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Toyota Prius 2020 review: i-Tech

The Toyota Prius hasn't changed its looks much since birth.

The Toyota Prius has been around for 20 years and the concept hasn’t changed a lot in that time. It was pioneering for its day and indeed for the first decade, but how does it compete in the hybrid/electric motor field today? 

I was interested because I’ve never driven a Prius before and I’m a fan of hybrids (or anything that contributes less emissions to the climate). I test drove the iTech, which is the top of a range of two.

It costs $45,350, which puts it in competition with the Hyundai Ioniq Electric and Nissan Leaf, both of which are fully electric rather than hybrid. Here’s how it did with my family of four for this week’s family review. 

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✅ How does it look?

The exterior of the car is modern, something to do with the aerodynamics to maximise the hybrid power unit. It curves down at the front and tapers up at the back.

It looks fine but it’s not the most attractive of cars. Still, that’s not why you’re looking at a Prius, so it factors less in your decision making.

  • 2020 Toyota Prius i-Tech (image: Dean McCartney) 2020 Toyota Prius i-Tech (image: Dean McCartney)
  • 2020 Toyota Prius i-Tech (image: Dean McCartney) 2020 Toyota Prius i-Tech (image: Dean McCartney)
  • 2020 Toyota Prius i-Tech (image: Dean McCartney) 2020 Toyota Prius i-Tech (image: Dean McCartney)
  • 2020 Toyota Prius i-Tech (image: Dean McCartney) 2020 Toyota Prius i-Tech (image: Dean McCartney)
  • 2020 Toyota Prius i-Tech (image: Dean McCartney) 2020 Toyota Prius i-Tech (image: Dean McCartney)

Inside is just a bit odd. The digital dash is in the centre of the car, high up, just under the windscreen. So there’s nothing in front of the steering wheel, it’s dead space.

It’s not super functional compared with other cars that have everything you need to see directly in your eye-line. It does have a head-up display with your speed in the windscreen, but for all that hybrid information you have to keep looking left.

The seats are leather-appointed and they look and feel good, the steering wheel is nice under the hands, but the design overall feels dated.

Inside is just a bit odd. The digital dash is in the centre of the car, high up, just under the windscreen. (image: Dean McCartney) Inside is just a bit odd. The digital dash is in the centre of the car, high up, just under the windscreen. (image: Dean McCartney)

✅ How does it drive?

It drives well for a hybrid. There is a silent start as is usual with an electric motor, and then the petrol engine kicks in for more power.

There are three driving modes that work with the engine.  'Power' mode is for the highway. 'Eco' mode switches to battery power for slow driving on quiet streets. 'Normal' mode is for both electric and petrol for everyday driving conditions.

It’s got a 1.8L, four-cylinder petrol engine when it’s not using the electric motor and both work seamlessly together to provide a smooth driving experience.

It’s got a 1.8L, four-cylinder petrol engine when it’s not using the electric motor and both work seamlessly together to provide a smooth driving experience. (image: Dean McCartney) It’s got a 1.8L, four-cylinder petrol engine when it’s not using the electric motor and both work seamlessly together to provide a smooth driving experience. (image: Dean McCartney)

It’s not an exciting drive but it certainly did the job and because it’s hybrid you’re not concerned about plugging in for electric top ups every night. I drove it in the city and along highways and felt confident in both environments.

The one thing that did bother me was the visibility out of the rear window. There’s a thick seam through the centre of the back window which is weirdly angled anyway.

It was okay during the day, but at night on a particularly torrential rainy evening, it divided my eyeline into two sections and it wasn’t great for driving in those conditions, especially when parking/reversing.

It does have a reverse parking camera which is a decent high-res but in the heavy rain that gets all blurry.

✅ How spacious is it?

The Prius isn’t huge, however it’s not a super small car either, and is perfect to drive around suburbia or the inner city thanks to its size.

The front is quite spacious with enough leg and headroom for the taller members of my family, and also a good amount of room width wise to be comfortable in the front.

There was plenty of space in the back seat for my two children and I could easily fit back there at 161cm (5'3"). There’s enough room between my knees and the seat in front to fit taller adults and the whole car feels roomy.

The boot is an odd shape because of the sloping roof line and I was concerned it wouldn’t fit a whole load of boxes I needed to get in.

As it stands, the boot has 343L of space and I could fit a pram in there. Dropping the back seats really opened the whole boot up to 1633L and I was able to fit all the boxes I needed inside.

There was plenty of space in the back seat for my two children and I could easily fit back there at 161cm (5'3"). (image: Dean McCartney) There was plenty of space in the back seat for my two children and I could easily fit back there at 161cm (5'3"). (image: Dean McCartney)

✅ How easy is it to use everyday?

In this top-of-the-range Prius i-Tech model the front seats are power adjustable and there is keyless entry. The park brake is a foot brake which always throws me a little but is easy enough to use when you get used to it.

There are two cupholders in the front, a spot for keys and a phone that also houses a wireless charger, a centre storage bin and bottle holders in the doors.

Rear passengers get two cupholders in the centre armrest and bottle holders in the doors.

✅ How safe is it?

✅ What’s the tech like?

Here’s the big news: the Prius now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto! This is a huge improvement over Toyota's previously clunky multimedia system and makes you feel like tech inside this car matches the advanced hybrid tech powering it.

You can plug in for instant connection to the main apps on your phone and everything from navigating to listening to music and making calls is easy and at your fingertips.

Here’s the big news: the Prius now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto! (image: Dean McCartney) Here’s the big news: the Prius now has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto! (image: Dean McCartney)

✅ How much does it cost to own?

The Toyota Prius i-Tech costs $45,350, before on-road costs. Fuel consumption is a claimed 3.4L/100km, which is very low thanks to the hybrid set-up, and I did 3.2L/100km this week.

It’s covered by Toyota’s five year/unlimited km warranty and the battery is covered for 10 years as long as you undertake your annual inspection - check in with your dealer about this.

Servicing is required every six months/10,000 km but it is a low cost $140 service.


The Wrap

The Toyota Prius has been around for a long time and led the way with a hybrid engine back when we should have all started caring about that. The design does feel quite dated now, both inside and out and with other competitors offering completely electric cars now for near the same price, and even hybrid Corolla and RAV4 from Toyota both having excellent technology, it can’t be long that Prius will get another update. Still, it’s reputation is solid and for a second runaround car for a family, it works well enough.

I gave it a family rating of 7.1 and my kids gave it an 8.0. They love anything that helps the planet.

Likes

Hybrid motor
Larger boot space
Interior space

Dislikes

Dated styling
Rear visibility
Odd dash layout

Scores

Nedahl:

3.6

The Kids:

4

$45,350

Based on new car retail price

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