Toyota’s Prius has long been the ugly duckling of the eco-car market, but the automaker is finally delivering a version that’s easier on the eyes. The redesigned fifth-generation Prius 2023 was just unveiled in Japanwith a sportier coupe-like look to hide the fact that it’s still a compact four-door with hybrid and plug-in hybrid options.
It’s certainly prettier, no doubt – the 1997 Prius was the first mass-produced hybrid electric vehicle, but it wasn’t very visually appealing, nor were any of its successive iterations. Toyota says this new one follows the “monoform silhouette” design introduced in the second-generation (2003-2009) Prius, and the development team started from scratch to create a “Hybrid Reborn” concept that would make this new Prius heavily informs.
The new Prius also uses the automaker’s second-generation TNGA platform, which is lighter and shares components with other Toyota vehicles. Previously, the 2016 Prius was the first model to adopt the old TNGA.
But the Prius remains a Prius. It has options for a 1.8/2.0-litre internal combustion engine on the new hybrid system capable of delivering 144kW of drive power. The plug-in version comes with a 2.0-liter engine, has an output of 166 kW and can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.7 seconds thanks to a larger battery.
In fully electric driving, the new plug-in Prius achieves about 50 percent more range than the previous model. In the US, the latest Prius Prime has a range of about 40 kilometers, so the new Prius can get about 60 kilometers in all-electric mode. Toyota plans to release details on the North American version soon.
Toyota has had a rough time Real fully electric vehicles off the ground. Last month it said it is going back to the drawing board on its e-TNGA flexible EV platform after releasing an at-best bZ4X EV that became the subject of a major recall to keep its wheels stuck (the issue has been resolved) . So while Toyota strives to get that all straight for next year, the company decided to keep doing what it does best: making more hybrids.
Environmentalists are less enthusiastic. “Sales of more hybrid vehicles, including the Prius, are dragging us further into the climate crisis,” Daniel Read, Greenpeace East Asia climate and energy campaigner, said in an emailed statement. “When the Prius was first released, it was a leader in low-carbon transportation. However, 25 years later, it is clear that hybrid vehicle technology is not enough to limit global warming to 1.5°C.”
(Greenpeace recently slammed Toyota, as well as GM, Volkswagen and Hyundai, for continuing to sell internal combustion engine vehicles at a rate that makes it impossible to contain the worst impacts of climate change.)
In addition to Toyota’s disappointing EV track record, the Prius gets some interesting features. There are cameras on the front and rear of the car, a digital rear-view mirror, and a built-in recorder too (although Toyota says it records to the internal computer and doesn’t have a removable SD card). And just like Toyota’s bZ4X EV, solar panels are present on the new Prius plug-in. It can charge the main drive battery while stationary and the auxiliary battery while moving.
You can also use the Prius as a portable battery pack with 100-volt AC plugs in the rear center console and cargo area. It can handle a load of up to 1,500W on battery alone, or you can switch it to hybrid to generate electricity using the gas engine. Toyota even supplies a window protection accessory that allows you to run a power cord in the cabin and still protect the car from the elements.
With its new looks and features, the 2023 Prius is an attractive hybrid that is sure to get a lot of attention. Toyota is reportedly considering hitting the reset button on its EV plans to invest $17.6 billion in battery technology, but it hasn’t yet publicly charted a new path. It may be too late to successfully lobby the government to slow EV adoption (again), but it’s never too late to build something new.