What's the used Toyota Prius hatchback like?
Those who are environmentally minded will know that recycling instead of buying new is a great way of reducing your impact on the planet, and this can be applied in the car world by buying a used car.
And if you want to go one step further, you can't go wrong by considering the Toyota Prius, a family car that's reached near iconic status as a green choice due to its impressive official fuel economy figures and paltry exhaust emissions.
Underneath is a 120bhp 1.8-litre engine linked to an electric motor. With it, you can in theory drive at up to 36mph on electric power only for short distances. Thereafter, it shuffles its power source between the engine, the electric motor, or both. Most Priuses are front-wheel drive, but from 2019 you could specify from new an optional four-wheel-drive model. This added a second electric motor, positioned on the rear axle to provide power to the rear wheels when needed in slippery conditions.
There’s also the option of a used 2017-2022 Toyota Prius plug-in version, which ups fuel economy spectacularly. This can be plugged in for further electric boost and has the ability to run on pure electric-only power for up to 34 miles.
The Prius doesn’t skimp on equipment either, with four trims to choose from: Active, Business Edition, Business Edition Plus and Excel. Entry-level models get 15in alloy wheels, LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, road sign recognition and heated and folding door mirrors as standard, while inside there is Toyota's Touch 2 infotainment system with a reversing camera.
Upgrade to the fleet-friendly Business Edition and the Prius gains heated front seats, a wireless phone charging cradle, and blindspot monitoring, while Business Edition Plus adds 17in alloy wheels, parking sensors and a self-parking assistance system. Top-of-the-range Excel adorns the car with luxuries such as automatic wipers, a JBL premium sound system, sat-nav, wi-fi connectivity and front foglights.
On the road, this Prius is a vast improvement from the previous generations. Its performance times aren’t exciting, but it is at least on a par with most of its conventional rivals. The only fly in the ointment is that the automatic CVT gearbox causes the engine revs to rise, and holds them high when you ask for a lot of acceleration. For most of the time, such as around town or when cruising on the motorway, the Prius is more than adequately refined.
The steering is accurate and responsive, and although there’s quite a bit of body roll in faster corners, there’s plenty of grip. Make no mistake, it’s not a sports car, and the plug-in version is even slower than the regular Prius, but it’s also not an unpleasant thing to drive.
The ride is reasonably relaxed, too, turning firmer over larger bumps and road imperfections but still compliant enough to make long journeys comfortable for occupants.
Inside is an unconventional dashboard layout, with the main instrument pod sitting in the middle of and high up on the centre console. There are two 4.2in colour screens providing the information, and all but entry-level Access trim get a head-up display. Below this is the standard 7.0in infotainment touchscreen, which is mostly responsive, even if its graphics aren’t as sharp as that in some rivals.
The driving position is good, although it could do with more adjustment in the steering wheel, while rear visibility is a little compromised by the rear pillars. Overall build quality feels good, although there are plenty of harder plastics in evidence.
There’s lots of space, too, both front and rear. The hatchback opens to reveal a long, flat load area, and the rear seats drop in a 60/40 split, although there is a small step left when you do this. The all-wheel-drive Prius gets a slightly smaller boot as it has to accommodate underneath it the rear electric motor.
A 2019 facelift introduced tweaks to its styling and its interior, as well as the four-wheel-drive option, and the infotainment system was updated. In 2022 Toyota took the Prius off sale in the UK, blaming falling sales and profits.
Advice for buyers
What should I look for in a used Toyota Prius hatchback?
The Prius is quite a large car and its rear visibility isn’t the strongest, so check the extremities for any scuffs and dents. Check the paperwork carefully to make sure that your Prius hasn’t been used as a minicab, in which case its mileage is likely to be huge. The cars can wear large mileages well, but there are also plenty of low-mileage examples to choose from, and these might make a better used purchase.
The batteries are also proving to be extremely durable, easily lasting 10 years or more and going for 200,000 miles. It’s still worth looking out for telltale signs of a weak battery, though; these include the petrol engine running constantly or a car that struggles to get above 40mpg on the instant fuel economy readout.
