2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e Offers Traction on Slippery Roads with Amazing Fuel Economy
Fundamentally unchanged since the 2016 model was introduced, the 2019 Toyota Prius receives a minor refresh this year. The front and rear styling is updated somewhat and perhaps not quite as futuristic as before. That may be good news for those who don’t care for the new Corolla Hybrid’s styling. There is a new AWD version, notable with its standard fog lights, two tone wheel covers and AWD badge on the rear hatch. The interior is basically unchanged from 2018.
The AWD system brings with it a new Nickel Metal Hydride battery that Toyota claims will perform better in cold climates. The rear axle has a separate electric motor that kicks in at low speeds only. There’s only 7 hp in the back, so just enough to help with grip on slippery roads. There is no off-road capability here. I did not have the opportunity to test the AWD system in snow, but it performed admirably in heavy rain and standing water. That small rear motor is always working up to 6 mph in all conditions, but only when necessary beyond that until 43 mph. Overall performance is otherwise similar to the FWD trims.
There’s barely a fuel economy penalty, as the AWD model is rated at 50 mpg combined vs. 52 mpg combined for the same trim in the FWD version. That’s only the equivalent of less than one extra tankful of 11.3 gallons each year for someone who drives 12,000 miles annually. I obtained a very respectable 64 mpg for over 200 miles around suburban Chicago. Of course, I do not expect those kinds of results year round, particularly in winter when cold temps and use of the heater reduce fuel economy considerably. The only real drawback seems to be the premium of $1400 on the LE trim or $1000 on XLE models.
As for car seats, like any small car, it has some challenges. There’s limited room in back, so an infant or rear-facing only carseat will likely reduce front seat legroom, as is the case in almost every compact sedan and utility vehicle. Also common among small cars, the center seat is quite narrow, and it will be difficult to find a car seat that fits there. In the Prius, the middle spot is likely only usable by a slender teen or pre-teen; many carseats will simply not work with the narrow seatbelt system attachments there. Three across carseats will be a major challenge, as I could not find a combination that worked well, though it may be possible.
Fortunately, I had no issues fitting two carseats in the outboard seating positions.