Prius Keeps Advancing Hybrid Form

CHATHAM, Mass. – At the turn of the (present) century Toyota brought something unique to the American market – the world’s first production hybrid passenger vehicle, the Prius.

The company now sells 10 different hybrid models (HEV), two plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and one all electric (BEV) in this market including the new, fifth-generation 2023 Toyota Prius Limited which I recently had the opportunity to live with for a week.

The Prius was thoroughly redesigned for 2023, the result being a thoroughly modern-looking, technology-filled five-seat, five-door (hatchback) sedan.

New powertrain for new Prius

Hybrid — no longer the unique powertrain it was in the first Prius, this fifth-generation liftback receives significant engine upgrades starting with the move to a new Atkinson-cycle, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder internal combustion engine. The engine features aluminum construction of the block and heads as well as double-overhead camshafts.

The new engine, part of a revised hybrid powertrain, results in 60 percent more power or an output of 194 system horsepower compared to the older model’s 121. The engine produces 139 pounds-feet of torque while the electric motor produces 152.

The permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor is fueled by a Lithium-ion battery with a nominal voltage of 222 volts.

These upgrades and improvements resulted in, according to enthusiast publications with accurate test equipment like Car and Driver, the quickest Prius in history. C/D’s tests returned 0-60 miles-per-hour times of 7.1 seconds, some 3.4 seconds faster than the previous generation!

Solid base for the new Prius

The basic components underpinning the 2023 Prius include an independent suspension system with MacPherson-type struts plus a stabilizer bar up front and a multi-link setup with stabilizer bar in the rear.

An electronically controlled brake system with features ventilated 11.1-inch rotors in the front and 11-inch solid ones in the rear.

Prius Keeps Advancing Hybrid Form

The brake system provides the basis for a variety of safety and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) like Toyota Star Safety System™ which includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist and Smart Stop Stop Technology®.

Also standard is Toyota Safety Sense 3.0™ including Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD); Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC); Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA); Lane Tracing Assist (LTA); Road Sign Assist (RSA); Automatic High Beams (AHB), and Proactive Driving Assist (PDA).

The 19-inch alloy wheels, part of the Limited’s features, wear 195/60R19 all-season tires.

This is how Toyota describes the basic 2023 Prius platform: “The TNGA-C platform has a lower center of gravity, reduced weight and increased rigidity compared to the previous generation. The result? A wider stance and a lower driving position that feels nimble, yet comfortable.”

The car does perform well. The upgraded powertrain provides more zip than the last Prius I sampled three years ago and, yes, there is definitely a feeling of nimbleness when I pushed it on twisting roads.

I’ll also confirm the lower driving position which might be a bit of an impediment for some as it, plus the low roofline, provides some ingress/egress challenges for larger or older drivers/passengers.

The new Prius is lower (two inches), wider (one inch) than its predecessor with a shape fluidly moving from front to back in a modern, (somewhat) elliptical (dare I say Italianesque-supercar?) shape. The 2001 Prius was, at best, a “curious” styling exercise; the 2023 Prius is as modern an  aerodynamic shape as can be found on the road.

Comfortable, well-equipped cabin

Toyota said the new Prius is “nimble, yet comfortable,” a statement with which I agree. The sedan’s road activities were well controlled, and the precise handling capabilities of the suspension did not come at the expense of the ride.

Passenger comfort is enhanced by heated seats front and rear (the second row’s part of the optional $1,635 Limited Premium Package), ventilation for those in front, and automatic climate control.

The most prominent feature in the new Prius cabin is the 12.3-inch touchscreen at the heart of the multi-media infotainment system. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; SiriusXM satellite radio; Bluetooth streaming, and navigation are major components of said system. The sound is courtesy of an eight-speaker-plus-amplifier JBL® Premium Audio system.

The best Prius yet

Fuel efficiency is a primary goal for any hybrid and since its inception almost a quarter-of-a-century ago, the Prius has produced some incredible fuel-economy numbers. My week behind the wheel, regardless of how hard I pushed it, resulted in 53 miles per gallon. My numbers were just a shade beyond the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s rating of 52 mpg overall (as well as 52 mpg for both the urban and highway cycles).

The 2023 Prius family ranges from $27,450 for the front-wheel-drive (FWD) LE to $35,865 for the all-wheel-drive Limited variant. The FWD Limited I reviewed had a base price of $34,465. The as-tested price was $37,494 thanks to the addition of the $1,635 Premium Package (in addition to rear seat heating: surround-view monitor; advanced park assist, and digital rear-view mirror), $299 carpeted floor mats and $1,095 delivery charge.

Toyota provides comfort, performance and efficiency at a good value in a sedan with seating for five, (tight if the three in the back seat were large adults) and a roomy trunk area under the power hatchback. The new Prius is a good choice for anyone in need of a reliable small sedan.

Prius Keeps Advancing Hybrid Form

Next week TBR Drives the compact SUV Ford Escape Hybrid.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.