Happy 20th, Toyota Prius

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
happy 20th toyota prius

Back when your author was the (soon to be not) proud owner of a 93-horsepower Plymouth, Toyota was prepping the American populace for a new kind of driving experience. A futuristic one, and a thrifty one, to boot. Two decades ago, it debuted a model that first appeared in its home country three years earlier: the Prius.

Eighty trillion jokes later, and after selling more than 1.9 million of the things to U.S. consumers, Toyota is marking the Prius’ 20th anniversary in this country with a limited run of special edition models. And they happen to look better than the stock Prius.

Just 2020, um, 2020 Editions will make their way to buyers. To be clear, this is the 2021 2020 Edition, which should confuse absolutely no one.

Offered in two colors (Supersonic Red and Wind Chill Pearl), the 2020 Edition dons a blacked-out treatment that Toyota says lends the model a touch of “mischief.” Of course, if there’s one thing your typical Prius driver knows about, it’s hijinks and badassery. The blackout treatment is applied to the 17-inch allow wheels, exterior trim, B-pillars, and side mirror caps, though the rear spoiler is a body-color affair.

Aside from these flourishes, bolstered by embossed key fob and floor mats (plus a smattering of minor interior alterations), the 2021 2020 Edition is just like any other fourth-generation Prius. An earlier report that suggested the anniversary model would appear as a loaded-up front-drive model turned out to be correct, as the 2020 Edition is available only in XLE FWD guise. This version, of course, will see its presence on the road limited by the automaker, not the public.

As we’ve told you before, the success of Toyota’s hybrid technology has punted the Prius to runner-up status ⁠— even among its stablemates. With Prius sales slowly declining and consumer tastes trending towards larger vehicles, the RAV4 Hybrid is now by far the best-selling gas-electric model in Toyota’s lineup. At the same time, other automakers have benefited from Toyota’s hybrid tech prowess. All of this is the Prius’ legacy ⁠— popularizing a form of propulsion that’s now commonplace.

Standard on the 2020 Edition, as well as other MY2021 Priuses, is Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 ⁠— a suite of safety aids that includes pre-collision braking with low-light pedestrian detection, full-speed dynamic cruise control, bicyclist detection, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, road sign assist, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Android Auto connectivity is now standard across the range (it appeared as standard fare on the 2020 Limited).

The 2021 2020 Edition Prius goes on sale later this year for a price that’s TBD.

[Images: Toyota]

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  • Ttacgreg Ttacgreg on May 11, 2020

    Heh, the Prius is almost as much of a superconducting lightening rod as Hillary Clinton. Let the insults, hate, and stereotypes fly!!

    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on May 11, 2020

      Wake up, Hillary and Prius are yesterdays news. It is Biden now. And Tesla, right here at TTAC Tesla is blamed for all sins of mankind and faced multiple death threats.

  • Kurkosdr Kurkosdr on May 11, 2020

    I wouldn't call the Prius ownership experience "thrifty" considering how high the price of the vehicle is compared to vehicles that offer similar performance and interior space. Sure you will save a bit on gas but not enough to lower the total cost of ownership to be the same as -say- a Honda Fit. Unless you drive a crazy amount of miles every day (aka unless you are an Uber driver). It's an "eco statement" car for most people.

    • Zipster Zipster on May 11, 2020

      An interesting point. A fit will get in the high 40's on the highway vs. low 50s for a prius. However, it is in city driving where the prius will virtually double the mileage of the fit. For about $4,000 more, the prius is also a more pleasant driving experience with independent rear suspension and 4 wheel disc brakes which the fit lacks. I believe if you have the extra money and can tolerate the styling, the prius is the better buy.

  • Wjtinfwb Over the years I've owned 3, one LH (a Concorde) a Gen 1 300 and a Gen 2 300C "John Varvatos". The Concorde was a very nice car for the time with immense room inside and decent power from the DOHC 3.5L. But quality was awful, it spent more time in the shop than the driveway. It gave way to a Gen 1 300, OK but the V6 was underwhelming in this car compared to the Concorde but did it's job. The Gen 1's letdown was the awful interior with acres of plastic, leather that did it's best imitation of vinyl and a featureless dashboard that looked lifted from a cheaper car. My last one was a '14 300C John Varvatos with the Pentastar. Great car, sufficient power and exceptional highway mileage. The interior was much better than the original as well. It was felled by a defective instrument cluster that took over 90 days to fix and was ultimately lemon law' d back to FCA. I'd love one of the 392 powered final edition 300s but understand they're already sold out and if I had an extra 60k available, would likely choose a CPO BMW 540i for comparable money.
  • Dukeisduke Thanks Cary. Folks need to make sure they buy the correct antifreeze, since there are so many OEM-specific ones out there nowadays (Dex-Cool, Ford gold, Toyota red and pink, etc.).And sorry to hear about your family situation - my wife and I have been dealing with her 88-yo mom, moving her into independent senior living, selling her house, etc. It's a lot to deal with.
  • FreedMike Always lusted after that first-gen 300 - particularly the "Heritage Edition," which had special 300 badging and a translucent plastic steering wheel (ala the '50s and '60s "letter cars").
  • Dave M. Although the effective takeover by Daimler is pooped upon, this is one they got right. I wasn't a fan of the LHs, mostly due to reported mechanical, NVH and build quality issues, but I though Chrysler hit it out of the park with the LXs. The other hyped release that year was the Ford Five Hundred, which, while a well-built car with superior interior space, couldn't hold a candle to the 300.
  • Art Vandelay I always liked those last FWD 300's. Been ages since I've seen one on the road though. Lots of time in the RWD ones as rentals. No complaints whatsoever.