The 2022 Toyota Prius is no longer at the technology leading edge, but it provides all the right numbers for cost-conscious commuters. The Prius is a paragon of fuel-efficient driving. Although Toyota has for most of this green-car icon’s two decades positioned the Prius as the greenest, most technology-advanced vehicle in the Toyota fold, that status has faded a bit as environmentally aware shoppers shift to EVs and Toyota spreads its hybrid tech throughout the lineup. For 2022, the Prius gets a Nightshade Edition that brings blacked-out wheels, door handles, and badges, plus black trim accents inside and out. It also adds a heated steering wheel and heated black synthetic leather seats.
The current generation of the Prius has shed the distinctive, podlike silhouette of previous models for a look that’s very busy. The combination of a low, split triangular hood, and triangular headlights make the Prius look especially wedgelike, and if you skip to the eccentric rear styling of the car to see the sharp edges and a beltline bisecting the rear window you might find the theme; but in between it gets muddled with creasing, misguided contours and, well, too many triangular wedges.
The Toyota Prius has aimed at providing high-mileage motoring first and foremost for its 20-plus years. Although it’s more exciting to drive than earlier versions of this green-car icon, the bar has risen and especially in base form it remains one of the turtles of the new-car market for its leisurely acceleration and unexciting handling. Front-wheel drive is standard on the Prius and Prius Prime, but all-wheel drive is available on the Prius LE and Prius XLE versions.
The Prius uses an evolution of the hybrid system that’s given this model the mileage crown for much of two decades. A 95-horsepower 1.8-liter inline-4 works with a 53-kw electric motor system, with a 0.75-kwh lithium-ion battery pack as an energy buffer, to bump total output to 121 hp. AWD-e models add another motor at the rear wheels, plus a larger 1.2-kwh nickel-metal hydride battery pack that better withstands cold weather. Although the rear motor system is small, it helps get grip for a smooth start on slick surfaces—and aids dry-surface acceleration slightly.
If it’s Prius or nothing, the AWD-e models are the quickest, with 0-60 mph acceleration in about 10.5 seconds, while the base L Eco takes an estimated 12 seconds. The front-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid Prius Prime isn’t any quicker than AWD-e versions. That said, the Prius is reasonably responsive on city streets, when its electric motor system can pitch in its torque right where it matters, with the ‘B’ setting there for more regenerative braking that aids with long downhill grades. But on a highway it can feel sluggish; remember to save some time and space for passing.
Few vehicles top the Prius’ 56-mpg fuel economy. The Toyota Prius is one of the highest-rated vehicles for fuel economy, and one of the most efficient models without a charge port. In L Eco trim, the Prius earns an EPA rating of 58 mpg city, 53 highway, 56 combined, thanks to more aerodynamic features, low resistance rolling tires, and a lower curb weight. Other versions of the Prius earn a rating of 54/50/52 mpg, and the AWD-e all-wheel-drive models drop about 3 mpg, to 51/47/49 mpg. The Prius Prime adds an 8.8-kwh battery pack that can be charged up in less than 2.5 hours with a 240V (Level 2) home wallbox or mobile connector. It earns 133 MPGe and offers 25 miles of all-electric range, or without a charge it’s rated at 54 mpg combined.
The 2022 Prius has a strong list of safety features, although narrow rearward visibility leaves us wanting. Crash-test results and the features list both point to high standards of safety. While the Prius is no longer at the leading edge of efficiency tech, it offers a solid suite of driver assistance features—sold as Toyota Safety Sense 2.0—that includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlights. Blind-spot monitors and parking sensors remain on the options list.
With automatic emergency braking standard and a NHTSA five-star overall rating, let down only by poor rearward visibility through the narrow angular windows and sloping roofline. When the IIHS last crashed the Prius in 2019, renewing those results through 2021 and likely 2022, it got “Good” scores on five of the six crash tests, and an “Acceptable” on the small front overlap test. To make the Top Safety Pick list in 2021, a vehicle has to get “Good” scores on all six tests, so although the rating remained the same, it dropped off the honor roll.
The interior design of the Prius doesn’t necessarily match the exterior, but it’s equally weird. A smooth, low-set dash provides the gauges far ahead, beyond a bulbous expanse. The 7.0-inch horizontal touchscreen standard on the Prius is embedded beneath the vents at the top of the center stack; in the Prius Prime and Prius Limited, a vertical 11.6-inch touchscreen flanked by vents commands the cockpit. The larger screen works better as it visually bridges the two control layers of the dash—and it might help you forget about the liberal dose of plasticky pieces.
Great cargo versatility makes the Prius a great shopping companion, but fully grown human companions will want to be in the back seat for long. Passenger space in the Prius is about as you’d expect for its exterior. Five people can fit snugly, but head room is a bit tight in the back and cramming three across simply won’t work in some cases. But the Prius has a low cargo floor, folding seatbacks, and as much cargo space as some of the crossovers it might get shopped against.
The manual-adjusting front seats in most models of the Prius are neither skimpy nor plush; higher trim versions get eight-way power adjustable front seats that add customization if not comfort. Rear leg room and passenger space aren’t up to the standards of smaller crossovers, and taller riders in back will find a shortage of head and leg room. The Prius may be low and sleek, but it doesn’t skimp on cargo space. With 27.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats, it’s as good as many small crossovers and actually better than mid-size sedans. With the seatbacks folded (split on all but the base L Eco) the number boosts to 50.7 cubic feet, enough for quite the Costco run.
Value and mpg are what defines the Prius. Good connectivity and safety features make the 2022 Toyota Prius a strong value, especially among the most affordable vehicles in the lineup. The 2022 Prius is offered in a base L Eco model, while both the Prius hybrid and Prius Prime plug-in hybrid are offered in LE, XLE, and Limited models. LE and XLE AWD-e models add all-wheel drive via an additional motor for the rear wheels. The Prius L Eco version is the most fuel-efficient of the lineup, and it costs just $25,075, including $995 destination, with a 7.0-inch touchscreen compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, plus three USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity, and a very impressive suite of safety features.
All-wheel drive costs only slightly more, roughly about $1,000 on most models, and we tend to think it’s worth the upsell. The Prius Nightshade Edition, new for 2022, builds off the XLE trim but sounds a lot like the Special Edition model last year, including blacked-out 17-inch wheels, headlights, pillars, and mirrors for $29,995. The top Prius Limited costs $33,370, while the top Prius Prime Limited costs $34,550. They add a head-up display, keyless entry, a power driver’s seat, a heated synthetic leather steering wheel and front seats, an eight-way power driver’s seat, an 11.6-inch touchscreen, and 10-speaker JBL premium audio.
It’s hard to believe that Toyota has been building the impressively economical Prius for over 20 years now. The 2022 Toyota Prius has definitely evolved over the years to become the pinnacle of efficiency and capability that it is now. With top of its class fuel efficiency, available all-wheel-drive, and long list of standard safety features; the Prius is better than ever. While the masses embrace the crossover craze, the Prius does what it does best better than ever, getting you from point A to B reliably without breaking the bank.