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Does the Prius Still Reign Supreme?

Blue Toyota Prius in the Rain

Whenever a vehicle – regardless of make, model, body style or strengths – ascends to represent an entire segment, there comes the inevitable speculation as to which new offering will be the first to step up and take their crown away. These days there are no shortage of articles making mention of ‘Raptor-Killers’ and ‘Tesla-Killers’, emphasizing our interest in aggressive off-road capability and  improved sustainability. But when it comes to the latter, another more established term that has been thrown around a lot in the last decade (keeping Toyota on their proverbial toes) is “Prius-Killer”.

And let’s be honest, it makes a lot of sense. While the Prius wasn’t the first of its kind in terms of conceptualization, it was ground-breaking in terms of it widespread commercialization and mainstream popularity. It’s hard to argue that the Prius changed the game, paving the way for other automakers to pursue their own Hybrid (and in turn, EV) endeavors with greater confidence, inspiring the electrified future that so many brands are committed to making a reality.

Of course, this means that the Prius has far more competition now than it ever has before. But how have other automakers fared in stepping up to correct the Prius’ perceived shortcomings, in order to offer a more compelling alternative at a competitive price point? According to 2019 numbers, not all that well…

Sure, there’s the rapid movement of units going out the door by Tesla – and the RAV4 Hybrid is one of the best-selling offerings out there – but in-class competitors haven’t done much to make waves. That said, what are they working to measure up against?

Priced to start around $23,770 MSRP the 2019 Prius is accessibly priced, offering a combined 52-56 mpg range and six trim levels to choose from – all within an approximate price range of about ten grand. Powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, today’s Prius wrangles 121 horses with 120 lb-ft of torque. Fueled by its enduring popularity, and the reputation it has established over the better part of two decades, Toyota reported 29,241 units sold in the first half of 2019. So, let’s meet some of the contenders.

Two of the easiest picks for this list come in the form of the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf. Both emerged as early favorites in the affordable EV segment, garnering industry, third-party and consumer accolades.

The 2019 Bolt EV arrives, priced at $36,620 MSRP and serves up an all-electric range of 238 miles. Equivalent mpg rating falls in at around 119 combined. The Nissan Leaf bridges the price gap a little better starting as low as $29,990 MSRP. With two trim levels (distinguishable by either a 40 kWh or 62 kWh battery) the Leaf delivers up to 226 miles in range. But combine the sales of both promising challengers, and you still come out at less than half of the Prius numbers.

Named 2019’s Green Car of the Year, the Honda Insight steps into the ring with confidence, especially with a starting MSRP of $22,930. Equivalent fuel economy numbers all in around 52 mpg combined, but use of the electric motor is only designed for short distances and low speeds. A bit of a sleeper hit, Honda reports motion of more than 2,000 units per month. Those are some credible numbers, but not enough in order for the Insight’s 12,548 units sold January-to-June to come out on top, over the Prius.

Enter the Kia Niro – available in both traditional and plug-in Hybrid variants, as well as a full EV version. With starting price points ranging from $23,490 to $38,500 MSRP the Niro lineup spans a considerable gamut. The base hybrid delivers approximately 50 mpg, with the plug-in and EV serving up an all-electric range of 26 and 239 miles, respectively.  And how does the Kia Niro fare against the Prius? Well, Kia has only managed to move about one-third of the units moved by Toyota.

Like the Niro before it, the Ioniq comes in three distinct flavors, priced to start between $20,650 and $30,315 MSRP. The base hybrid delivers commendable fuel economy at 59 mpg, while the plug-in hybrid and EV versions deliver an electric equivalent of 119 and 136 mpg respectively. But when compared to the Prius’ year-to-date sales, the Ioniq just hasn’t built up enough momentum to unseat the Prius. In fact, Toyota has outsold Hyundai 4 to 1, when comparing year-to-date sales of the Prius through June versus that of the Ioniq.

Then, of course there’s the Ford C-Max. And once we’ve revealed that only thirty-eight units were sold stateside in the first half of the year, we’ve pretty much said all that needs to be said. Certainly no ‘Prius-Killer’.

With some of these offerings being relative ‘new kids on the block’, it stands to reason that this has been an unfair comparison. With more momentum behind them, any of them (except may be the C-Max) might have the potential of pushing the Prius out of the top spot. And with more EV offerings being developed every day, it’s logical to think that it will happen sooner rather than later. Let us know what you think of the Prius, its staying power and any of the other offerings out there, in the comments below. We want to know what you think.

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