- Horsepower has increased by 60% compared to the old car.
- The 2023 Prius is significantly quicker than before but still offers excellent fuel economy.
- It also doesn't hurt that the new Prius looks a lot better than the old one.
Tested: 2023 Toyota Prius Is No Longer a Snooze
The new Prius is a lot more powerful, but that doesn't come at the cost of fuel economy
The all-new 2023 Toyota Prius is here, and from the moment it debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show, we knew we had to get behind the wheel ASAP. That's not because the Prius has historically been an exciting car. On the contrary, words like "sufficient" or "adequate" or, let's be real, "milquetoast" come to mind when thinking of the performance of past Prius models. Efficiency was the name of the game, and when it came to driving dynamics, everything else felt secondary. But the 2023 Prius looks ready to turn that narrative on its head.
We came back from our first drive of the car impressed with how it handled real-world roads, but we had to wait to get it back to Edmunds' test facility to see how much its performance had really improved. As you'll see, the jump over the last car was significant.
So, just how much quicker is the new car?
The new Prius uses a similar powertrain to those of Priuses past. It's a "conventional" hybrid powertrain, not a mild hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrain. That means it has a gasoline and electric motor, and the two work together to send power to the wheels through a continuously variable transmission. Our test vehicle was front-wheel-drive, and Toyota does offer the Prius with all-wheel drive. There's no all-electric mode per se, but the electric motor does provide enough power to move the car at lower speeds, like in traffic or in neighborhoods.
The gasoline engine is larger than before, up to 2.0 liters from 1.8 liters in the outgoing model. Total output (gas and electric combined) is up about 60% to 194 horsepower — a huge increase, obviously. All-wheel-drive models make an extra 2 horsepower. On our scales, the front-wheel-drive Prius was almost exactly 100 pounds heavier than the previous car, but there's more than enough power from the new hybrid system to offset that. Conveniently enough, the last Prius we tested was a Limited trim, just like our 2023 test car, so it's a straight comparison between the two.
|2023 Toyota Prius||12/12/22||7.7 sec||16.2 sec @ 87.0 mph||123 ft||0.90 g||3,205 lbs|
|2020 Toyota Prius||01/23/20||10.7 sec||18.2 sec @ 76.6 mph||136 ft||0.83 g||3,104 lbs|
Grip has improved significantly, too. Pulling 0.90 g on our skidpad is genuinely impressive. If you don't look at skidpad figures often, the jump from 0.83 g might seem small, but it makes a difference.
Is it any more exciting to drive?
The new Prius just feels more planted on the road, though it's far from sporty. It's more composed, with less roll and dive as you turn or brake. The steering, though completely devoid of feedback, is light and relatively quick. Driving the Prius never feels like work, and the extra power means it no longer feels like a rolling roadblock when you're merging on the highway. From our test notes:
"The extra power from the new engine is immediately apparent. The first run was more than 2 seconds quicker than the last Prius, while the quickest run shaved off 3 full seconds off the old car's 0 to 60 mph time. That's a huge achievement, especially considering the new car is just as fuel-efficient as before. It's not hot-hatch-quick, but it no longer feels like a wimp when you floor it. Unfortunately, the engine's powerband and overall feel remain the same, though a lot of that has to do with the continued use of a CVT. Without gears, the engine basically revs to a high rpm and holds there. There's no tach to see what the revs are, but it's likely close to 6,000 rpm, where the engine makes peak horsepower. It's loud, too, with a drone of an exhaust note that's neither sweet nor burly. The quickest run was done in Sport. Hold the brake and then press the gas to kick the engine on. Helps it off the line and shaves off a few tenths.
"[Braking performance] is much better than before in every aspect. Stops were shorter and more consistent, and, surprisingly for a car with all-season tires, seemed to improve a bit with some heat in the tires. Typically, cars like this perform best on the first stop, with distances gradually getting longer from there. Not so with the Prius, which helps inspire confidence. There's a moderate but acceptable amount of brake dive, and the car feels stable during panic stops. The brake pedal feels firm and bites well, both issues we've found in some other hybrids. Because of how some hybrid brakes can work, the pedal can feel soft and disconnected.
"Handling is vastly improved over the old car. While the old car didn't necessarily handle poorly, the new car feels much more buttoned-down and composed on the road. The improved braking performance already gave me an indication as to how the Prius would perform, but I'm no less impressed by the new car's 0.90 g skidpad figure. It's no hot hatch, but there's more stability and less push at the limit. You don't have to fight as hard to keep the car's nose steady and tight around the skidpad. It still requires a bit of sawing at the wheel and feathering of the accelerator, but it's predictable and easy. Body roll is moderate but acceptable. Stability control intervenes smoothly, so the car doesn't feel jerky as the computer tries to sort things out. You can disable it, and our best run was done with the system off. Steering doesn't provide much in the way of feedback, but the small-diameter wheel helps make the Prius feel a bit more nimble. I just wish the driving position was better, as I couldn't get the wheel positioned comfortably and still see the instrument cluster."
The 2023 Toyota Prius is all-new and much improved in terms of performance. It's quicker and handles better than before, and it doesn't hurt that the new car is much more eye-catching. It's not the most entertaining hatchback around, but it no longer feels anemic and bland from behind the wheel.