- Toyota has announced the US version of the 2023 Prius hybrid and the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid.
- The standard model produces either 194 or 196 horsepower, and the Prime has 220 hp.
- The new Prius will go on sale in the US sometime next year.
Every new car wants to be faster and better looking than its predecessor, but it wouldn’t have cost much for Toyota to make such claims about the new 2023 Prius. Being slow and ugly has always been the Prius’ thing – and that’s not even meant as a knock against it. Slow and ugly worked for the Prius, which was a bestseller for many years and even won one of our 10 Best Awards in 2004. But the quintessential mass-market hybrid has recently fallen out of favor with buyers and C/D staff alike.
The thoroughly redesigned fifth generation Prius seems to be just the right antidote. Significantly more powerful than before, it also offers slightly better fuel economy and adds many new features, including solar panels and a hands-free driving function. And wait, it looks like that?!
The same teardrop shape remains, but the new model’s smooth lace surface, elegant detailing and much more athletic proportions make us look back at the previous model and wonder—what happened? If the Prius could have looked like this all along, why didn’t it? The front has scooped out headlights with a C-shaped LED accent light, while the rear has a full-width LED taillight strip that resembles the new Crown sedan’s. Two inches lower than before and one inch wider, the Prius has a whole new attitude – and seemingly a new outlook on life.
This extends to the new powertrain that bumps output to between 194 and 220 horsepower, depending on the configuration. This is a huge increase from the previous model’s squealing 121 hp. Toyota claims the new Prius will accelerate to 60 mph in between 6.6 and 7.2 seconds, which could make it feel like an NHRA dragster compared to the 10-plus second runs of the previous model.
Although Toyota has yet to reveal detailed powertrain specifications, one of the contributors to the newfound muscle is the 2.0-liter inline-four gasoline engine that replaces the previous 1.8-liter unit. All Priuses now use a lithium-ion battery pack mounted under the rear seat; the old nickel metal hydride pack still found in certain versions of the outgoing car is gone. The all-wheel-drive Prius also swaps its induction-style rear-axle-mounted motor for a new permanent-magnet synchronous unit.
A front-wheel-drive 194 hp setup is standard, and the all-wheel-drive model adds 2 hp to that total. The FWD-only Prius Prime, meanwhile, tops the lineup with its 220-hp plug-in setup that includes a larger lithium-ion battery that promises about 38 miles of electric driving range, up from the previous Prime’s 25-mile rating.
Despite the extra grunt, Toyota also promises an EPA combined rating of 57 mpg for the base front-wheel-drive LE model with its 17-inch wheels. That’s one better than the outgoing 2022 Prius Eco’s 56 mpg rating, though adding AWD and opting for the XLE and Limited models’ larger 19-inch wheels will likely drop that number somewhat.
Unlike before, the Prime plug-in doesn’t offer much visual differentiation from the standard car (thankfully they both look good now). But now that it’s the most powerful Prius, Toyota is pitching it as the sporty one, as it will only be offered in SE, XSE and XSE Premium trim levels. The standard car will have LE, XLE and Limited models, just like before.
While the lower trims aren’t anything fancy—they don’t have power seats, have a relatively small 8.0-inch touchscreen, and will probably look dumber on their 17-inch wheels—the Limited and XSE Premium models set some new technological gadgets and convenience features known. . A huge 12.3-inch touchscreen comes on board in the top trims, along with a power liftgate, and a digital rearview mirror is optional. The Prime will offer solar panels for its glass roof that juice up the battery while the car is stationary to power accessories and the air conditioning. Also exclusively optional on the Prime is a Traffic Jam Assist feature that allows the driver to go hands-free below 25 mph under certain conditions.
We expect Toyota to raise the price somewhat on the Prius, but the base model should still come in under $30,000. Top versions are likely to top $40,000 — but maybe not that much, thanks to the Prius’ newfound quickness, high-end features and, most of all, its undeniable appeal.
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