It’s a bizarre time to be the Toyota Prius.
On the one hand, no automotive is extra synonymous with eco-conscious advantage signaling than this ubiquitous lozenge-shaped hybrid. However then again, the Prius’ gasoline-fed powertrain is a stark reminder of Toyota’s reluctance to comply with its rivals’ leads and go all in on EVs. So the place does that depart the swanky new 2023 mannequin that’s simply now hitting sellers?
Toyota’s fifth-generation Prius definitely has loads to love. For starters, it’s 6,000 % higher wanting than its predecessor, which means it’s genuinely engaging, and never simply for a Prius. A glow-up like it is a actually large deal for a automotive the place picture is every thing, and it ought to go a good distance towards wooing patrons who won’t have in any other case thought-about Toyota’s beforehand dumpy-looking hybrid.
The Prius additionally boasts extra cabin and security expertise, nicer on-road manners, and don’t neglect, an EPA gasoline economic system ranking of as a lot as 57 miles per gallon mixed — as in, that’s a quantity you would (and will) anticipate to see in on a regular basis driving. It’s additionally considerably cheaper than many of the new compact electrical automobiles on sale at present and doesn’t require you to depend on America’s decidedly awful and unreliable public charging community.
Like earlier than, Toyota provides the Prius with both front- or all-wheel drive. The previous will can help you eke out the hybrid’s most gasoline economic system, whereas the latter contains an on-demand electrical rear-drive unit for four-wheel traction — one thing that’s useful in case you reside in a wet or snowy local weather.
Irrespective of the mannequin, the Prius is powered by a two-liter four-cylinder engine with a lithium-ion battery pack and electrical motor. Whole system output for front-wheel drive variants is 194 horsepower, whereas including AWD ups the output ever so barely to 196hp.
Toyota’s fifth-generation Prius definitely has loads to love
Extra importantly, the brand new Prius is not a whole slug throughout acceleration. By a mix of mechanical enhancements and sleeker aerodynamics, the Prius can hit 60mph in 7.2 seconds, a full 2.6 seconds faster than the previous mannequin’s torpid 9.8-second time. This offers you extra confidence and authority when merging onto highways or passing slow-moving semi vans. Simply don’t go too wild; bear in mind, the Prius is all about effectivity.
With front-wheel drive, a base Prius LE is estimated to return 57mpg metropolis, 56mpg freeway, and 57mpg mixed. Spring for an XLE like my check automotive or a high-zoot Restricted, and people numbers will fall barely to 52mpg throughout the board, largely because of the bigger 19-inch wheels. (Including the extra rear-drive unit for AWD will cut back your anticipated gasoline economic system much more.) With out altering my driving type throughout per week of testing in Los Angeles, I routinely noticed gasoline economic system within the 50–52mpg vary. Within the Prius, effectivity is a cinch.
The Prius’ Eco drive mode mutes the throttle response barely and depends on the battery’s energy as a lot as doable, making this one of the simplest ways to drive round city. You’ll be able to coax the Prius into buzzing alongside on simply battery energy in case you go tremendous straightforward on the fuel pedal in a neighborhood or congested metropolis heart — however not for lengthy intervals of time. That mentioned, it’s additionally price mentioning Toyota will quickly launch a brand new model of the Prius Prime with a extra sturdy plug-in hybrid powertrain that ought to permit for 35 to 40 miles of all-electric vary.
Toyota has many years of expertise making hybrid drive programs, so it’s no shock that the 2023 Prius has a seamless transition between battery solely and engine-assisted driving. You’ll hear (and really feel) the coarse-sounding two-liter engine hearth up if you begin the Prius on a chilly morning, however on the street, these on / off transitions are virtually imperceptible.
The aptly named Regular driving mode lets the Prius do its factor with none additional eco help, and in case you’re feeling frisky, there’s a Sport setting, which, I imply, come on. Nobody’s shopping for a Prius for the rewarding driving dynamics.
The brand new Prius is not a whole slug throughout acceleration
That mentioned, the brand new Prius isn’t a whole dud to drive. The trip is comfy, and the automotive corners properly, although the steering is predictably mild and numb. Regenerative stopping energy enhances the mechanical brakes properly, and the usual Proactive Driving Help makes use of the Prius’ radars and cameras to robotically sluggish the automotive when it senses you’re approaching one other automobile or curve. It’s kind of like a half-step to adaptive cruise management, one thing that’s additionally normal gear, together with niceties like lane-keep help and ahead collision warning with pedestrian detection.
The within scoop
Inside, Toyota’s multimedia system is housed on an eight-inch touchscreen on the bottom Prius LE, however step as much as the XLE, and you’ll go for a 12.3-inch display, full with wi-fi Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. (The massive display is normal on the Prius Restricted.) The general interface is fairly easy to make use of and simple to grasp, although it’s a little bit bizarre that the quantity knob is approach over on the best facet away from the driving force. Buttons and toggles for the local weather management are neatly organized beneath, lending to a dashboard design that’s fairly good-looking. Nicely, largely.
The foremost factor that irks me in regards to the Prius’ inside is the position of the digital gauge cluster. The seven-inch show is housed far forward of the driving force, near the windshield, and the highest of the wheel sits beneath the bottom of the display. That’s an uncommon design selection; in most automobiles, you view the gauges by way of the steering wheel.
Relying on how tall you’re — or how a lot of your peak is in your torso — the wheel can lower off a few of the data proven within the gauges, not that it issues an excessive amount of since this seven-inch show is cluttered with a number of tiny icons and no discernible separation between completely different panels. The steering wheel itself can also be chunky and unattractive, although I’ve to commend Toyota on at the least making it delightfully small in diameter. Driving the Prius kind of seems like sitting in a Cruis’n USA arcade console.
Nobody’s shopping for a Prius for the rewarding driving dynamics
Entrance seat headroom and legroom is beneficiant, and the non-compulsory glass roof provides the Prius’ cabin an ethereal aura. Nevertheless, that handsomely raked roofline actually cuts into rear headroom and makes getting out and in of the Prius’ again seats a tad tough, even for a short-ish five-foot, eight-inch grownup like me.
When droves of Prii are inevitably pressed into service as rideshare autos, I think about a number of obliviously texting passengers will bump their heads — and that’s earlier than the 2AM bar runs.
An inexpensive deal
Together with a compulsory $1,095 vacation spot payment, you will get right into a 2023 Toyota Prius for as little as $28,545. An XLE begins at $31,990, whereas the Restricted is priced beginning at $35,560, and all-wheel drive is a $1,400 add-on. With choices just like the aforementioned 12.3-inch display ($735), fastened glass roof ($1,000), and a few fancy Supersonic Pink paint ($495), my Prius XLE FWD hits the street with a very affordable price ticket of $34,095.
The one totally electrical automobiles cheaper than a base 2023 Prius are the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV siblings, although the out there federal and native tax rebates can definitely offset the worth of dearer EVs.
Toyota retains flip-flopping on its future EV plans, with some stories claiming the corporate will persist with its weapons whereas others say the automaker will fast-track new electrical merchandise.
No matter whether or not you agree with Toyota’s selections thus far, there’s no arguing with the truth that, till it’s simpler and extra accessible for most of the people to cost EVs shortly and reliably, the Prius is a good hybrid that gives easy-peasy effectivity with none additional problem.
Pictures by Steven Ewing for The Verge