Toyota has added an AWD option to its Prius for 2019, making that hybrid hatchback the brand's first car model to use an electric all-wheel system borrowed from Toyota and Lexus crossover models.

The AWD-e system drives the rear wheels with a motor mounted at the rear axle, eliminating the need for a power take-off at the front-mounted transmission and a driveshaft to take torque rearward.

That method of providing four-wheel traction is already use in the Highlander Hybrid and Lexus RX450h crossovers. However, the Prius is first in its use of a magnet-less motor that generates zero drag when it's not actually powering the car. Toyota says the AWD-e system is there to aid launching the car from a stop to about 10 km/h, and then disengages until it's needed at speeds up to about 70 km/h.

Unique to Prius AWD-e models is a nickel-metal hydride battery pack that still lives under the back seat but is smaller and performs better in the cold than the lithium-ion pack in FWD Prius models. That's important, because Toyota figures the Prius AWD-e could account for two-thirds of Canadian Prius sales.

Projected fuel consumption estimates for the new powertrain are 4.5/4.9 L/100 km (city/highway), which would make the all-wheeler Prius only marginally more thirsty than the FWD model, whose projected estimates for 2019 are 4.4/4.6 L/100 km.

The 2019 Prius also gets refreshed styling front and rear to make the car look a little less weird, and interior colour and trim updates.

Toyota says it will offer the AWD-e Prius in a trio of trims (base, Technology and Technology with an Advanced package), while the FWD model will come in base and Tech trims. All cars will come standard with the Toyota Safety Sense suite and its collision detection system with automatic braking, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams and radar cruise control.

The 2019 Toyota Prius will go on sale across Canada in the spring of 2019, with pricing to be announced closer to that time.