Sexy new 2023 Toyota Prius wrapped in PDA — Proactive Driving Assist to help save drivers from that “Oops” moment
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The redesigned and re-engineered 2023 Toyota Prius is a stunning improvement in almost every way over the previous model. Its sex-jet styling is a pronounced shift in attitude. But this gasoline-electric hybrid hatchback is also more powerful with better fuel economy than before. And its new body is smoother rolling, and the handling is as responsive as its sleek shape implies. The cabin is much quieter and interior materials and plastics are much improved and pleasing to the eye and touch.
Not sanitized in the redesign, however, is some Prius weirdness — its mild personality disorder that has helped make this small car a big icon.
The new Prius has a 2-inch lower roofline, and the body is 1 inch wider and lower. The wheelbase is 1.9 inches longer, now at 108.3 inches. The new length of 181.1 inches is about an inch longer than before.
Looking for a back-to-work commuter? The entry 2023 Prius LE has fuel economy ratings of 56 mpg on the highway and 57 mpg combined city and highway. Its pricing starts at a reasonable $28,545 for front-wheel drive, or add $1,400 for on-demand all-wheel drive (available on all trim levels).
The new Prius is expected to arrive at Toyota dealerships in January 2023.
Prius Media Drive in San Diego
Toyota brought its national media drive to Del Mar, Calif., just up the coast from downtown San Diego. Select journalists from the U.S. and Canada were given a deep dive into the 2023 Prius, its technologies and design.
There were test drives of XLE and Limited trim levels, in front- and all-wheel drive. I shared seat time with another journalist for about a 40-mile run into the area around Rancho Santa Fe and on the interstate.
The drive gave good input, but I was not able to test such features as the new and enhanced Advanced Park (a Toyota first) that helps drivers steer into a selected parking space. The system works for parallel parking or backing into a perpendicular slot. I also didn’t sample Proactive Driving Assist (details below) or how comfortable the seats would be for an extended commute.
Its nameplate needs no introduction — “Prius” is as representative of what it is as “Corvette,” “Mustang,” or “McDonald’s.” But its reputation is founded in its legacy as the world’s first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid car. It also is notoriously vilified for its many passionate drivers who feel it is their environmental responsibility to drive 63 mph in the fast lane of the interstate.
The Toyota Prius debuted in Japan in 1997 and was then exported to the U.S. and North America in 2000. But it was a sales dud in the States. It was too small and too weak to handle the interstate hustle. And its center-position driver display and controls in the dashboard were just weird. Cars sat on used lots until the first energy crisis hit in the early 2000s, followed by the Great Recession in 2008. But by 2004, Toyota had launched the second-generation design. This new styling was more palatable but still odd; however, it was a complete design study in aerodynamics, resulting in a very low 0.24 coefficient of drag. That Cd has only recently been surpassed by some new electric cars. And even the new Prius is not as slippery now, compromising Cd for style.
The 2023 Prius will be sold in three trim levels: LE, XLE, and Limited. Gone is the L Eco model, which had been the city-mileage champ at 58 mpg.
The XLE is the sweet spot of features to price. The Limited fills in useful details, such as an interior liftback release button.
There are six paint colors, including the new Cutting Edge silver and Guardian Gray. Other choices include Wind Chill Pearl white, Midnight Black Metallic, Supersonic Red, or Reservoir Blue.
The 2023 pricing is about $2,300 more than the previous model. Here are some thumbnail details on the trim levels:
Prius LE, $28,545: standard dark gray 17-inch alloy wheels with wheel covers, an 8-inch audio multimedia touchscreen, six-way adjustable fabric front seats in black or gray, six USB type C charging ports, electric parking brake, SofTex steering wheel, and blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.
Optional features include front and rear parking assist with automatic braking.
Prius XLE, $31,990: adds 19-inch alloy wheels and eight-way adjustable heated power driver’s SofTex seat in black or gray. Also standard are rain-sensing wipers, smart key locking with push-button ignition, wireless charger, and front and rear parking assist with automatic braking.
Options include a 12.3-inch high-resolution touchscreen display ($735), fixed glass roof ($1,000), and Digital Key ($275), which works with a smartphone app.
Prius Limited, $35,560: adds a standard 12.3-inch JBL Premium Audio touchscreen display, fixed glass roof, SofTex heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, power liftback, and Digital Key.
Available options include a digital rearview mirror ($200), heated rear seats ($350), and Advanced Park ($1,085, includes panoramic view monitor).
The manufacturer’s Suggested Retail pricing includes the $1,095 freight charge from Japan.
Basic warranty coverage is for 3 years or 36,000 miles and 5 years or 60,000 miles for the powertrain. ToyotaCare provides free scheduled maintenance for 2 years or 25,000 miles, with 24/7 roadside assistance for 3 years (while other Toyota models receive 2 years) and unlimited mileage.
