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2023 Toyota Prius review: EV reality check

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It’s a bizarre time to be the Toyota Prius.

On the one hand, no automobile is extra synonymous with eco-conscious advantage signaling than this ubiquitous lozenge-shaped hybrid. However however, the Prius’ gasoline-fed powertrain is a stark reminder of Toyota’s reluctance to comply with its rivals’ leads and go all in on EVs. So the place does that depart the swanky new 2023 mannequin that’s simply now hitting sellers?

Toyota’s fifth-generation Prius definitely has so much to love. For starters, it’s 6,000 p.c higher wanting than its predecessor, that means it’s genuinely enticing, and never simply for a Prius. A glow-up like this can be a actually large deal for a automobile the place picture is all the things, and it ought to go a great distance towards wooing consumers who won’t have in any other case thought of Toyota’s beforehand dumpy-looking hybrid.

The Prius additionally boasts extra cabin and security know-how, nicer on-road manners, and don’t overlook, an EPA gas financial system score of as a lot as 57 miles per gallon mixed — as in, that’s a quantity you may (and will) count on to see in on a regular basis driving. It’s additionally considerably inexpensive than a lot of the new compact electrical automobiles on sale in the present day and doesn’t require you to depend on America’s decidedly awful and unreliable public charging community.

The fifth-generation Prius is manner higher wanting than all of the predecessors.

Hybrid energy

Like earlier than, Toyota presents the Prius with both front- or all-wheel drive. The previous will mean you can eke out the hybrid’s most gas financial system, whereas the latter consists of an on-demand electrical rear-drive unit for four-wheel traction — one thing that’s useful in the event you dwell in a wet or snowy local weather.

Regardless of the mannequin, the Prius is powered by a two-liter four-cylinder engine with a lithium-ion battery pack and electrical motor. Complete system output for front-wheel drive variants is 194 horsepower, whereas including AWD ups the output ever so barely to 196hp.

Toyota’s fifth-generation Prius definitely has so much to love

Extra importantly, the brand new Prius is now not an entire slug throughout acceleration. By a mix of mechanical enhancements and sleeker aerodynamics, the Prius can hit 60mph in 7.2 seconds, a full 2.6 seconds faster than the outdated mannequin’s torpid 9.8-second time. This offers you extra confidence and authority when merging onto highways or passing slow-moving semi vehicles. Simply don’t go too wild; keep in mind, the Prius is all about effectivity.

With front-wheel drive, a base Prius LE is estimated to return 57mpg metropolis, 56mpg freeway, and 57mpg mixed. Spring for an XLE like my check automobile or a high-zoot Restricted, and people numbers will fall barely to 52mpg throughout the board, largely as a result of bigger 19-inch wheels. (Including the extra rear-drive unit for AWD will scale back your anticipated gas financial system much more.) With out altering my driving type throughout every week of testing in Los Angeles, I routinely noticed gas financial system within the 50–52mpg vary. Within the Prius, effectivity is a cinch. 

Effectivity is a cinch within the new Prius.

The brand new Prius is now not an entire slug throughout acceleration.

The Prius’ Eco drive mode mutes the throttle response barely and depends on the battery’s energy as a lot as doable, making this the easiest way to drive round city. You may coax the Prius into buzzing alongside on simply battery energy in the event you go tremendous straightforward on the gasoline pedal in a neighborhood or congested metropolis heart — however not for lengthy durations of time. That stated, it’s additionally price mentioning Toyota will quickly launch a brand new model of the Prius Prime with a extra strong plug-in hybrid powertrain that ought to enable for 35 to 40 miles of all-electric vary.

Toyota has a long time of expertise making hybrid drive techniques, so it’s no shock that the 2023 Prius has a seamless transition between battery solely and engine-assisted driving. You’ll hear (and really feel) the coarse-sounding two-liter engine hearth up once you begin the Prius on a chilly morning, however on the highway, these on / off transitions are nearly imperceptible.

