Where Will The Prius Price Creep Stop?

Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius.

Four and a half years ago, we reviewed a then-new 2010 Prius. Lavishly equipped, it had a base price of 25,800 and an as-tested price of $30,709.  Even then (though I didn't say it in print), I wondered at what point a Prius could be too pricey.

Just shy of two years ago, we tested a then-new 2012 Prius.  Again, a well-equipped model (known as the Four), base price $28,235, as-tested price $33,035.

Now comes another turn in a well-equipped Prius (a 2013 Five model)...and the car (essentially the same as the last two...the same generation of Prius, the same EPA estimated 51 city/48 highway) now has a base price of $30,005 and our tester rang in at.....

Sitting down?


Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius.

Now, last time around, I questioned whether getting within $2,000 of $35K was something that might diminish the value proposition.  And here, we've shattered that ceiling by $704.  Factor in tax and license and you're actually knocking on 40 grand.

For a Toyota.  A company whose flagship sedan, the Avalon, in its highest trim, the Limited, is $39,650.

I'd ask who's buying Priuses (Priii?) between 35 and 40 large all told, but the answer is....a lot of people.  So maybe the real question is why.

Much of it, most likely, has to do with the failure of the now-departed Lexus HS 250h...the car that was supposed to bring people ready for a step up from the finest Prius money could buy (in those days, about $30,000) into something with a Lexus badge.  But Lexus clearly went a bridge too far there....with a base price over $36,000 and an as-tested sticker...four years ago...of more than $48,000.

By comparison, a $35,704 Prius looks not only sane, but prudent.

And apart from the price sticker, there's not much to complain about with the loaded Prius.  It performs about as well as any other Prius (which is to say, leisurely, but not painfully so), handles about as well (which is to say, nothing to write home about good or bad) and essentially feels and sounds like a golf cart when running on pure electric power.

Interior of Toyota Prius
Toyota Prius Interior.

Ah, but it's a very nice golf cart, this...the Five model gets you a long list of standard equipment (in the interest of saving pixels, we'll just let Toyota give you the list) that seems positively Lexus-like.  And then the press fleet folks ladle on the options.  Ours had three.  $225 for carpeted floor mats and a cargo mat...$359 for a security system....and $4,320 for the Advanced Technology Package, which is a kajillion options all rolled into one (a premium Hard Disc Drive navigation system with Toyota's Entune infotainment app suite and JBL audio, a 7-inch color touchscreen with backup camera, satellite radio and NavTraffic, NavWeather, Sports and Stocks, HD Radio with iTunes tagging, advanced voice recognition, a heads-up display, pre-collision system, lane keep assist, and Safety Connect (think OnStar), for emergency assistance, a stolen vehicle locator, roadside assistance and automatic collision notification.

Again, the bottom line: $35,704.

It'll be the nicest Prius on the block.  But I have to wonder...how long can the price creep go on?  Will Lexus get a compact hybrid that will appeal to Prius buyers ready to move up and price it so that Toyota won't cross the $40, $45 or $50,0000 mark with a loaded Prius?  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, among those with the bucks, it appears that the Prius nameplate has a cachet that allows them to spend substantial dollars for a Toyota.