Toyota’s Prius remains the most recognisable hybrid vehicle on our roads – and took a big step forward in this fourth generation guise, first launched in 2015. This MK4 model introduced a sleeker, more striking shape made possible by a stiffer, more sophisticated platform that helps to substantially improve the handling. The hybrid powertrain was clever too, hence a set of efficiency returns that established this car’s superiority over comparably-priced diesel rivals. But the electrified vehicle marketplace was evolving in this period and the Prius had to continue to adapt. So in mid-2019, this ‘XW50’-series design was enhanced with a general wash ‘n brush-up and the novel option of AWD. That’s the car we’re going to look at here as a used buy.

The History

Toyota’s Prius was a car that in its first two decades of life re-shaped the global automotive landscape, bringing hybrid technology into the mainstream market, while focusing the motor industry’s attention on the way its products could be cleaner and more efficient. The Prius did all that and in this rejuvenated MK4 model guise launched back in 2015, aimed to continue to set those standards, building upon quite a heritage of ingenuity. Here we’re going to look at the lightly revised version of this fourth generation model, an update introduced in mid-2019.

At its UK launch in the early Spring of 2016, the fourth generation ‘XW50’-series Prius found itself operating in a very different market to its predecessors. In the years following, virtually every manufacturer introduced some kind of engine electrification 2019, Toyota decided it was time to fight back, introducing the lightly updated version of the MK4 model we’re going to look at here. It was slightly smarter to look at and the cabin was carefully upgraded but the main change lay with the option – for the first time of this kind of car – of AWD for the few that wanted it. Otherwise, things were much as before and there was still the option of a pricier Plug-in version at the top of the range. Here though, we’re concentrating on the standard ‘self-charging’ hybrid model that most will want. It sold in this updated MK4 form until late-2022.

What You Get

Here is the poster child of the eco revolution, complete in MK4 form with its familiar styling cues – the trademark arching roofline, the slab sides and the double rear screen. Yet somehow, with this XW50-series design, the Prius visual formula was reinterpreted, the concept behind this car reinvented for the modern era by a team of young Japanese designers who set out to make it look more powerful, engaging and sporty.

Nothing really changed at the wheel with the revised version of this fourth generation model, apart from a few minor trim enhancements – piano black dash trimming, smarter seat upholstery, that sort of thing. As usual in a Prius, there are no conventional dials to view through the three-spoke steering wheel: instead, the instrument cluster retains its position top and centre on the dash, in this case made up of a couple of 4.2-inch TFT colour screens. Leg room in the rear is generous and, thanks to the low central transmission tunnel, it’s easier to seat three folk than would normally be the case in this size of car. Out back, there’s a 502-litre boot, 343-litres of it below the window line.

What To Look For

Toyota had sorted out most persistent Prius faults by the time this MK4 version was launched, so not much goes wrong; we certainly haven’t come across any reported issues with the Hybrid Synergy Drive system. There have been reports that the windscreen cracks easily; that’s about it. As usual with a family hatch, check for things like interior child damage and scratched alloy wheels. Rear dents and scratches may have been caused through this design’s somewhat restricted rear vision. Check the paperwork to ensure that your Prius hasn’t been used as a taxi – though this car can cope with large mileages. The hybrid system’s batteries tend to be durable, easily lasting 10 years or so and going for 200,000 miles. Signs of a weak battery include the petrol engine running constantly or a car that struggles to get above 40mpg on the instant fuel economy readout. Look out for this on the test drive and, as usual, prioritise models featuring a fully stamped-up service record.

On The Road

This revised version of the MK4 Prius model didn’t feature any engineering enhancements, but Toyota did embellish this self-charging hybrid’s appeal by adding in the option of AWD. The Prius hybrid powertrain was first mated to a 1.8-litre petrol powertrain back in 2009, but this particular VVT-i unit was very different to that used in the pre-2016 MK3 model and works in partnership with a more responsive CVT auto gearbox. For this MK4 model, the hybrid technology used a more effective battery and a clever heat recovery system which combined to enable the electric motor to cut in 60% more frequently than it had with the previous pre-2016-era MK3 model. That was a major factor in the creation of impressive WLTP efficiency stats that claim a front-driven version of this car to be capable of up to 68.3mpg on the combined cycle and up to 94g/km of CO2 – that’s assuming the car is running on the smaller 15-inch alloy wheels. To get anywhere near to that kind of return of course, you’ve got to embrace a very environmentally-minded style of driving, activating the provided ‘ECO’ mode and keeping an eye on the vast array of electronic read-outs provided to discourage any unnecessary flexing of the right foot. It’s the Prius way though – and the pay-off comes at the pumps.


With enhanced driving dynamics, a roomier cabin and more user-friendly design, this fourth generation version dealt with many of the drawbacks which used to be part and parcel of Prius ownership. And this lightly revised version added a bit of welcome extra tinsel to what was a fundamentally very strong package. As a result, Toyota created a model that remains difficult to ignore in the gloomy times we live in. A Prius for the people then? That’s about the size of it. Toyota’s hybrid revolution continues to gather pace.