Prius Prime

Increased performance and drivability

Roseville, Calif.- Apparently, many people pay attention to the Toyota Prius. We spent a week with the 2023 Toyota Prius Prime and lost count of how many people wanted to discuss its redesign.

Toyota engineered a full redesign on the compact sedan, including the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid version sampled here. Always a bit pokey in the past, the new fifth generation Prius has a more powerful gas engine that greatly increases performance. Although the fuel efficiency is relatively the same (47-50 mph), Toyota also improved the drivability.

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Similar to Tesla Model 3?

But what most observers here initially noticed was the exterior design is now sleek and stylish, looking similar to a Tesla Model 3. This is a dramatic improvement over previous models that placed the Prius on some “ugliest car” lists. The Prime has three trim levels (SE, XSE, XSE Premium).

The lingering question with the 2023 Prius: Will the dramatic changes make a difference in sales? Extremely popular for 13 straight years after being unveiled in 2005, the Prius had a sales high of 236,659 in 2012. But in the following decade, sales tailed off year after year and the Prius brand had an all-time low of 36,919 in 2022.

Plug-in hybrid

There is no all-electric version of the Prius. The Prime is the next best thing, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) that has a 45-mile electric range, which is high for the class. It employs a 13.6-kWh battery that takes around four hours to charge with a 240-volt outlet. On a 120-volt household outlet the charging time expands to about 11 hours.

While the performance improvement isn’t overwhelming, what it does is give drivers a feeling of confidence when trying to safely merge on the freeway or simply keep up with fast-moving traffic. The PHEV has 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that combines with two electric motors to produce a combined 220 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque.

The front-wheel drive Prius Prime goes 0-60 mph in a respectable 6.6 seconds, roughly a half-second faster that the regular Prius (7.2 seconds).

Toyota says the new underpinnings weigh less and are more rigid, providing a lower center of gravity than previous Prius models. Overall, the driving experience is smooth and pleasurable, and it delivers a composed ride around challenging turns.

2023 Prius Prime

  • Performance: two electric motors, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 220 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 47-50 mpg overall
  • Price estimate: $32,400 to $39,200
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 3 years/unlimited; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited; battery: 10 years/150,000

Safety & Interior

interior view of Prius Prime

Standard driver safety assistance features include blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, pedestrian and cyclist detection, traffic-sign recognition, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, lane-keep, forward automatic emergency braking, lane-keep, lane-trace and safe-exit assist, rear-seat alert, automatic high-beam headlights, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

We like the Prius Prime interior because its uncluttered and the scheme makes sense. There’s lots of soft-touch surfaces and the materials are high quality. The PHEV has a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen that is intuitive and operates many of the controls. A 12.3-inch touchscreen is available on several trim models.

The Prime offers seating for five people. The front seats are comfortable and supportive with plenty of head and leg room. The second row is not as spacious, partly due to the lack of head room created by the sloping roofline. There’s 20.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, a figure that matches the regular Prius.

Toyota smartly redesigned the 2023 Prius Prime, making it much more appealing in many areas than previous models. But will it be enough to give Prius a significant sales boast?

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