Don't take this the wrong way, we have a lot of respect for the folks at U.S. News & World Report. We also love the Toyota Prius. Our own Patrick Rall drove a Prius over 800 miles to see Guns and Roses and disproved the myth that Hybrids don't get their EPA-estimated mileage in the process.Our problem is the "For the money" part. You see, the much more expensive Prius Prime can do everything the Prius can, but for less money. Makes no sense, right?
Unless you factor in the Federal Tax Deduction and state incentives on EVs. Then a Prius Prime is much more hybrid for the money than is the Prius hybrid. The fact that it can be plugged in and run on electricity should the owner wish to pay more for energy is beside the point.
The fact that the Prius Prime feels and performs just like the Prius was discovered by us this past fall when we had the chance to drive the two back to back. Indeed, when the Prius Prime is in hybrid mode it felt identical to the Prius. Discussing the price comparison with Toyota's on-site representative made it pretty obvious to us that the Prime is a steal if one factors in the incentives.
The Prius starts at $24,685 and rises to about $30,015 for the Prius 4 Touring model. The Prius Prime starts at $27,100 and rises to $33,100 for the Advance trim. However, the Federal Tax Rebate on the Prime is $4,500. The state incentive for California is $1,500. That makes the Prime $3K less than a comparably equipped Prius. Then there is the HOV lane access the Prime offers drivers that the Prius hybrid does not. This one is a no-brainer.