The aptly named Regular driving mode lets the Prius do its factor with none further eco help, and in the event you’re feeling frisky, there’s a Sport setting, which, I imply, come on. Nobody’s shopping for a Prius for the rewarding driving dynamics.

The brand new Prius is now not an entire slug throughout acceleration

That stated, the brand new Prius isn’t an entire dud to drive. The journey is snug, and the automobile corners properly, although the steering is predictably mild and numb. Regenerative stopping energy enhances the mechanical brakes properly, and the usual Proactive Driving Help makes use of the Prius’ radars and cameras to mechanically gradual the automobile when it senses you’re approaching one other car or curve. It’s form of like a half-step to adaptive cruise management, one thing that’s additionally normal gear, together with niceties like lane-keep help and ahead collision warning with pedestrian detection.

The general interface is fairly easy to make use of and straightforward to grasp.

The within scoop

Inside, Toyota’s multimedia system is housed on an eight-inch touchscreen on the bottom Prius LE, however step as much as the XLE, and you may go for a 12.3-inch display screen, full with wi-fi Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. (The massive display screen is normal on the Prius Restricted.) The general interface is fairly easy to make use of and straightforward to grasp, although it’s a little bit bizarre that the quantity knob is manner over on the suitable facet away from the motive force. Buttons and toggles for the local weather management are neatly organized beneath, lending to a dashboard design that’s fairly good-looking. Effectively, largely.

The main factor that irks me concerning the Prius’ inside is the location of the digital gauge cluster. The seven-inch show is housed far forward of the motive force, near the windshield, and the highest of the wheel sits beneath the bottom of the display screen. That’s an uncommon design selection; in most automobiles, you view the gauges by the steering wheel.

The position of the digital gauge cluster is a head scratcher.

Driving the Prius form of looks like sitting in a Cruis’n USA arcade console.

Relying on how tall you might be — or how a lot of your top is in your torso — the wheel can reduce off a few of the data proven within the gauges, not that it issues an excessive amount of since this seven-inch show is cluttered with a number of tiny icons and no discernible separation between completely different panels. The steering wheel itself can also be chunky and unattractive, although I’ve to commend Toyota on no less than making it delightfully small in diameter. Driving the Prius form of looks like sitting in a Cruis’n USA arcade console.

Nobody’s shopping for a Prius for the rewarding driving dynamics

Entrance seat headroom and legroom is beneficiant, and the elective glass roof provides the Prius’ cabin an ethereal aura. Nevertheless, that handsomely raked roofline actually cuts into rear headroom and makes getting out and in of the Prius’ again seats a tad troublesome, even for a short-ish five-foot, eight-inch grownup like me.

When droves of Prii are inevitably pressed into service as rideshare automobiles, I think about a variety of obliviously texting passengers will bump their heads — and that’s earlier than the 2AM bar runs.

At round $28,000, the Prius has a value that’s arduous to beat.

An affordable deal

Together with a compulsory $1,095 vacation spot price, you will get right into a 2023 Toyota Prius for as little as $28,545. An XLE begins at $31,990, whereas the Restricted is priced beginning at $35,560, and all-wheel drive is a $1,400 add-on. With choices just like the aforementioned 12.3-inch display screen ($735), mounted glass roof ($1,000), and a few fancy Supersonic Pink paint ($495), my Prius XLE FWD hits the highway with a totally cheap price ticket of $34,095.

The one totally electrical automobiles cheaper than a base 2023 Prius are the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV siblings, although the accessible federal and native tax rebates can definitely offset the value of dearer EVs.

Toyota retains flip-flopping on its future EV plans, with some studies claiming the corporate will stick with its weapons whereas others say the automaker will fast-track new electrical merchandise.

No matter whether or not you agree with Toyota’s selections to this point, there’s no arguing with the truth that, till it’s simpler and extra accessible for most people to cost EVs rapidly and reliably, the Prius is a superb hybrid that gives easy-peasy effectivity with none further trouble.

Pictures by Steven Ewing for The Verge

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