Now a mainstay in the car industry, the Toyota Prius family is ever expanding. It includes five trims of the original hatchback as well as the compact Prius C and Prius V wagon, the largest offering in the hybrid clan.

The Persona Series is new for 2015 and adds a half-dozen cosmetic items to the lengthy list of standard features. But overall, the 2015 Prius lineup has only one major change. A rearview camera is now standard on all hatchback models.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

The 2015 Toyota Prius, including my weekly driver Five trim, is a five-passenger hatchback hybrid. It debuted in the United States in 2001, quickly gained national attention and moved to the top of the still-niche hybrid market with its superior gas mileage.

The 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine is matched to two electric motor/generators and combined they produce 134 horsepower. Handsome or stylish, the Prius isn’t. It remains a futuristic-looking machine with a lot to offer consumers in the market for a reliable, spacious fuel-sipper.

 

2015 Toyota Prius
The 2015 Toyota Prius gets 51 mpg in city driving. All images © James Raia/2015

 

Standard equipment on the base model Prius Two includes: 15-inch alloy wheels, heated power mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, a rearview camera, cruise control, automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, an advanced trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 6.1-inch touchscreen display and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.

The Prius Three gains an enhanced keyless entry system, a navigation system, voice controls, satellite radio, HD radio and Toyota’s Entune system, which includes real-time information (traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports scores) and the ability to use apps like Pandora, iHeart Radio and Open Table via a connection with a smartphone.

The Persona Series has the Three’s equipment plus 17-inch alloy wheels, additional chrome trim, side mirrors with integrated turn signals, footwell illumination and leatherette upholstery.

The Prius Four features the Three’s equipment as well as automatic headlights, an eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an eight-speaker JBL sound system.

And the Prius Five reaches equipment saturation with the 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights and LED headlights. My weekly driver also included the Advanced Technology Package ($4,320). It added a dozen more items, including adaptive cruise control and a upgraded navigation system.

Driving a Prius provides a not-so-subtle reminder that the globally popular hybrid still falls outside the range of “normal car.” Several hybrid sedans I’ve recently driven are barely distinguishable from their gas-powered siblings. But the Prius remains odd.

It operates via a small and sometimes awkward-shifting knob. The Prius advances with little gusto, but it does so with amazing efficiency, 51 mph in city driving. And it’s all detailed via a statistic-loaded instrument panel. While at a stoplight of stop sign, the Prius gas engined shuts off and the car is silent while running on its batteries. The quietness takes an adjustment for newbies, but it’s the efficiency of the combined power that provides the car’s industry-best hybrid mileage.

The 2015 Prius’ interior is basic — like any room in an average hotel chain. There’s nothing wrong with the interior, but there’s little unique, with the exception of three small, appreciated features. The Prius has 10 windows, which give the car an open feel. It also has and upper and lower glovebox and a pass-through console similar to the configuration in Volvo models.

Likes:

Superior fuel economy.

Spacious interior, front and back.

Lots of technology.

Open, airy feeling (10 windows).

Dislikes:

Sluggish acceleration.

Excessive road noise, particularly at freeway speeds.

Obscured rear vision.

Facts & Figures: 2015 Toyota Prius Five

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 10.2 seconds.
Airbags: 7.
Fuel economy: 51 mpg (city), 48 mpg (highway), 50 mpg (combined) six-speed automatic transmission.
Horsepower: 134.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $30,005.00.
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.toyota.com.
Price As Tested: $35,824.00.
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Hybrid component, 8 years/100,000 miles; Roadside assistance: 2 years/25,000 miles; Free maintenance, 2 years/25,000 miles.

What Others Say:

“Thanks to some very clever drivetrain programming, you’ll get excellent fuel economy almost regardless of how heavy you are on the gas pedal. It does this with all the practicality of any hatchback, with a decently sized rear seat and plenty of cargo room. These days, the Toyota Prius faces stiff competition from the more refined Ford C-Max and Chevrolet Volt – both of which are more engaging to drive – but remains the hybrid to beat.” — Kelley Blue Book.

“The 2015 Toyota Prius remains the quintessential hybrid car and a solid all-around choice, though other, newer hybrids are more enjoyable to drive.” — Edmunds.com.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“It’s hard not to consider the Prius if you’re in the market for a hybrid. But its competitors are now offering more comfort and styling and nearly the same fuel economy. The Prius is still the top-selling hybrid, but it’s no longer the best on the market.”

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