pre-Owned Program Benefits

Latest 2021 Prius Stories

See all 2021 Toyota Prius articles

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Prius received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker

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