Toyota has refreshed the Prius and one of the most important changes is the new availability of all-wheel drive. This makes the Prius the only car in its segment that offers AWD, a smart move to help Toyota differentiate it from its growing list of competitors like the Hyundai Ioniq, Kia Niro, or Honda Insight.

It’s rated to get 52 mpg city, 48 highway and 50 combined and the added traction in the 2019 Toyota Prius should help give drivers who have to deal with snow or rain some added confidence. Toyota says the AWD Prius is “one of the most fuel-efficient AWD-equipped vehicles in America.”

2019 Toyota Prius AWD-02

The AWD Toyota Prius has an electric motor powering the rear wheels from zero to 6 mph for stronger launches and then up to speeds of 43 mph when slippage is detected. After that, or if no slippage is detected, the Prius continues to function as a front-drive car, which makes sense if the goal is better fuel economy. The battery in the AWD Prius is a Nickel-Metal Hydride unit that was designed to perform better in the cold. It’s also located under the rear seats and doesn’t impact cargo capacity, which rings it at 65.5 cu-ft for all Prius models. Front-drive models will have a Lithium-Ion battery.

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This on-demand/automatic AWD-e (the e is for electric) system is already being used in the Lexus UX 250h Hybrid and works smoothly and imperceptibly when we tested it in the small crossover, though we drove it in sunny, warm and dry weather. We will be driving the Prius in Wisconsin in December, so hopefully, there will be some snow on the ground.

2019 Toyota Prius AWD-interior

Other updates to the 2019 Toyota Prius lineup include refreshed styling (that tones down the ugliness a wee bit), interior updates (includes an available huge new tablet-like touchscreen), standard Toyota Safety Sense P on all models, new trim grades (L Eco, LE, XLE and Limited), and two new colors. The AWD-e system will be available on the LE and XLE trims. The standard safety package includes the pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control that works at all speeds.