- New, far less dorky exterior styling
- New engine/motor combo is far more powerful than before
- Cabin design partially borrowed from bZ4X EV
2023 Toyota Prius First Look: Ugly Duckling No More?
With nearly 200 hp and decent styling, this might be the best Prius yet
What is the Prius?
The Toyota Prius is many things — efficient, sensible and, with more recent examples, quite roomy — but desirable (and, arguably, good-looking), it is not. At least, until now. Toyota pulled the wraps off the totally redesigned 2023 Prius on the eve of the LA Auto Show, and for once, the eco warrior's favorite hybrid doesn't look like an egg or rejected Gundam character.
But the disco spaceship styling isn't even the most significant change for the Prius. That would undoubtedly be the powertrain, which boasts nearly 200 horsepower. No longer will the Prius be synonymous with almost unforgivably lethargic acceleration. Here's everything we know.
What's under the Prius' hood?
Like its predecessors, the Prius' powertrain pairs a four-cylinder engine with an electric motor (the Prius Prime features a plug-in component and is covered separately). The engine grows in displacement from 1.8 to 2.0 liters, but even more notable is that the nickel hydride battery pack is finally replaced by a more advanced lithium-ion unit. That means more energy density and a smaller, lighter pack.
In practical terms, these improvements mean that the 2023 Toyota Prius gets a huge bump in power. Last year's fourth-generation Prius produced a total of 121 system horsepower between the engine and motor, while the new one makes a healthy 194 hp in front-wheel-drive guise. Opt for all-wheel drive and output climbs to 196 hp. Toyota says the FWD Prius can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, with the AWD version clocking in at 7.0 seconds flat. That's a darn sight quicker than the 10.7-second time managed by the current model.
Amazingly, the newfound performance doesn't come at the expense of fuel economy. Toyota estimates the entry-level LE model will achieve 57 mpg in the EPA's combined cycle — a 1 mpg bump from today's base L Eco trim. Higher trim levels with larger wheels will likely have a bit lower mpg.
How's the Prius' interior?
It's clear from the photos that Toyota supplied that a lot of attention has been paid to the cabin. Befitting the Prius' traditionally wallet-friendly price tag, there seems to be plenty of hard plastics throughout but the overall design is more conventional than in generations past.
That means there's no more funky centrally mounted gauge cluster. Instead, the new Prius features a low dash with a touchscreen perched on top. Below the screen is a row of physical HVAC buttons — a welcome inclusion as more manufacturers move to touchscreen-only controls. The digital instrument cluster is now located in front of the driver in a more natural line of sight. Toyota die-hards might, in fact, recognize the steering wheel/IP combo as ripped straight from the all-electric bZ4X.
How's the Prius' tech?
The 2023 model seriously steps up the Prius' tech cred — a necessary step since the current Prius' touchscreen interface is seriously dated. Two sizes are offered: a standard 8-inch screen and a 12.3-inch unit that is optional on the XLE and standard on Limited models. The UI should be identical to that on the bZ4X, as well as the new Tundra pickup and Sequoia SUV. And if so, the interface is much snappier, intuitive and attractive than that on the outgoing model and will go a long way in making the 2023 Prius feel truly modern. To that end, the Prius will feature wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard equipment. Optional upgrades include a Wi-Fi hotspot, an eight-speaker JBL audio system, and creature comforts like heated and ventilated seats and a panoramic roof.
Every 2023 Prius comes with the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 suite of driving aids, which includes pre-collision warning and braking, lane departure alert and adaptive cruise control. Also standard is a blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic warning. Front and rear parking sensors with automatic braking are available on the LE and are included when you upgrade to the XLE. Rounding out the list of driving aids are a hands-free parking system and 360-degree parking camera, both of which are optional on the top-dog Limited.
In terms of exterior and interior design, tech features and performance, the 2023 Toyota Prius is a major step forward for the long-running fuel-sipper. If you're even thinking about getting a Prius, wait a bit longer for the new one.