Splendid rides from Prius, Mazda and Lexus keep sedans in market play
We have been fans of the Toyota Prius since we drove the first U.S. prototype some 20 years ago (it debuted in Japan in 1997 and the U.S. in 2000). Positive driveability and tech advances in this hybrid model have boosted its popularity and rising sales. The 2019 Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid we recently tested proved that tech, safety, and comfort features continue to dominate this sedan.
Our tester was powered by a 1.8-L DOHC VVT-in four-cylinder engine and a Hybrid Synergy Drive System combined with an electric all-wheel-drive system. With EV/Eco/Power modes a driver can select what’s needed for them, but in Eco mode one can garner well more than the EPA/DOT ratings of 50 MPG (we experienced 55.2 over a weeklong trip of several hundred miles).
As with all Toyota models, safety is paramount and the Prius has the Star Safety System (VRC, TRAC, ABS, and more) as well as the Toyota Safety Sense P package of pre-collision warning, lane departure alerts, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, plus there is a blind-spot monitor, and more.
Our likes on the Prius, in addition to one fill-up over 500-plus miles, include heated outside mirrors, automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers, heated front seats, and heated/tilt/telescoping steering wheel.
The XLE AWD-e is one of six overall Prius models, and one of two with the AWD system that we like.
The MSRP on our midsize sedan was $28,820 and we had six options, including the Advanced Technology Package for $800 (color head-up display with speedometer, hybrid system indicator, auto-leveling headlamps, and more) and alloy wheels for a final price of $30,226.
‘Where will inspiration take you,’ says Mazda
So, is it true? Mazda makes a compelling case with its 2019 Mazda3 Sedan with Premium Package (the top of four offerings). This compact sedan is just plain fun and enjoyable to drive, plus it offers 28 MPG fuel ratings, which we found right on target.
There’s plenty of power with the Skyactiv-G 2.5-L DOHC four-cylinder engine that produces 186 HP. It’s paired with the Skyactiv-G six-speed sport mode automatic transmission that provides seamless shifting.
Our likes on the Mazda3 are too many to list, but they include comfortable leather-trimmed/heated front seats, Adaptive Driving Display, an 8.8-inch wide screen display for the Mazda Connect Infotainment System, an exceptional Bose audio system with 12 speakers, 18-inch tires mounted on alloy wheels, and bountiful safety features from blind-spot monitoring to lane departure warning.
We also liked the interior design and the very quiet ride. The Skyactiv-Vehicle Dynamics with G-Vectoring Control Plus provides an efficient drive by adjusting power delivery and shifting vehicle weight when needed. We were pleased with its effects on a long road trip and appreciated the i-Activ AWD system that our tester had as standard equipment.
With the i-ActiveSense safety system and superb standard equipment, our Mazda3 Premium had a MSRP of $27,900. With a few options, including the very cool Soul Red exterior paint ($595) the final price was $30,135, competitive for a well-styled and delightful-to-drive sedan.
Classy ride from Lexus
The 2019 IS 350 AWD Sedan from Lexus offers an inviting and spacious ride with its comfy interior seating (10-way power driver’s seat) and refined all-wheel drive system.
A 3.5-L V-6 engine creates a beefy 311 HP and there are four drive modes with the six-speed transmission (ECO, normal, sport, and snow). We tried them all, but for fuel economy we really liked the ECO mode. While EPA/DOT fuel estimates are 19 MPG/city and 26 MPG/highway (combined 21 MPG), in ECO we were able to exceed the city and highway ratings.
We liked the list of standard safety (Lexus Safety System+) and creature comforts, what we really liked was in the option packages. A Navigation/Mark Levinson Audio Package upgrades the display from 7.0-inches to a 10.3-inch color display, adds a booming 15-speaker (835 watt) surround-sound Levinson audio system, and more, for $2,845. An F-Sport Package adds a F-Sport front bumper and grille, 18-inch all-season tires on five-spoke wheels, heated/ventilated F-Sport front seats, aluminum pedals, and other goodies ($2,365).
The MSRP on the IS 350 AWD was $44,095, but it popped up to $52,412 after options.