The redesigned 2023 Toyota Prius debuted on Wednesday on the eve of the Los Angeles auto show, and the hybrid hatchback might be a showstopper. With a larger engine, improved fuel economy, and uncharacteristic style, the fifth-generation Prius breathes new life into a fading star.
The only thing more surprising than the sleek new look of the famous fuel sipper is that Toyota invested in another generation amid flagging sales, a market shift to crossovers, and the growing adoption of fully electric vehicles. Redesigned for the first time since 2015, the new Prius arrives at a time when Toyota has kept its foot on the gas of hybrid vehicle offerings. It recently introduced with hybrid versions of the Toyota Corolla sedan, the world’s bestselling model since 1974, and the new Toyota Corolla Cross, a small crossover with a much more popular body style than the Prius’s hatchback.
Launched in 2001 in the U.S., the Prius became the poster child for eco-conscious passenger vehicles during economic recessions and record gas prices. Toyota wasn’t ready to give up on an icon. Now it has shed its hallmark ovoid style for a look that’s never been used to describe a Prius: attractive.
The roof has been lowered by 2.0 inches and the triangular shape with the high point above the driver’s head has been pushed back to the B-pillar. The hood rises gradually into the long windshield, which reaches down above the front axle, to create a sportier wedge shape that curves gracefully around the back end. It’s lower and wider, and the related 2023 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid is an inch longer.
Toyota adds some design elements commonly found on electric vehicles. Up front, a solid face is split by a lower grille and thin daytime running lights that hook around the hood. Body lines rise up to the taillights, where a full-length lightbar highlights the new Prius badge stamped in block letters on the gate.
The cabin has a few electric vehicle elements as well, including an available glass roof and, most noticeably, a recessed instrument cluster that butts up to the windshield same as in the 2023 Toyota bZ4X electric compact crossover. On the propulsion side of things, Toyota replaces the nickel-metal hydride battery it had been using for two decades with a lighter, more compact, and more potent lithium-ion battery pack.
The battery still sits under the rear seats, but now it pairs with a larger 2.0-liter inline-4 and a front motor that combine to make 194 hp. The notoriously slow 1.8-liter inline-4 and motor in the outgoing Prius made 121 hp, and pushed the car from 0-60 mph eventually. Toyota estimates the new Prius hits 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, or 2.6 seconds quicker than its predecessor, and the all-wheel-drive Prius with a rear motor powering the rear axle does it in 7.0 seconds.
The improved potency doesn’t diminish the car’s trademark efficiency. Toyota estimates 57 mpg combined, which is 1 mpg better than the 2022 L Eco that doesn’t return for 2023. A similarly equipped 2022 Prius had a 52-mpg combined rating with front-wheel drive.
The 2023 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid carries the same style and feature upgrades as the Prius hybrid, but it can be equipped with a solar roof. It has the same 2.0-liter engine as the hybrid, but Toyota hasn’t disclosed many other specs except for the range increasing 50%, from 25 miles to 37.5 miles by our calculation. Toyota also said the combined powertrain output increases to 220 hp from 121 hp, and it can hit 60 mph in 6.6 seconds.
Toyota equips the new Prius with its latest infotainment technology. Cutting-edge tech had been the calling card of the second-generation Prius but then devolved into one of the hybrid’s biggest shortcomings some 15 years later. An 8.0-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto comes standard on the base LE trim, but a 12.3-inch touchscreen available on XLE and standard on Limited trims will be the popular pick. With a clean new interface designed in North America, and with excellent voice commands, the infotainment system went from being an inconvenience to one of the better systems on the market.
As in most of its other new cars, Toyota equips the 2023 Prius with standard driver-assist features such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, and automatic high beams.
Expect the 2023 Toyota Prius to cost less than $30,000 when pricing is announced later this year. It’s likely the 2023 Toyota Prius Prime will carry at least the $3,695 upcharge of the current pricing scheme.
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