It’s automotive journalist tradition to dunk on the Toyota Prius. And in full disclosure, I’ll admit I’ve never really driven one that I was all that impressed with. While the driving experience was…fine, it was just “an car”, it was never a very good looking car. *Dramatic stinger noise* Until now! This new Prius, the fifth generation XW60 version, looks absolutely phenomenal. Not like “it looks good for a Prius”, it just looks good. Full stop. I just spent a week with a new 2023 Toyota Prius Limited and have things to say. Is it just a pretty face? Let’s find out.
2023 Toyota Prius Limited Overview
To say that the Prius is a green car pioneer is a bit of an understatement. The first generation was likely the first hybrid car that most people ever saw on the road. Production in Japan actually dates back to 1997 making it the first mass-produced hybrid vehicle. We didn’t get it here in the Colonies until 2001 and in case you didn’t know, “Prius” is actually a Latin word meaning “first” or “original”, which is fitting for such a trailblazer in the automotive world.
The newest Prius is still built on the TNGA-C platform that the fourth generation was astride from 2015–2022. Interestingly the new Prius has a higher drag coefficient than than the previous car and actually comes with less boot space. It’s a drastically new design though, and comes in three basic trim level options including the LE, XLE, and Limited.
As you can see, each trim level is available with AWD and prices range from $27,450 for the base LE with FWD up to $35,865 for the top spec Limited AWD trim.
We started with a Reservoir blue non-AWD Limited trim and Toyota added The Limited Premium Package w/options (heated rear seats, automated parking system, digital rearview mirror, and panoramic camera system) for an out-the-door total of $37,494. That’s not an insignificant amount of monies for a compact sedan, so let’s see how it stacks up to its MSRP.
2023 Toyota Prius Limited Inside & Out
This is a damn good looking car, and from just about every angle it looks good. The profile is still a fairly traditional Prius shape, but the front and rear are sleek and even a bit aggressive. The fifth generation Prius doesn’t suffer from the recent trend of over-designing, by that I mean extra slats, scoops, intersecting lines, and details that just don’t add to the car. It’s all fairly simple with the Prius, particularly out back where the brake light-to-brake light integration looks fantastic across the rear of the car. It actually reminds me of the new Nissan 400Z a bit, which is a good thing. The front is a little fussier, with a tiered daytime running LED situation, but still generally just looks…well great.
Well done, no notes.
Inside things are largely positive as well, with a mix of shiny bits, quality-feeling materials, and a cool blue hue interspersed across the dash. Sure, it’s the same slightly tired “hybrid blue” that has been around since the OG Prius days, but it looks good. Everything is reasonably laid out from a usability perspective, except for the volume button for the radio. Yes, I’m excited it exists, but even at six-feet tall, I couldn’t really reach it since it was placed on the far side of the screen. The rest of the switches and buttons (primarily for the HVAC systems) are easy to use and placed neatly under the nicely sized touchscreen.
I love the dual sunroof setup, that combined with the light seat color makes for an airy cabin. It was also nice that the sunroofs have a manual open function for the shades, it’s much easier and quicker than waiting for the motorized cover. My only other criticism of the front passenger area is the shape of the binnacle that holds the driver’s information screen. I’m sure it’s meant to harken back to the original Prius, with the screen set back up into the dash. However, as you can see from the top middle picture above, it looks a bit goofy. There’s just a lot of real estate between the wheel and the screen. Still, the new Prius has comfortable and easy-to-use interior up front.
The rear seats have a way more than ample 43.2 inches of legroom, which is up 1.4-inches over the outgoing model. However, as I mentioned above, cargo space is quite a bit less. The 5th gen Prius has 20.3 cu. ft. of space compared to 27.4 cu. ft. in the 4th gen car. That’s a significant drop, so if you’re in the market for a car like the Prius, make sure it’s enough for your day-to-day needs.
Out on the road, it’s not a groundbreaking driving experience, but it’s not bad either. Most testers have it pegged in the mid-to-high seven second range to 60 mph. Not fast, but not slow. I found that there were no issues in day-to-day driving, including highway merges and the like. The driver selector is a bit odd, it is a little rocker switch that sits flush on the panel near the shifter. It’s so flush that it’s hard to get ahold of without averting your eyes. Not that the drive modes changed the driving experience all that much, just an observation.
My longest trek was about an hour, but I imagine that the Prius would be a good road trip car. Besides the 52 mpg combined EPA-rating it’s a solid place to spend some time. The seats are quite comfortable, with a surprisingly good side bolster. Plus, the center console aligns nicely to the shifter, giving you a great place to rest your arm. The only day-to-day annoyance while out on the road was the fact that I hit my head twice getting out of it. Again, I’m not particularly tall, so it must have been the sloping roofline.
Still, overall the new Prius is a treat to look at, has a nice interior, and gets over 50 mpg. So, I expect to see a lot more on the road, and that’s great since I actually enjoy looking at it!