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11 Best 2017 Cars Under $30,000

2. 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Advanced

Market segment: Compact plug-in hybrid
Body style: Four-door hatchback
Base price: $33,965
Price as tested: $29,463, after $4,500 federal tax credit
Key options: None
For: Can travel up to 25 miles on electric power, fuel efficiency, futuristic styling, surprisingly roomy interior
Against: Requires plug in for maximum range and fuel economy, confusing interior controls
Next big change: Freshening for model year 2018 or 2019

For now, gas is cheap and plentiful, but even if it weren’t, there’s a lot to admire about this car’s engineering and the environmental statement it makes. New for model-year 2017, the Prius Prime is the second-generation plug-in version of Toyota’s iconic hybrid hatchback. It joins the conventional Prius gas-electric and improves upon its plug-in predecessor’s 11-mile electric-only range with the ability to travel up to 25 emissions-free miles before the gas engine kicks in. At that point, it operates as a conventional hybrid, mixing gas and electric power as needed and earning an exemplary 54 mpg city-highway combined EPA rating (the Prius conventional hybrid rates 52 mpg combined.) With a total range of 640 miles, it’s a neat hedge against the range anxiety you might feel with a pure-electric car.

Charging the Prius Prime is relatively quick at about two hours with a 240-volt outlet or five-and-a-half with a standard 110-volt line. A net 121 horsepower from its four-cylinder engine and electric motor means acceleration is peppy enough. Handling is more than competent, if not sporty. The styling, inside and out, looks futuristic or unnecessarily busy, depending on your taste. Either way, the cabin seats four adults in good comfort and the hatchback provides a useful 19.8 cubic feet of cargo volume.

The Prime comes in Plus, Premium, and Advanced trim, starting at $27,965 and topping out at $33,965. A federal tax credit effectively cuts the base price by $4,500, enabling us to snare an Advanced model for an outlay of $29,463. And some states offer additional incentives; Colorado, for example, extends a state tax credit of up to $5,000 to qualified individuals or businesses who purchase or lease a plug-in hybrid. The Advanced comes standard with every Prius Prime feature, including a full suite of safety systems that includes autonomous emergency braking and lane-correcting automatic steering. Amenities include a color head-up instrument display, power heated front seats, a navigation system, and a self-parking function that can back the car into perpendicular spaces or in and out of parallel ones.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]