2023 TOYOTA PRIUS HYBRID
Remember the Toyota Prius? It was that little sliver of a car that really began the hybrid revolution just over twenty years ago. It was so small – with such limited legroom – I was barely able to get inside. But the in-city fuel economy of over 40 mpg was extraordinary, and car buyers started to take note. Once the price of gas started to head towards the $4.00/gallon mark here in Texas, car buyers really started to notice. Texans began shedding their big, thirsty SUVs (for a while) and headed to local Toyota dealerships where the Prius was in demand; it wasn’t uncommon to wait months for a new Prius to call your own.
Sales of the Prius in the United States peaked in 2008 when Toyota sold over 180,000 units. By then, every single other automaker woke up and began to design their own gasoline hybrid cars. Fast-forward to 2023 and the little Prius is no longer the attention-getter it used to be. That said, the all-new 2023 Toyota Prius Prime which just debuted deserves to be taken seriously. After all, getting an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 57 mpg in the city is pretty darn impressive.
Just about a week ago, I test drove a Cutting Edge (aka silver) 2023 Toyota Prius Limited that came with a $37,494 MSRP price tag. At first glance, the exterior still has that distinctive Prius profile but with a much sleeker look. The new Prius logo that graces the rear is very different, signaling a break from the past. The interior has a very modern, space age feel with high tech displays and dynamic ambient lighting.
The newest Prius is powered by a 2.0 liter engine and a revised hybrid system that delivers significantly 60% more power than the previous generation model. I’m not an automotive engineer so I’ll quote from the official Toyota press release, which explains the powertrain in more detail. “Under the hood of the 2023 Prius is the 5th– generation hybrid powertrain, which pairs the inline M20A-FXS four-cylinder 2.0L gas engine with two motor-generators through a planetary-type continuously variable transmission. A new compact high-output/low-loss drive motor for the transaxle/motor uses a redesigned magnet and electromagnetic steel plate configuration, with two additional magnets for increased output.” Got that?
Although Prius owners aren’t known for being speed demons, the new Prius is definitely stronger off the line. You’ll feel it most when passing that semi on the highway. While the Limited model I drove boasts fuel economy ratings of 52 mpg in both city and highway driving, the LE grade FWD model offers up to a manufacturer estimated 57 MPG combined rating, the best-ever for a Prius and the most fuel-efficient hybrid in production for model year 2023. (In my book, anything delivering over 50 mpg is impressive.)
The 2023 Prius is built on the second-generation TNGA-C platform, which delivers a lower center of gravity, reduced weight and increased rigidity compared to the previous generation. This new design features a wider stance and a lower roofline which adds up to a lower driving position.
Once you lower yourself behind the wheel (the older you get, the farther down it seems), the Prius feels very advanced. The instrument panel is very clean and efficiently laid out. I particularly liked the feel of the steering wheel, as it felt perfectly proportioned for the car. The 12.3-inch multimedia touchscreen is also right-sized and within easy reach.
The 2023 Prius comes standard with the latest Toyota Safety Sense generation, TSS 3.0. This suite of active safety systems includes the existing feature set available on the prior generation Prius but includes some additional enhancements and capabilities, including the new Proactive Driving Assist feature.
When system operating conditions are met, using the vehicle’s camera and radar, this system provides gentle braking into curves or gentle braking and/or steering to help support driving tasks such as distance control between a preceding vehicle, pedestrian or cyclist. Toyota stresses that Proactive Driving Assist is not a substitute for the Pre-Collision System and operates in different circumstances. I got used to the Prius slowing down on its own when approaching a car without me applying the brakes. I got mad at first, but gave in eventually.
This car is very much an upgrade from the previous generation and yet it’s still a Prius. I just wonder how much of a pull that name still has with new car buyers when there are so many gasoline hybrid alternatives available. With that, we still should remember the Prius and appreciate it for what it is.