Base Camp: 2021 Toyota Prius
Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle on sale in Canada and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we'll let you know. If not, we'll recommend one that earns a passing grade.
Few names in the automotive sphere are as recognized as Prius. The model showed up over twenty years ago, taking the competition to school in terms of providing a reliable yet fuel-efficient hybrid car. It’s gone through a few permutations since then – including a stint where it looked like an unfinished science project – and now takes a regular seat at the segment’s head table.
For 2021, Toyota offers four different trims of Prius, including the base model shown here. It’s powered by a gasoline-fuelled 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor. Together, they make 121 horsepower while running on gas, electricity, or a combination of both depending on driving conditions. The transition between modes is smooth, by the way, and requires no input from the driver.
Every model of Prius comes equipped with certain elements of the brand’s Safety Sense suite of driving aids, including the likes of dynamic radar cruise control and lane departure alert with steering assist. A pre-collision system with pedestrian and – oddly – bicycle detection is on board as well. Guess the engineers think the average Prius owner lives in a place where there are a lot of walkers and cyclists; on reflection, this is probably pretty accurate.
Paint colours are limited to the greyscale, which is irritating, but at least the side mirrors and door handles are colour-keyed. Those mirrors are heated, by the way. Fifteen-inch alloy wheels look small but at least will keep a lid on tire costs come replacement time. LED lighting, front and rear, are standard no matter how much money one spends on a Prius.
A central touchscreen, topped by a centrally mounted gauge cluster, takes care of most day-to-day functions. It is programmed to provide Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, bumping cool tunes or your favourite meditation guru out of no fewer than six speakers. Manually-adjusted fabric seats are heated up front, and the rears can fold in a 60/40 configuration for those times you must simply take home that glorious find from the antique store.
What We’d Choose
It’s only a $1,000 walk to the Prius AWD-e that includes electric on-demand all-wheel drive thanks to an additional electric motor in the car’s aft section. Unlike some other setups of this nature, however, it doesn’t add more horsepower. What it does add is extra traction in most driving conditions plus a little bit of weight. The latter scuppers a bit of fuel economy (about 0.3L/100km combined) that could add up over time but, for most, the loss will be negligible. The AWD-e model also gains fog lamps and a couple of other minor details.
Given the type of weather most Canadians experience on an annual basis, and the fact an all-wheel drive Prius won’t put much more of a dent in your bank account, we recommend popping for that model (with a good set of winter tires, naturally).