Table of Contents
MotoPickers Review: The 2023 Toyota Prius – A Hybrid Classic with an Electric Aura
By: James Diaz | July 28, 2023
Table of Contents
Recently at MotoPickers we test-drove the 2023 Toyota Prius for a week and its experience reminded us of just how clever those engineers and designers at Toyota have been over the years.
We know the Prius, and we know millions of drivers love the Prius. Certainly, the 2023 Prius is unlikely to lose its status as one of the most clever, useful and popular hybrids around. But is the 2023 version a game-changer?
A big change on recent years is the appearance, which is now superbly honed. Ten years ago, it was not nearly as sharp looking as it is now, but the 2023 Prius model marries utility with beauty – to our eyes! It looks impressive, and Toyota’s tactics seem smart—they’ve got a standalone hybrid that’s solidly still in the game. Perhaps the only obvious oddity is that it’s not significantly more electric than its hybrid predecessors.
Still, this new 2023 model’s looks are going to help more customers discover its charm. It’s aesthetically pleasing, and it now accelerates more quickly without compromising on fuel-efficiency.
Advantage: This Prius sports a design that invites a double take
For now, here’s a mix of what we think are the good and not-so-good things about this iconic hybrid in its 2023 incarnation. Read on and check out why our verdict was harder to reach than we had expected!
The revamped Prius is a real head-turner, looking suave from just about every angle. Its design echoes the successful second-gen Prius from the 2004-2009 era, yet adds a sporty, sleek elegance that looks more expensive than its sub-$40,000 price tag.
Drawback: it’s still not an electric Prius
It feels like a missed chance that Toyota have not made the Prius electric. A design like the 2023 Prius deserves the tang and power of an electric option. With its killer looks, this Prius could’ve been the game-changer that marked the transition from hybrid Prius to full-scale electric Prius. It would have stolen a march on the competition, so it’s odd that Toyota have kept it as hybrid only
Advantage: Lives up to the Prius lineage with impressive mpg
The Prius has a knack for delivering impressive gas mileage, and this new model is no different. Just don’t bank on it topping your current Prius in terms of fuel efficiency.
Our Limited edition Prius test car boasted a 52-mpg EPA combined rating. Over five days, through varying weather and driving conditions, which included city cruising, suburban strolls, a backroad adventure in Sport mode, and highway cruising, we consistently saw an average of just over 49 mpg.
We also gave the Prius a whirl on our custom 53-mile hybrid test loop in Eco mode. This route, gaining and losing about 700 feet in elevation, and offering a blend of freeway, suburban and backroad driving, is where hybrids tend to shine. Here, the Prius performed superbly, with an average of 57 mpg. Impressive stuff.
That said, these figures are a tad down on the 2022 Prius model, so the update has not added efficiency.
Why the difference? Well, weight could be a factor. The all-in Prius Limited, including its new swanky glass roof, tips the scale at 3,219 pounds. That’s roughly 150 pounds heavier than the outgoing model. Let’s not discount the role of temptation too. With its zestier acceleration, the new model makes it more tempting to press hard on the pedal, which obviously will dent the mpg.
Drawback: The infotainment system feels cluttered
The last-generation Prius saw a slick 11.6-inch portrait touchscreen grace the dash. It was crisp, responsive, and multitasking; a genuinely great system. Sad to say, the new 2023 Prius doesn’t quite measure up in this department.
Details matter, so let’s dive in. The menu items aren’t as intuitive as they could be, nor do they make the best use of available screen space. Whether it’s scrolling through potential routes or satellite radio stations, or any kind of icons and lists, you’re constantly distracted from the road. Voice commands are rigid, almost primitive; no room for freestyle speech here. And if you want to tune into a satellite radio channel you better word it precisely: say ‘play SiriusXM’, not ‘tune satellite radio channel’. And forget about having a home screen showing your maps and radio info at the same time. Navigating in and out of CarPlay? Clumsy, to say the least.
And it’s not just about the central screen, but the instrument cluster as well, borrowed from the bZ4X. We also found the ergonomics suboptimal. Should the steering wheel sit just above or below the line of sight to the dash? We think taller drivers will find that the top edge of the steering wheel inconveniently blocks the instrument display. These are definite design blips.
Advantage: The Prius proves its mettle with performance
Despite its unique look, the earlier Prius was a marked improvement on the drive front compared to its predecessors. Its sporty pizazz and refined feel made it a decent companion on curvy backroads, even though its somewhat lethargic powertrain failed to truly exploit the chassis’ potential.
