As electric cars continue to make their way into the depths of the automotive scene, it’s easy to forget about it hybrids. They’re kind of like the middle child of the automotive world—stuck somewhere between the past of internal combustion and the future of electric cars. Well, the fifth generation Toyota Prius wants you to know that hybrids It’s still here, and it’s still relevant, and better than ever. The 2023 Prius with a fresh look, more power, premium feel, and sportier driving characteristics. It’s also the most powerful Prius and, depending on how you define it, the most fuel efficient of all. It is enough to drag a file Prius – a car that has been on sale in the US since 2001 – is back in relevance. Here’s how Toyota did it.
Full disclosure: Toyota flew me to Del Mar, California, put me in a fancy hotel for two nights and fed me copious amounts of food during my stay, all so I could drive the new 2023 Prius..
Toyota Prius 2023: more powerful and more economical
Toyota is going the “have your cake and eat it too” route with the fifth generation Prius. Toyota says the new car—provided you opt for the base “LE” with smaller wheels—can achieve a combined 57 mpg, thanks in part to its slippery 0.27 drag coefficient. (For reference, the best you could get with the base model 2022 Prius was 52 mpg combined, According to the Environmental Protection Agency; Even the Prius Eco maxes out at 56 mpg combined.) Of course, overall fuel economy drops when you add the options or check the box for all-wheel drive: XLE and Limited AWD models get a Toyota—estimated at 49 mpg. in gallons combined, and the official EPA numbers have not yet been finalized.
Despite improved fuel efficiency, there is no performance penalty. In fact, one of the biggest upgrades with the new Prius is the increased power. The hybrid powertrain pumps out a total of 194 horsepower in front-wheel-drive form, or 196 with all-wheel drive. The 2.0-liter (from 1.8-liter) Atkinson four-cylinder engine produces 150 horsepower on its own. The new and improved engine runs almost silently in the background. If you turned on the radio a little bit, you might think this was an all-electric car.
The engine combines with an electric motor system producing 110 hp (40 more than the fourth-generation car) driving the front axle; AWD models get a second electric motor in the back. It all adds up to enough power to move the little rebounder from zero to 60 in a flat 7 seconds at manufacturer discretion in AWD trim. For reference, the previous car sprinted to 60 in 9.8 seconds, according to Toyota.
Toyota Prius 2023: interior design and technology
If you’ve spent any time inside a previous-generation Prius, you know it’s a utilitarian design that isn’t particularly comfortable or luxurious. Like everything else with the 2023 Prius, Toyota changed that, too.
In keeping with tradition, the 2023 Prius has an open, airy feel. Toyota got rid of the long, narrow screen in the center, replacing it with a larger horizontal unit. The interior of the new Prius looks almost like a Lexus. It’s lavish, yet well thought out. The seats are nice, and provide plenty of support for my sore back and sore knees. Every button and knob is exactly where you’d expect them to be—except for the volume knob, which is located on the passenger side of the 12.3-inch center screen and can be slightly within reach of the driver. Another curiosity is the placement of the instrument cluster. Unlike previous Prius cars, the speedometer has moved from the center of the dash to the right in front of the driver, but it’s pushed forward somewhat farther, like the driver’s head-up display. During my testing, I noticed that the steering wheel sometimes obscured large portions of the instrument display, so before you buy one, sit in it to make sure the sightlines work for you.
The infotainment system is as standard as can be, but very easy to use. Menus and features are just a few taps away, and the screen position never gets out of the way. Over-the-air updates should keep it feeling fresh for longer.
While front-seat passengers may feel a sense of airiness, the same cannot be said for back-seat passengers. At 6’1″ I couldn’t sit comfortably in the back of the car unless I removed my head. For short trips I’m sure it would be fine, but I wouldn’t want to spend any long in there. The new Prius roof shape works just fine Visually, it comes at the expense of rear headroom. The company says rear headroom is now 36.4 in. That’s a full inch less than the 2022 model, and not quite a Toyota move.
Driving a 2023 Toyota Prius
Prius and fun weren’t really compatible words. The Prius has always been a great way to get where you need to go. Just Works. The new car is also functional, but it adds some dynamism that was missing from the previous cars.
Toyota brought the current-generation Prius at this launch event, and managed to lead it with the all-new 2023 model. The difference in driving dynamics is night and day. The new car corners flat and exudes enough confidence to let you push the plug-in hybrid harder than the old car. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the 2023 model is the sculptor of the canyon, but if you find yourself on a twisty road, you’re not going to have a bad time.
This is all well and good, but the real meat and potatoes of driving a Prius is navigating the highway and running errands within the city. I’m happy to report that the fifth-generation Prius is all-star when things get mundane. It’s quiet, with a smooth, comfortable ride no matter what kind of road you’re on, thanks in part to a wheelbase extended by nearly two inches. MacPherson multi-link front and rear suspension ensures that every bump gets only one reaction. There’s none of the buoyant action you got in a fourth-generation sedan, but the new Prius isn’t too stiff either. In short, the flight is perfect for this type of car.
2023 Toyota Prius Glow
The 2023 Prius is two inches lower, one inch wider and one inch longer than the outgoing model. Combine that with the wheels pushed far into the corners, the crest of the roofline pushed back, and some really funky lines in the fascia, and you have a pretty impressive package. Gone is the split rear window—a staple of the Prius since its second generation. This honestly hurts the rear view a bit, but hey, style it has to be.
The 2023 Prius is so striking, in fact, that at one point while I was driving it, a guy in a bright red Dodge Viper almost broke his neck just to look at me. When you place the last-generation Prius next to the all-new 2023 model, the contrast is even stronger.
In fact, at Toyota’s launch event, the previous-generation Prius got a nice ribbing from one of Toyota’s engineers. He said that, in general, every Prius has been a good-looking car…with the fourth generation being the only exception. You can’t win them all, but Toyota has fixed the situation and then some with this all-new model. The aggressive design is one sign that Toyota is targeting the new Prius squarely at younger buyers. I think it’s a hit.
2023 Toyota Prius: Pricing, trim, and final thoughts
The base 2023 Prius LE with front-wheel drive starts at $28,545 (including $1,095 destination), up $1,165 from the 2022 model year (Toyota decided to get rid of the old base model Prius L). The XLE and Limited start at $31,990 and $35,560, respectively. All-wheel drive can be added to any trim for $1,400. As standard, you get exterior LED daytime driving lights and taillights, 17-inch wheels, six-way cloth seats, single-zone climate control, six USB-C chargers, and an 8-inch center display. Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 is standard on all models, including radar cruise control with stop-and-go as well as pedestrian avoidance. As you move up the trim levels, you can add details such as a digital key, a larger center display, heated and cooled seats, 19-inch wheels, a panoramic roof and LED headlights.
Expect the 2023 Prius to start showing up at dealers sometime in January; The Prius Prime hybrid, with 220 horsepower and a solar panel roof, is scheduled to arrive in spring 2023.
Toyota has been a little slow to catch up on the EV, but it’s clear the company thinks there’s room and appetite for a new hybrid. The 2023 Prius has all the ingredients that could potentially prove Toyota right about the automotive world’s middle child.
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