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Toyota Prius review 2023: EV reality check

It’s a weird time to be the Toyota Prius.

On the one hand, no car is more synonymous with environmentally conscious virtue signaling than this ubiquitous diamond-shaped hybrid. But on the other hand, the Prius’ gas-powered powertrain is a clear reminder of Toyota’s reluctance to follow its competitors’ lead and go all-in on EVs. So where’s that fancy new 2023 model that’s just now hitting dealers?

Toyota’s fifth-generation Prius certainly has a lot going for it. For starters, it looks 6,000 percent better than its predecessor, which means it’s really attractive, and not just for a Prius. A glow like this is a really big deal for a car where image is everything, and should go a long way toward wooing buyers who might otherwise not have considered Toyota’s rather bad-looking hybrid.

The Prius also boasts more cabin and safety tech, nicer road manners, not to mention an EPA fuel economy of a whopping 57 miles per gallon combined — as in, that’s a number you could (and should) expect seen in everyday traffic. It’s also significantly cheaper than most new compact electric cars on sale today, and you don’t have to rely on America’s decidedly crappy and unreliable public charging network.

The fifth-generation Prius looks much better than any of its predecessors.

Hybrid power

As before, Toyota offers the Prius with front or all-wheel drive. The former lets you leverage the hybrid’s maximum fuel economy, while the latter includes an on-demand electric rear-wheel drive for all-wheel drive – something that comes in handy if you live in a rainy or snowy climate.

Regardless of model, the Prius is powered by a two-liter four-cylinder engine with a lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor. Total system horsepower for front-wheel drive variants is 194 horsepower, while adding AWD slightly boosts power to 196 horsepower.

Toyota’s fifth-generation Prius certainly has a lot going for it

More importantly, the new Prius is no longer a complete snail under acceleration. A combination of mechanical improvements and tighter aerodynamics allows the Prius to sprint to 62 mph in 7.2 seconds, a full 2.6 seconds quicker than the old model’s lethargic 9.8 seconds. This gives you more confidence and authority when merging on highways or overtaking slow-moving semi trucks. Just don’t go too wild; remember, the Prius is all about efficiency.

With front-wheel drive, a base Prius LE returns an estimated 57 mpg city, 56 mpg highway, and 57 mpg combined. Spring for an XLE like my test car or a high-zoot Limited, and those numbers will drop slightly to 52mpg across the board, mostly because of the larger 19-inch wheels. (Adding the extra rear-wheel drive for AWD lowers your expected fuel economy even more.) Without changing my driving style during a week of testing in Los Angeles, I routinely saw fuel economy between 50 and 52 mpg. In the Prius, efficiency is a cinch.

Efficiency is a cinch in the new Prius.

The new Prius is no longer a complete snail under acceleration.

The Prius’s Eco drive mode dampens throttle response slightly and relies on battery power as much as possible, making it the best way to get around town. You can coax the Prius to hum along on battery power alone if you press the accelerator very easily in a neighborhood or busy city center – but not for long. That said, it’s also worth noting that Toyota will soon launch a new version of the Prius Prime with a more robust plug-in hybrid powertrain that should allow for an all-electric range of 35 to 40 miles.

Toyota has decades of experience making hybrid powertrains, so it’s no surprise that the 2023 Prius has a seamless transition between battery-only and engine-assisted driving. You’ll hear (and feel) the coarse-sounding two-litre engine fire up when you start the Prius on a cold morning, but on the road those on/off transitions are almost unnoticeable.

The aptly named Normal driving mode lets the Prius do its thing without any extra eco-assistance, and if you’re feeling frisky there’s a Sport setting, which, I mean, come on. Nobody buys a Prius for its rewarding driving dynamics.

The new Prius is no longer a complete snail under acceleration

That said, the new Prius isn’t a complete dud to drive. The ride is comfortable and the car turns nice, though the steering is predictably light and numb. Regenerative braking nicely complements the mechanical brakes, and standard Proactive Driving Assist uses the Prius’ radars and cameras to automatically slow the car when it detects you approaching another vehicle or a curve. It’s sort of a half step to adaptive cruise control, something that’s also standard equipment, along with such niceties as Lane Keep Assist and Forward Collision Warning with pedestrian detection.

The overall interface is quite simple to use and easy to master.

The inner scooper

Inside, Toyota’s multimedia system is housed on an 8-inch touchscreen on the base Prius LE, but step up to the XLE and you can opt for a 12.3-inch screen, complete with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. (The big screen comes standard on the Prius Limited.) The overall interface is fairly simple to use and easy to get the hang of, though it’s a bit odd that the volume rocker is far to the right, away from the driver. Buttons and switches for the climate control are neatly arranged below, adding to a dash design that’s quite handsome. Well, usually.

The main thing that irks me about the Prius’s interior is the placement of the digital instrument panel. The seven-inch display is positioned well in front of the driver, close to the windshield, and the top of the steering wheel sits below the bottom of the screen. That’s an unusual design choice; on most cars you look at the gauges Through The wheel.

The placement of the digital instrument panel is a head scraper.

Driving the Prius feels a bit like sitting in one Cruise’n USA arcade console.

Depending on how tall you are – or how much of your height is in your torso – the wheel may cut off some of the information shown in the gauges, not that it matters too much as this seven-inch screen is full of stuck with lots of small icons and no discernible separation between different panels. The steering wheel itself is also clunky and unappealing, though I have to commend Toyota for at least having a delightfully small diameter. Driving the Prius feels a bit like sitting in one Cruise’n USA arcade console.

Nobody buys a Prius for its rewarding driving dynamics

The head and legroom in the front is generous and the optional glass roof gives the Prius cabin an airy appearance. However, that beautifully sloping roofline really cuts into the rear headroom and makes getting in and out of the back seat of the Prius a little difficult, even for a petite five-foot-tall adult like me.

When throngs of Prii are inevitably put into service as rideshare vehicles, I imagine many unknowingly texting passengers will be bumping their heads — and that’s before the 2AM bar runs.

At about $28,000, the Prius has a price that’s hard to beat

A reasonable deal

Including a $1,095 mandatory destination fee, you can get in a 2023 Toyota Prius for just $28,545. An XLE starts at $31,990, while the Limited starts at $35,560, and all-wheel drive is a $1,400 add-on. With options like the aforementioned 12.3-inch screen ($735), a fixed glass roof ($1,000), and some nice Supersonic Red paint ($495), my Prius XLE FWD hits the road with a completely reasonable price tag of $34,095.

The only all-electric cars cheaper than a 2023 Prius are the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV siblings, though the federal and local tax credits available can certainly offset the price of more expensive EVs.

Toyota continues to flip-flop on its future EV plans, with some reports claiming the company is sticking to its guns, while others say the automaker will accelerate new electric products.

Regardless of whether you agree with Toyota’s decisions to date, there’s no arguing that until it becomes easier and more accessible for the general public to charge EVs quickly and reliably, the Prius is a great hybrid that offers easy efficiency without any extra effort.

Photography by Steven Ewing for The Verge


Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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