The Original Game-Changer Gets a Redesign
Just over 20 years ago, a new, high-tech sedan entered the U.S. market – the Toyota Prius (Latin for “to go before”) was the world’s first hybrid four-door car, and the first hybrid to sell in real numbers. Combining a high-efficiency gasoline engine with an electric motor, the Prius became a high-mileage champion, and became a badge of honor for drivers wanting to advertise their environmental credentials. Over five million Priuses have been sold in North America, and over 20 million globally – making it the most successful hybrid ever.
Now, Toyota has just introduced the fifth-generation Prius, which will once again be available in both conventional hybrid and Prime plug-in hybrid versions. Unsurprisingly, it is the most high-tech, most efficient Prius ever. What is a surprise is just how desirable it is: the new Prius is gorgeous inside and out, with concept-car looks and a high-tech feel that you wouldn’t expect from Toyota. All while delivering a manufacturer-estimated 57 MPG combined fuel economy.
Brand-New Hybrid System
Prius has always been purpose-built as a hybrid, and the latest version is no exception. It offers both enhanced fuel economy and driving performance thanks to a more powerful engine as well as a more powerful battery.
The fifth-generation hybrid powertrain in the regular Prius couples a 2.0-liter gasoline engine with an electric motor. The battery under the rear seat is now a lithium-ion unit, replacing the previous nickel-metal battery – making it lighter as well as more powerful. Power jumps to 194 horsepower, and the 0-60 mph time drops from 9.8 seconds to 7.2 seconds. If you live where snow and ice are issues, electronically-controlled all-wheel drive is available, with a second electric motor powering the rear wheels; its power output is 196 hp and can accelerate to 60 mph of 7 seconds flat.
For even more performance and efficiency, there is the plug-in hybrid Prius Prime. It offers even better acceleration and throttle response thanks to its 2.0-liter engine and a more powerful electric motor. Total power output is 220 hp, the 0-60 mph time drops to 6.6 seconds, and the all-electric range is up by a staggering 50%, to over 37 miles, according to Toyota.
All Prius models offer three drive modes – normal, eco and sport. In eco mode, the accelerator pedal response is dulled slightly to enhance fuel economy, while in sport mode, drive force in low and middle accelerator openings is increased to enhance throttle response.
The 2023 Prius is built on the latest generation of Toyota’s TNGA-C platform. It has a lower center of gravity than before, and is more rigid than ever. A wider stance and lower driving position give it a nimble feel, and larger 19-inch wheels available on XLE models and above give it a more athletic look. The new Prius actually looks sporty, and should be more fun to drive thanks to its new mechanical setup.
Luxurious, High-Tech Interior
As much as we like the way it looks, and its enhanced mechanicals, it’s the new Prius’ interior that we’re most excited about. The instrument cluster at the base of the windshield is gone, replaced by a clear digital display close to the driver. There’s a large, horizontal-format touchscreen between the seats for most functions, and a high-set center console provides ample storage space as well as a convenient armrest. Plenty of physical controls make it easy to use as well.
The 12.3-inch infotainment system was actually designed by Toyota’s Texas-based Connected Technologies team. It offers a wide range of connectivity and convenience features, and can be updated over the air. Voice activation can be awoken with a “hey Toyota” command, and users can ask the car for directions, points of interest, adjustments to the climate control, and more. Destination Assist also gives access to 24/7 live agent assistance to locate the next destination. The system can connect via Bluetooth to two phones at once, and has wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard.
With the Toyota app, you can also activate the headlights, lock and unlock the doors, and remotely start the vehicle. The app also offers vehicle status, reminder notifications and a digital key function. This means that on XLE and Limited models, drivers can do it all with their smart phones.
Impressive Safety Tech
The new Prius doesn’t just offer technology for convenience. It also has the latest generation of Toyota’s driver assist technologies to make driving safer.
Proactive Driving Assist is a new feature for Prius. Under the right conditions, it can use the vehicle’s camera and radar to provide gentle braking into curves or gentle braking and even steering to help support driving tasks such as maintaining a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead, or when maneuvering around pedestrians or cyclists.
Toyota Safety Sense, a fixture from the previous-generation Prius, has been enhanced, as well. The pre-collision system has pedestrian, cyclist, and motorcyclist detention, and improved sensors mean it can “see” further away. Lane departure alert with steering assist can now detected objects like guardrails, making it more effective. Full-speed dynamic cruise control has more settings, and operates more smoothly and naturally. Lane tracing assist now has an emergency stop function, which monitors the driver’s inputs. If it determines they’re non-responsive, such as during a medical emergency, the feature can bring the vehicle to a safe stop. Finally, road sign assist has expanded capabilities that can recognize intersection signs, warning signs, and even pedestrian crossings.
There are some handy low-speed safety features as well. A blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert is standard on all trim levels. Front and rear parking assist comes with automatic braking, making parking lot maneuvers safer. Limited models offer a panoramic view monitor that offers a live 360-degree view of what is around the vehicle, as well as a hands-free parking system that can back into or parallel-park into a space.
Three Trim Levels
The all-new 2023 Prius will be available in three trim levels – LE, XLE, and Limited. The entry-level LE model comes very well-equipped, with 17-inch alloy wheels, an 8-inch touchscreen, six USB-C ports, and more. The XLE adds 19-inch wheels, power driver’s seat, front heated seats, SofTex synthetic leather upholstery, rain-sensing wipers, a smart key, and wireless phone charger. The Limited gets a larger touch-screen audio system, killer JBL audio system, panoramic glass roof, heated steering wheel, seat ventilation, and power rear trunk lid.
Final pricing and on-sale date of the new Prius and Prius Prime will be announced in the first half of 2023.