$8,393 - $9,631

2011 Toyota Prius Interior Review

Note: This interior review was created when the 2011 Toyota Prius was new.


Interior: 8.2

The 2011 Toyota Prius is more spacious than the 2009 model, but it’s still uncomfortable for some back-seat passengers. It does however, have comfortable and roomy seating for those in the front seat, who also have access to many useful tech features.

Buyers will have to get accustomed to the unusual styling of the Toyota Prius’ cabin. Driver and front passenger are separated by a tall, sharply-angled console that houses most of the climate and entertainment functions. An unusual, joystick-style shifter that snaps back to center after you release it only adds to the futuristic ambiance. Those in search of a more conventional car experience with hybrid fuel economy might want to explore the Honda Insight, which looks much like a Honda Civic from the inside.

  • "The Prius interior is not what you'd call luxurious, but it still represents an upgrade over the previous car's and is certainly roomier and more plush than the cabin of the new Honda Insight. Cabin ergonomics and the displays that monitor the activities of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system are top-notch." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Automotive journalists often struggle to describe how one interior feels more upscale than another, or how one type of plastic can feel cheap and another won't - these things just are. With the Prius, Toyota made a number of good choices on both materials and eye-pleasing color combinations." -- Cars.com
  • "As for the cabin tech, it's a minor step above what can be had in the current model. The navigation system has improved menu graphics, but is largely the same. It does incorporate live traffic now, a welcome addition. For the audio system, the Prius has a disc slot behind the LCD, satellite radio, and an auxiliary input. The big addition for audio sources is Bluetooth streaming audio, but we would still like to see either a USB port or iPod integration." -- CNET
  • "The Prius is also a nicer place to spend time, with more room in the rear seat for big boys and girls, nicer materials and a lot of fancy tech features that are fun to use." -- Jalopnik
  • "There are some downsides to this latest Prius, however. Most concern the interior, such as too many cheap-feeling plastics, an awkward driving position and the lack of an iPod adapter on most models." -- Edmunds


Last year, Toyota changed the Prius’ interior dimensions, making it bigger to increase space. However, not all reviewers agree that more space equals an increase in comfort. The back seat is sometimes called roomy and comfortable -- even for 6-foot passengers. Other times, test drivers complain about tight leg space, that limits seating to two adults. We found it possible to install two child safety seats side-by-side, but it was a more difficult endeavor than it is in most cars. Those in need of a full-size rear seat should consider the Camry Hybrid or Ford Fusion Hybrid. The front seats, however, don’t receive complaints. They’re comfortable and supportive.

  • "The front seats are noticeably wider, more adjustable, and more supportive, addressing a major customer complaint." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Shorter drivers in particular may appreciate the new height-adjustable seat and telescopic steering wheel. Standard cloth seats are softer than most, and some may feel they lack support, but the leather seats on IV and V models are firmer." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Even with the base model's fabric seats, there's plenty of cushioning on the bottom and plenty of support for the back. The leather seats in the top two trim levels are quite nice, and they definitely up the ante in terms of luxury." -- Cars.com
  • "Unfortunately, there are also downsides to the revised interior. Foremost on our list of things we don't like are the heated seat switches, which have bizarrely been located down by the driver's feet. We predict a class action lawsuit filed by completely detestable human beings who couldn't figure out that they probably shouldn't attempt to operate these controls on the move." -- Jalopnik
  • "The new Prius also is surprisingly spacious, with rear seats that verge on being downright roomy, which also fold down in a 60/40 pattern to create a big hauling space, and a 21.6 cu. ft. luggage area in back." -- BusinessWeek
  • "The interior is a different story, as headroom has been reduced by a fraction of an inch. This wouldn't seem to be a big deal, but in our testing we found that taller rear seat occupants had their hair grazing the roof, and that wasn't the case before." -- Edmunds
  • "The appropriately painted 'sandy beach metallic' Prius passed our rear-seat test with ease -- a 6-foot person can sit behind a 6-foot driver." -- MarketWatch

Interior Features

The base Prius has an auxiliary audio jack, power windows and automatic door locks, remoteless key entry, Smart Key, which starts and unlocks the car without a traditional key, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel and two auxiliary power outlets. The Prius III, the next step up, comes with a lot more. Its features include an upgraded audio system with satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity and steering-wheel mounted Bluetooth hands-free phone-calling controls. You can also upgrade this model with a voice-activated touch-screen DVD navigation system.

The Prius has one feature -- a Touch Racer Display -- that is unique to the class and well-liked by the industry. The Touch Racer Display is a series of touch sensors on the steering wheel that allow the driver to select audio controls or the trip display without taking his or her eyes off the road.

While test drivers are impressed with the amount of features the Prius has, they’re less enthused with interior quality -- especially when most shoppers will pay between $25,000 and $30,000 for this hybrid. There are also a few complaints about the navigation system, which some reviewers found difficult to use and hard to read.

  • "One of the standard features I thought was a terrific use of technology is what Toyota calls the Touch Tracer display. When you place your finger on the steering-wheel control for the radio or climate system, a display pops up in the dash where vehicle speed and other readouts are housed... The display highlights what control your finger is over, and once you visually confirm which button your finger is on, all you have to do is press down slightly harder to make your selection." -- Cars.com
  • "While the Prius uses a similarly functional economy gauge to the Honda Insight and Ford Fusion Hybrid, Toyota's falls behind both in usefulness and far behind Ford's in looks." -- Jalopnik
  • "The Prius features straightforward climate and audio controls that jut out toward the driver in a 'floating console' that provides a storage area underneath. This is an improvement over the convoluted touchscreen controls of the old Prius. Unfortunately, the materials used in the [2011] version are a step down, with harder and cheaper plastics throughout." -- Edmunds
  • "Without navigation, audio and climate controls are conventionally positioned on the dash but are unusually easy to use and reach. The navigation system still absorbs most audio controls, but they become 'virtual pushbuttons' on the screen and are easy to use, and it no longer incorporates the climate controls." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Digital gauges themselves, though, were nearly unreadable if you're wearing sunglasses, and still hard to read without them. No excuse for high-tech Prius being behind the curve." -- USA TODAY
  • "Nits include a navigation system that tried to guess (incorrectly) what you wanted before you completed typing it in. Also it flubbed finding our first hotel, thus giving us a fine tour of Florence, S.C., and did not easily dim for night driving. The remaining controls were easy to reach and figure out. Fit and finish were excellent inside and out, but for the price some softer surfaces here and there would have been a nice touch." -- MarketWatch


At 21.7 cubic feet with the rear seats up, the Prius’ trunk is large for a hybrid. The 60/40 split rear seats fold, increasing trunk capacity. The Prius’ trunk beats the competition -- the Ford Fusion Hybrid only has 11.8 cubes, and the Honda Insight has 15.9 cubic feet with the seats up.

There are also plenty of interior cubbies for storing personal odds and ends.  

  • “Prius offers hatchback versatility with 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, but the sloped tail and high floor preclude toting tall items with the hatch closed. There's a large underfloor bin at the rear of the cargo area that can hold the roll-up cargo cover when it's removed--a handy touch. Cabin storage is plentiful, and includes a large bin under the raised center console, upper and lower gloveboxes, and a two-tiered console box.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "In terms of versatility, though, the Prius is still a champ. The hatchback body style provides more cargo capacity than a typical midsize sedan, and the backseat offers plenty of space." -- Edmunds

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