Prime fuel economy

2022 Toyota Prius takes Prime position for maximum fuel economy

Gas or electric, electric or gas? It seems so much automotive news lately talks about the coming electric vehicle (EV) wave and the soon-to-be-dismissed internal combustion engine (ICE) debate. But there are several vehicles out there that actually combine the two to form a plug-in-hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).

And as you’d expect Toyota is a leader in PHEV. I say of course because Toyota led the way many years ago in hybrids with the Prius, which if there can be a hybrid legend, then the Prius is a legend. Toyota has also led the way in PHEVs offering their PHEV Prime brand on several of their vehicles, including the “legendary” Prius. That’s what I drove this week – the 2022 Toyota Prius Prime.

I was looking forward to it because the RAV4 Prime I drove was one of my favorite vehicles of last year. To me it seemed like the ideal vehicle. And since the Prius lacks excitement of any kind, I was hoping the Prime version would infuse a little bit of excitement to the otherwise dull Prius.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. The 1.8-liter four cylinder hybrid engine with two electric motors is good for a whopping 121 horsepower. Obviously you don’t drive a Prius for power and performance, but I was hoping the electric portion would bring a little more to the Prius, and sadly it didn’t. Matters are made worse by a continuously variable transmission. The only noticeable improvement from the Prime treatment is a little oomph off the line. You won’t drag races but it’s a little nicer in early acceleration, compared to the standard Prius.

Otherwise, the overall performance is “Prius like.” If that’s all you want and need then it’s perfectly acceptable. And with today’s rising fuel costs the Prius Prime hits the mark.

So what about that plug-in portion? Well those two electric motors when plugged in, boost up the overall fuel economy. When fully charged, the Prius Prime can drive 25 miles on electric only, conserving fuel on the already efficient system. Charge times can take almost six hours on a standard 120-volt outlet or around two hours on an installed 240-volt outlet. But basically an overnight plug in boosts up overall fuel economy for the Prius Prime.

As such, the 2022 Prius Prime is rated at 55 mpg/city and 53 mpg/highway. This is the only talking point that matters for the Prius Prime. This is why you buy this vehicle. Who cares if it’s sluggish or has weird shifts thanks to the CVT? You will hardly ever have to fill this car up. Name one vehicle that has range of more than 50 mpg that also has gasoline (and thus no EV range anxiety)?

The rest of the Prius Prime is as you’d expect. The interior is more streamlined with the rest of the Toyota line, which is different than previous iterations of the Prius. It’s less weird and futuristic and feels more like a Corolla or Camry than ever before – and that’s a good thing.

Most impressive is the rear legroom. It’s comfortable for up to two adults, although it’s rated as a five-passenger vehicle. Despite that cavernous, comfortable back seat, there’s still ample cargo room. The Prius Prime has 19.8 cubic feet of trunk space which can expand to 36.6 cubic feet with the seats folded down.

Toyota’s infotainment system is one of the most intuitive systems around. It lacks pizzazz and high-end features, but it integrates perfectly with smartphones and the 11.6-inch touchscreen is responsive and easy to use. The overall organization of the center cluster is clean and attractive.

There are three trim levels including LE, XLE and Limited. My tester was the top-of-the-line Limited trim with a starting price of $34,000. The best thing about this trim is there is really no need for add ons or extras as everything is included. My tester did have $259 floor mats, so the final MSRP was $34,259. The base trim Prius Prime has a starting price of under $30,000.

To achieve maximum fuel efficiency, without going full electric, you have to go with a PHEV. And if all you care about is affordability and fuel economy then the 2022 Toyota Prius Prime hits the mark. Just don’t expect more from it.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @driversside

2022 Toyota Prius Prime

  • Price/As tested price................................................ $34,000/$34,259
  • Mileage.......................................... 55 mpg/city; 53 mpg/hwy
  • Engine............................................. 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower................................. 121 hp/105 lbs./ft.
  • Transmission................................. CVT
  • Drive wheels................ Front-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point................ Aichi, Japan

About the Author