Fast forward to the 2023 model, and there’s a real driving difference. Sit a little closer to the asphalt and you immediately feel a bit more race-ready. Add to this, the boosted 194-hp hybrid system—60% more power than last year’s model— will whizz you from 0-60 mph in just 7.2 seconds.
It may not quite take off like a rocket, like Hyundai’s Elantra Hybrid does, but no previous Prius has moved quite like this one. Toyota’s fastest Prius yet.
Drawback: Falls short on some finesse and sophistication
While it can impress with a stylish exterior and some performance perks, the 2023 Toyota Prius doesn’t exactly glide down the road with the elegance you might expect. It has a slightly budget-engineered feel, particularly when it comes to noise, vibration, and the harshness of the ride.
Hit the highway and you’ll find this new Prius picking up the road’s textures. It doesn’t quite outperform the previous model in maintaining road-line consistency. The steering calls for tiny tweaks when cruising at highway speeds, similar to its predecessor. The sleek profile is also strangely noisier than we had expected, certainly at speeds of 70 mph.
Our test model, fitted with 195/50R19 Michelin Primacy tires on eye-catching alloys, actually felt less comfy than the 2022 Prius Nightshade we drove previously. Taking it along the same roads, the power gains didn’t offset the lack of agility in the corners. Plus, the enhanced harshness was notably more pronounced inside the cabin.
Advantage: The back seat offers commendable space
Though rear visibility was occasionally an issue, it wasn’t as bad as we feared from that raking roofline.
Sitting in the back was comfortable.
There’s ample room for rear passengers who are well over 6 feet tall. We think internal space compares very favourably with the previous Prius.
There’s some seriously skilful work has gone on at Toyota with the seat design and positioning. Squeezing in a usable backseat, along with decent cargo space, under that sloped roof is design wizardry!
Drawback: Front seats leave something to be desired
Despite the genius of the backseat design, the front seats left us wanting more. They’re not exactly body-hugging or posture-friendly, and those in our top-tier Limited variant felt ordinary.
Also, if you’re tall, be prepared to play limbo when hopping on board. Thanks to the steeply rising front pillar and surprisingly compact door cuts, you’ll have to be mindful about how you move.
Advantage: The Prius nails it with an attractive price tag
The 2023 Prius hybrid comes in at a starting price of $28,545, including the $1,095 destination fee. Obviously there are cheaper cars out there, but this is a fair deal for what you’re getting here and it is very competitively priced.
In terms of the top-of-the-range Limited model we tested it’s loaded with cutting-edge safety features, a cool fixed glass roof, cozy vinyl seats (both of which are heated and cooled), a power-adjustable driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel, swanky bi-LED headlamps, a nifty power hatch, wireless smartphone charging, and a digital key feature.
Adding in extras like a digital rearview mirror, advanced parking system, panoramic rearview monitor, and heated rear seats, the complete package rolled in at a cool $37,494. This is obviously a whack of cash, but it is not over-priced for what is offered.
Drawback: Basic smart power features are missing in action
Despite its electric vibe, the Prius still clings to its petrol roots. Strangely, this pioneer of electrification falls short on some of the exciting add-ons that often make hybrids, and their plug-in cousins, so appealing.
To be clear, it’s got wireless phone charging, of course; but it misses a feature like a 120-volt port, which could be a real game-changer for owners needing to run tools, camping gear, or even a mobile office.
Various kit omissions are perhaps a concerning hint of complacency from Toyota. It’s as though they’re satisfied to impress those who find this look attractive, while giving the tech-savvy, eco-conscious enthusiasts who once gravitated to the Prius the cold shoulder.
Verdict: This Prius presents a Great new exterior, but some changes are just skin-deep
MotoPickers Rating: 7.8/10
Let’s face it – looks can be a game-changer. It took us a while, but we finally figured out why, despite merely modest improvements (excepting its pretty impressive acceleration jump), we still like this 2023 Prius variant.
Overall, its performance, ride, driving experience, and fuel economy aren’t drastically different from the previous model. But it has undergone a makeover, both inside and out, and that has a major impact on how you end up feeling about the car. Toyota deserve credit here for keeping a fine driving car assured and recognisable to its fans, while making it a hugely more attractive and stylish car to look at and admire.