Although it’s been the butt of many a joke over the years, the Toyota Prius is the gold standard of hybrid vehicles. Much to the chagrin of drivers in colder climates, however, the Prius has never performed particularly well in snowy weather — until now.
Roadshow reports that the 2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e offers enhanced traction while maintaining its efficiency, although its appearance leaves something to be desired.
Finally, an all-wheel drive option
It’s been a long time coming, but the 2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e is an excellent option for drivers who want a hybrid that can handle the snow. This vehicle features a rear motor that switches on when the car first begins moving.
It will initially get the aft wheels moving at 6 mph, and will then power down again until the car needs more traction — although it’s worth noting that the AWD will only kick in if the Prius is traveling slower than 43 mph.
This unconventional on again, off again AWD motor is the ideal choice for a hybrid vehicle. It enables the Prius AWD-e to perform in slippery conditions without sacrificing the fuel efficiency that has always set this hybrid apart.
The 2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e’s weak spots
While the 2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e is a welcome — and much needed — addition to the Prius lineup, it’s not without its flaws. Its main detriment is its design, which Roadshow calls “alien” and “weird for the sake of being weird.”
Perhaps the most questionable design choice is the Prius AWD-e’s dashboard. Rather than the standard speedometer in front of the driver, all instruments are clustered in the center of the dashboard at the base of the windshield.
The 7-inch touchscreen is also less than ideal — its functionality is nothing to write home about, and it is surrounded by black trim that, according to Roadshow, is a magnet for fingerprints and dust.
Additionally, the electronic shifter features a separate park button that Roadshow describes as “fiddly.” Drivers may be irritated by the fact that the car beeps whenever you shift into reverse.
Another weak spot for the Prius AWD-e is its driving experience. To avoid any disappointment, don’t get behind the wheel of this vehicle expecting a quiet, luxurious ride.
The steering is vague, the engine struggles loudly at highway speeds, and the lane-centering feature is lackluster at best. The Prius also gets a fairly unimpressive 121 hp, although when the AWD kicks in, it adds 7 hp.
Where the Prius AWD-e excels
Despite its flaws, though, the 2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e is pretty much everything you could ask for in a hybrid. Sure, it may not be the most stylish option, but it makes up for this with its overall reliability and phenomenal fuel economy: 52 miles per gallon in the city and 48 miles per gallon on the highway.
The Prius AWD-e also utilizes a special 6.5 ampere-hour nickel-metal hydride battery. Unlike the lithium-ion batteries in the standard Prius models, the AWD-e’s battery is specifically designed to hold up well in extreme temperatures — another win for drivers in frigid climates.
Roadshow is also quick to point out that while the interior of the AWD-e looks a little odd, it’s by no means uncomfortable. You’ll find plenty of soft plastic, pleasantly comfortable seats, and a decent amount of cargo space.
While the 2020 Toyota Prius AWD-e may not win any design awards, it will certainly meet the needs of hybrid drivers in snowy areas. If you’re looking for style or a speedy ride, the AWD-e isn’t for you — but if you want a punchy, reliable, winter-ready hybrid, this is an excellent choice.