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Ingrassia: Prius Prime all electric for 25 miles

The 2018 Prius Prime is lower, longer and wider than its predecessor and can travel 25 miles on pure electric power up to 84 mph.
The 2018 Prius Prime is lower, longer and wider than its predecessor and can travel 25 miles on pure electric power up to 84 mph.

This country’s most popular hybrid has a new twist to share with loyal fans and it comes with a restyled look. Not that you won’t recognize this four-seater as a Prius, but it’s more stylish than its sibling.

The penny-pinching new Prius Prime not only records 54 mpg, but it adds all-electric drive to the first 25 miles.

Pros

• Impressive driving range

• Loaded with safety gear

• Large vertical center screen

• Comfortable seats

Cons

• Room for four, not five passengers

• Limited cargo room

• Fussy infotainment center

Prius Prime was introduced in 2017 and this year’s model remains unchanged. Prime is available in three trim levels: Plus, Premium and Advanced. All are powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a plug-in hybrid system.

Combined, the Prius has 121 horsepower to drive its front wheels with a continuously variable automatic transmission. The new battery system is fully charged in 5½ hours using house current and just more than two hours with a 240 volt outlet.

We learned that a 240-volt line actually requires less current than a 110-volt line, which makes a case for installing the higher-powered line for quicker charges. Installation cost would need to be factored into your justification.

Don’t expect to set speed records with Prime acceleration. Top end is not its strong suit. We clocked 60 mph reached from a dead stop in just less than 10 seconds.

Eco, Normal and Power driving modes are selectable from a dashboard control and we noticed a hefty difference between each. For instance, off the line punch in Power mode brings up 30 mph in 3.8 seconds and 45 mph in just 6.1 ticks.

While the Prius Prime shines in city driving with great maneuverability and ease of parking, it makes a comfortable highway car, too. Fuel economy is nearly the same, city or highway. We recorded 54 mpg cruising at around 70 mph.

If there is a downside to all this economy it would have to be in reduced cargo space. Larger battery packs needed for all-electric driving take up more vertical space in the second row. This results in an elevated center console in place of the third seating surface and also keeps the fold down seatbacks from folding flat.

The new Prius is lower, wider and longer than its predecessor, which makes for a more aerodynamic look and feel. Lightweight carbon-fiber is used in the rear liftgate to help compensate for the heavier batteries.

Inside the cabin, there is a large Tesla-like vertical center tablet measuring 11.6-inches for entertainment, navigation and Smartphone apps.

On the safety front, you won’t find a better array of sensing and warning devices, including radar cruise, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, auto high beams and available blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert.

With prices ranging from $27,000 to 33,000, the Prius Prime can be your car of choice if your daily driving is near electric mileage range. To further entice, the Prius Prime has a $4,500 federal tax credit. Do the math.

• Contact independent automotive columnist Len Ingrassia at lenscarcorner@comcast.net.

FAST FACTS

Model: 2018 Toyota Prius Prime Advanced

Engine: 1.8-liter inline four cylinder teamed with hybrid synergy drive system

Assembled: Prius Prime is assembled in Aichi, Japan. U.S./Canadian parts content, 0 percent. Major source of all parts and components – Japan, 100 percent.

Crash test ratings: The Prius Prime is a Top Safety Pick in independent testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which awarded it a “Good” rating, its highest, in small and moderate overlap front, side impact, rollover and whiplash protection and child seat anchors. It also earned a “Superior” rating for its crash avoidance and mitigation system. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not yet rated the Prius Prime.

Warranty: 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper; 5-year/60,000-mile drivetrain; 8-year/100,000-mile hybrid components; 2-year/25,000-mile free maintenance.

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