Beauty Is Only Skin Deep: The 2017 Toyota Prius Four Touring

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Toyota Prius Four Touring
The 2017 Toyota Prius Four Touring.
It is the best Prius ever.  And it may ultimately be considered a failure.

A paradox which I shall explain.

Rear 3/4 view of 2017 Toyota Prius Four Touring
2017 Toyota Prius Four Touring.
When Toyota re-designed the Prius for 2016, they made every functional aspect of it better.  It is roomier, better-equipped.  And it is absolutely more efficient, which, supposedly, is the reason for the Prius' existence.  A decade ago, America marveled at the idea of 48 miles per gallon.  The new Prius' EPA fuel economy average is 54 city/50 highway.  

It is also rather controversially styled.  And that appears to be hurting the Prius, although low gas prices are likely playing some part.  When we reviewed the 2016 Prius Two Eco in July, we noted that we did not seem to be seeing as many of the new ones on the road as we had when new versions had been introduced in the past.

It isn't just us.  There have only been two months in 2016 so far (January through November) where the Prius has sold as well or better than it did in the same month of 2015.  And those numbers were way down from calendar year 2014.  Even if Prius sales match last December's (which appears unlikely), 2016 will be the worst year for Prius sales since 2004.  It will be roughly half the number of Priuses (Prii?) sold at their peak in 2007.  

And that's a shame, because it is, as we said, the best Prius ever.

Interior view of 2017 Toyota Prius Four
2017 Toyota Prius Four Touring interior.
This time, we drove the top-of-the-line Prius Four Touring.  The base price is $30,015 and the standard equipment list is long:

  • 17-inch alloy wheels
  • Dynamic radar cruise control
  • Blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Fog lamps
  • Heated outside power mirrors
  • Climate control
  • 7-inch high-res display
  • Premium audio system with navigation
  • SofTex-trimmed heated front seats, 8-way power for the driver
  • Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging
  • Tilt/telescoping steering wheel
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink
And our test vehicle, as usual, had options:

  • Premium Convenience Package---an upgraded JBL Audio system, voice recognition, Siri Eyes Free, Intelligent Clearance Sonar, and Intelligent Parking Assist ($1,705)
  • Hypersonic Red paint ($395)
  • Universal tablet holder ($99)
  • Rear bumper protector ($105)
  • Glass breakage sensor ($359)
  • Carpeted floor mats and cargo mat ($225)
  • Alloy wheel locks ($65)
  • Cargo net ($49)
  • Illuminated door sills ($299)
  • Paint protection film ($395)
With $865 delivery processing and handling fee, the as-tested price came to $34,576.  That's a not-unreasonable price---only about $3,000 more than the price of the average car in America today.  And for that, you get tremendous mileage, Toyota reliability and what would have been Lexus-level features a decade ago.

That's called inner beauty.