What are the most common problems with a used Toyota Prius hatchback?
The pump for the brake booster may stop working on some Prius models built between 26 April and 3 June 2019 and lead to increased braking effort in order to slow down. Speak to a Toyota dealer for further information because the pump will need to be replaced in order to solve this issue.
An invertor in the hybrid system could be loose in some cars made between 18 January and 10 December 2016. Find out from a Toyota dealer if your car is affected by this because it'll need to have this invertor replaced.
Engine wiring harness
A part of the wiring harness could chafe on the engine, wearing through the insulation material and potentially leading to a fire. Speak to a Toyota dealer to find out if your car is one of those affected by this and was built between 23 March 2016 and 14 May 2018.
Instrument cluster short circuit
The combination meter or instrument cluster of a small number of examples manufactured between 10 - 31 July 2019 could short circuit and go blank. Find out if your car is one of those affected by this because it'll need to have the cluster replaced to prevent further issues.
Is a used Toyota Prius hatchback reliable?
The Prius didn't feature in the hybrid category of our latest reliability survey. However, Toyota as a brand finished in an excellent second place out of 32 manufacturers. Indeed it was only beaten to top spot by its upmarket sister brand, Lexus.
If you would like to see the full reliability list, head to the What Car? Reliability Survey pages for more information.
What used Toyota Prius hatchback will I get for my budget?
Prices for this generation of Prius start at around £12,000 for a 2016 car with average to high mileage. Increase your budget to £13,000 or more for a good 2017 car with an average mileage and a full service history, bought from an independent or franchised dealer. A facelifted example from 2019 can be found from £18,000, and you’ll need at least £20,000 for a rare four-wheel-drive Prius. Meanwhile, 2020 and 2021 cars go for around £20,000 to £22,000, while the final 2022 cars will set you back between £22,000 and £30,000.
Check the value of a used Toyota Prius with What Car? Valuations
How much does it cost to run a Toyota Prius hatchback?
The plug-in hybrid has an astounding average fuel consumption figure of 235mpg under the official tests, although it's unlikely that you will see such figures in real-world use if you don't regularly charge it. The regular Prius manages 67.3mpg under the WLTP tests, while the all-wheel-drive model achieves 58.9mpg.
The plug-in hybrid has the lowest CO2 emissions of just 28g/km, but the normal Prius still puts an ultra-low figure of 78g/km, which means pre-2017 examples qualify for free road tax.
For cars registered before the tax changes of April 2017, the annual charge will be zero, while cars registered after that date will have to pay the current flat rate fee. For hybrids, this currently stands at £170 a year. To find out more about the current road tax costs, click here.
Insurance and servicing
Insurance groups for the Prius are reasonable for this size and type of car, and servicing should be relatively inexpensive, too, with plenty of options on how to pay including plans to allow payments by direct debit. Examples that are over five years of age qualify for discounted servicing at a Toyota dealer if you sign up for free to the Toyota 5+ Club. Servicing is required annually or every 10,000 miles.
Which used Toyota Prius hatchback should I buy?
Although the on-paper economy of the plug-in Prius is deeply impressive, as mentioned before, you’re unlikely to come anywhere near those figures in real-world motoring – unless it fits into your lifestyle exactly, your journeys are short and you have a charging point at each end of it. On top of that, the plug-in model doesn’t drive as well as the regular car and costs a lot more – even used. For those reasons, we’d seek out the standard Prius.
Meanwhile, we think Active trim is the best because you get everything you'll need for the lowest purchase price.
Our favourite Toyota Prius 1.8 VVTi Active
What alternatives should I consider to a used Toyota Prius hatchback?
The Hyundai Ioniq is available as a regular hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or a fully electric car. It’s one of our favourite hybrids, being more practical, better equipped, and smarter inside than the Prius. It’s good to drive and its running costs should be minimal.
The BMW i3 looks like nothing else on the roads and it's a premium product, too. Performance is strong; it's got an upmarket interior, a decent electric range (which can be even better if you shop for range-extender variants or a revised example with a bigger battery pack), and a superb infotainment system.