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FEATURES | 9 out of 10
We love the rooftop solar panel. It runs a fan that keeps the interior cool while you run into Whole Foods, reducing the load on the A/C.
many available high tech gizmos
when you use the steering-wheel-mounted controls, they flash on the IP
redundant steering-wheel controls for simple audio and climate adjustments are standard
optional camera that tracks road lanes and tries to keep the car centered (while the driver is, say, texting?)
Unchanged from previous years, the 2014 Toyota Prius has four different trim levels. Confusingly, they're called by numbers, but they don't start with One. They're known as Two, Three, Four, and Five. There is actually a lower trim level, a super-stripped-down model known as Prius One, but it's limited to fleet buyers only--so retail buyers can start at Two and go to Five. Got that?
Prius prices remain unchanged for 2014: The Prius Two starts at $24,200, the Prius Three at $26,765, the Prius Four at $28,435, and the top-of-the-line Prius Five at $30,005. A mandatory delivery fee of $810 has to be added to all of those prices. For fleet buyers, the stripped-down Prius One model starts at $23,215 but, again, retail customers aren't eligible to buy it.
Those prices have risen since the 2012 launch of the subcompact Prius C, which took over the cheapest-Prius title and remains at an entry price of just under $20,000. You can easily spend into the mid-$30,000 range if you have a heavy hand on the options list and you start with a high-level Prius.
Regardless of trim level, all 2014 Prius models come standard with power windows, cruise control, and an AM/FM/XM/CD player audio system as standard. In last year's slight update, Toyota added a standard Bluetooth connection and a 6.1-inch display radio with iPod and USB connectivity to even the base Prius Two model.
Moving up one notch to the Prius Three will get you the useful backup camera system, built-in navigation shown on an in-dash display, and a better audio system with Toyota’s Entune multimedia system built in. That gets you a suite of applications that--among other functions--connect to Internet services like the Bing search engine and Pandora streaming radio via a compatible smartphone paired to Entune via Bluetooth.
If you want niceties like heated front seats and leather upholstery, the Prius Four includes those. At the very top of the range, the Prius Five adds LED headlamps (all models have LED daytime running lights), plus larger 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic lights, an eight-way power adjustable drivers’ seat that includes power lumbar support, and the option of split-screen capability in the 7-inch navigation display.
Options offered on various trim levels include the Touch Tracer system of steering-wheel controls that let drivers operate a cursor on the dashboard Multi-Information Display panel while keeping their hands on the wheel. Among other functions, that lets them adjust the climate control or radio settings.
Then there's the solar-roof package, which uses photovoltaic cells set into a glass roof panel to generate electric current. It's only sufficient to power fans that pull hot air out of the Prius cabin while it's parked, but that reduces the air-conditioning load when the car powers up. There's also available remote starting for the air conditioner.
The most expensive model in the Prius lineup--although its price was cut by $2,000 to $4,600 for the 2014 model year--is the Prius Plug-In Hybrid. The standard plug-in Prius model is essentially a Prius Four with exterior trim changes (and the larger battery pack and charging port that let it recharge from the grid). Including the mandatory destination fee, the 2014 prices are $30,800 for the Prius Plug-In Hybrid and $35,715 for the Advanced trim level, which includes most of the available equipment found on a non-plug-in Prius Five.
The 2014 Toyota Prius is a technology showcase, but it's less advanced now that competitors match many of its features.