Car Review: 2021 Toyota Prius

Robert F smith

The Toyota Prius has really built a reputation for itself, but I have to admit every time I think of it, I can’t shake a certain thought. It brings me back to the mid- to late 2000s, and the extremely wealthy celebrities who were anxious then to go green, specifically […]

The Toyota Prius has really built a reputation for itself, but I have to admit every time I think of it, I can’t shake a certain thought. It brings me back to the mid- to late 2000s, and the extremely wealthy celebrities who were anxious then to go green, specifically Leonardo DiCaprio.

The most famous of the famous were driving a Prius, including Jessica Alba, Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Tom Hanks.

I’m sure they also had much more luxurious cars somewhere in their driveways, but they were keen on contributing to saving the planet, or at least attracting some good publicity.

Back then hybrids weren’t as well-known, and interested buyers had limited options. Yes, today, brands are hustling to put hybrids into their lineups; some are planning to go entirely electric in the near future. Whether it’s a minivan or pickup, luxury or not, now seems as good a time as any to jump on the electric band wagon — even U.S. President Biden is considering upgrading The Beast to give it electric capabilities. Can you imagine the President pulling over for a quick recharge?

Anyway, my point is that, despite its competition in the current hybrid market, the Prius has already built its legacy, while continuing to thrive in a growing market.

That said, I’ve got some new unshakeable Prius thoughts, having just driven a Supersonic Red 2021 example in Technology AWD-e trim. Let me run down the list.

First Impressions

  1. There’s no CD player.
  2. It’s nice to be in a car. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been comfortably seated – and alone – in the driver’s seat of a car.
  3. Wow, they’ve fit an entire tablet in here! Cutting it in half would still leave you a large screen, as well as open up some space for a CD player.
  4. Most stuff is touch, so don’t try to press things that may look like buttons, specifically the temperature settings.
  5. There are no physical buttons for audio, other than on the steering wheel. Do yourself a favour and create those pre-sets before driving. It will save a ton of distraction time.
  6. There’s a head-up display (HUD) that I probably wouldn’t have noticed, if not for Driving’s Elliot Alder. However, despite pressing every button on the tablet, we couldn’t find an option to make it more viewable to me (more on this in a bit).
  7. There is so much space in the trunk (more to come on this, as well).
  8. Love the vertical vents! I’ve never seen this before and yes, I’m easily impressed but this is, by far, the most logical thing I’ve seen in a car (other than maybe a seatbelt). I’m not stuck with air blowing on my face and only my face. It’s perfectly covering – and keeping cool – a very long section of me (not that I’m very long). This may be my favourite feature on any car, and I think this should be the new standard in every single vehicle.


Back to the HUD: after spending some time Googling how – and if – the HUD could be moved, I finally figured it out. Someone posted a picture online of the instruction in the car’s manual (which I’d never even considered checking). So, if you ever need to nudge the HUD up or down – it doesn’t shift left or right – and you’re too lazy (like me) to search the car’s manual, here’s your how-to guide.

  1. The vehicle needs to be on, so press Start.
  2. Press HUD, a button located to the left of the steering wheel. A little notification type of thing will pop up beside the speedometer (not on the tablet, which seems like the more likely place, since it’s massive).
  3. Click either the up or down button on the steering wheel, while focusing on the area of the HUD.
  4. Keep clicking until the HUD shifts to your desired location.
  5. Clicking the left or right buttons will just alter the brightness levels of the HUD.
  6. This isn’t a step in the guide, but now that I think about it, there are a lot of options that you can change or view, but not within the tablet-sized infotainment centre.

Anyway, once you figure it out the HUD, it’s cool, but a bit unnecessary if you ask me. It’s right beside the actual speedometer that displays large, bright numbers. Not to mention, it felt like the HUD was playing some mind games with me. I think I’m pre-conditioned to think I’ll see reflections in glass — or see right through it. As I’m driving 81 km/h, my brain is instinctively registering it as 18 km/h, a very different speed, but that’s what I’m seeing.

I’m not a fan of all the touchscreen options and could do without the large infotainment centre. I think if I owned this exact Prius, I wouldn’t be using that 11.6-inch screen to its full advantage, whatever that may be. I’d be just as happy with the base trim that comes with a seven-inch touch screen and a base price of $28,850. That’s just $3,340 less than the base price of this tested top trim — the only caveat is you can’t get the base trim in Supersonic Red.


I didn’t even mind all the manual functions of the driver and front passenger’s seats. The lack of power-adjusted seats is not a deal-breaker for me; in fact, it’s quite welcoming amid all the other technology in this car. Then again, it’s odd the trim is called Technology AWD-e and it’s missing some tech in the seats.

You can’t safely and comfortably fit three car seats, but that’s fine because most sedans aren’t meant to hold three car seats – that’s what an SUV or minivan is for – and by the same token probably aren’t meant to fit three large adults in the back either. However, two car seats fit perfectly and little legs have tons of room in the back, which makes this vehicle great for small families.

If you’re wondering, we did manage to squish and squeeze two regular-sized car seats plus a booster seat into the back. Finding the seat belt for the middle seat and getting it to cooperate is a whole other story that doesn’t have a happy ending; I couldn’t do it.

I quickly realized how much I love the massive trunk; it’s similar to that of most hatchbacks. It has a completely flat surface – filled with goodies underneath – but let me tell you the best part of a flat surface. I’m sure most parents can relate to having to change diapers in a car at some point, and this trunk, this is the perfect spot for just that. It’s so large that I wouldn’t even mind an inch or two taken out of the trunk space, to be added to legroom space in the backseat, if at all possible.

Driving Impressions

After driving a couple cars with newer features and spending a couple minutes in each looking for the parking brake, I quickly understood the trend: it’s a button. This time, I reversed into my driveway (super-easy with the backup camera) and began the hunt for the parking brake button. After a couple minutes, I realized it’s right where it should be, by my left foot. Finding the old-school parking brake made me hopeful I’d find a CD player. Sigh, one day.

Before this test drive, I had never been in a Prius. However, my dad drives a 2011 Lexus CT 200h, which is needless to say by now a bit dated. I was hesitant about the Prius and assumed, based on my limited hybrid testing, that it would be slow to pick up, and slow in general. To my surprise, in any mode, the Prius actually moved better than expected. The drive was smooth, simple, quiet and almost calming. I actually really did enjoy the Prius, a lot more than I thought I would.

It’s great on gas (duh, it’s a hybrid). A trip from Mississauga to Scarborough [clear across Toronto, for those outside Ontario —Ed.] and back, plus a few shorter drives around my neighbourhood, barely put a dent in the fuel gauge reading.

2021 Toyota Prius Technology AWD-e

Final Thoughts

Overall, it’s an extremely simple drive, and I mean that in the best way possible! Simplicity always wins me over, and while I could do without the big screen and touch buttons, it’s by no means a deal-breaker for the Prius. It’s quite comfortable, though I’m not that tall and can’t speak to how comfortable it might be for anyone taller than five feet.

Unless tons of space is a requirement for you, this could easily be a great option, especially if you’re looking to go green and get your foot in the electric door. That sounds a lot more dangerous than I intended, but you get the point.

For me, space is currently a huge priority, and I won’t be in the market for a small car any time soon, but the Prius is a great and affordable option. Though it’s got some tough competition, I think its reputation over the years has allowed it to stay in the game, and continue playing with younger, more modern hybrids.

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