The lithium-ion hybrid battery is covered for 10 years from the date of first use or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first. And Hybrid-related components, including the battery control module, hybrid control module, and inverter with converter, have coverage of 8 years or 100,000 miles.
The 2023 Prius has eight air bags and the latest Toyota Safety Sense generation, TSS 3.0. This suite of active safety systems includes everything on the prior generation Prius, plus several driver-assist technologies. The Level 2 semi-autonomous driver-assist function still requires both hands on the wheel.
Among the added technologies are:
- Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection;
- Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist;
- Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control;
- Lane Tracing Assist;
- Road Sign Assist;
- Automatic High Beams;
- Proactive Driving Assist.
Proactive Driving Assist is interesting because it is an “Oops” monitor for everyday situations. Toyota said that the system functions without cruise control, but it is not a substitute for the Pre-Collision System.
PDA uses the vehicle’s camera and radar to provide gentle braking into curves or gentle braking and steering. The system helps with distance control between a preceding vehicle, pedestrian, or bicyclist.
The 2023 Prius marks the fifth generation. And with it, Toyota hopes to overcome the car’s reputation as dowdy to drive and quirky. Prius chief engineer Satoki Oya made sure of it. And it was his approval of the fast styling that inspired a way to tuck the new hybrid system beneath the skin. And there were compromises.
Engineer Oya had the suspension and steering tuned for sporty driving, and he gave the powertrain 60 percent more horsepower. Indeed, the internal combustion engine is now a 2.0-liter, replacing the previous 1.8-liter four-cylinder. A newly developed lithium-ion battery has 14 percent more output.
The Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine accounts for 150 horsepower and 139 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm. Net hybrid-system horsepower is 194 hp for front-wheel drive and 196 hp with AWD.
The transmission continues as an e-CVT, an electronically controlled continuously variable automatic. All-wheel-drive models have a rear motor that adds 40 hp and 62 lb.-ft. of torque. The transmission has drive modes of Normal, Eco, and Sport.
The redesigned model, however, has a 0.27 coefficient of drag (Cd), which compares to 0.24 Cd for the previous generations. Blame that shapely peak at the rear of the roofline, according to Oya. It was a sacrifice to maintain the design.
Aerodynamic features include front grille shutters to optimize the inflow of air, which also aids engine cooling. Underbody panels help reduce drag and road noise.
The XLE and Limited trim levels have new aero-tuned alloy wheels rather than steel wheels with aero wheel covers.
Acceleration from a stop is quicker and less noisy when pressed hard. Toyota says the battery provides a subtle power boost to put less strain on the engine. It also eliminates the “rubber band” acceleration effect experienced with some CVTs.
Also new is an EV mode. Battery power can be used for short distances, such as when in parking lots or indoor parking garages. (This feature had long been available on Japanese market Prii.) When in EV mode, pedestrians will hear the whirring sound of the “Vehicle Proximity Notification.”
Four-wheel-disc brakes have one-inch larger rotors. Front-drive models have ventilated 11.1-inch rotors, and 12-inch rotors for AWD. The rear discs are solid 11-inch rotors, front- or all-wheel drive.
Despite the bigger engine, fuel economy increased.
The entry, front-wheel-drive Prius LE gets the highest estimated fuel economy ratings of 57 mpg city, 56 highway and 57 mpg combined. Toyota says that careful driving (Eco mode) can push the mileage to 60 mpg. The other trim levels have ratings of:
- 52/52/52 mpg, XLE and Limited FWD;
- 53/54/54 mpg, LE AWD;
- 49/50/49, XLE/Limited AWD.
Toyota recommends 87 octane fuel, but also says that using premium fuel will help achieve more power and (slightly) higher mileage ratings.
The fuel tank of 11.3 gallons should allow a cruising range of almost 600 miles, but careful driving can easily extend the range.
Though slightly larger, the 2023 Prius weighs about the same as its predecessor. Curb weights range from 3,097 pounds to 3,284 pounds for the top-line Limited AWD trim level; the Limited AWD is about 84 pounds heavier than before.
From the first 500 feet driving the new Prius, there is exceptional feel to the solid body and fluid roll of the steering. The taut suspension is a welcome transition from comfy and soft of the previous design.
The tighter body, with reinforcements at the windshield pillars, midroof, and rear glass pillars, encourages enthusiastic driving. And the cabin is far more soundproofed now, but there is some tire harshness on the interstate.
The turning circle is still subcompact at 34.4 feet with 17-inch wheels or 35.4 feet with 19-inch wheels.
The low-slung design lowers the hip point by about an inch, making for no-struggle entry and exit. But veteran Prii owners might lament the open feel of the previous cabin architecture.
Headroom of 38 inches will suit a 6-foot-6-tall adult without leaning the seatback to an uncomfortable position. But that driver fills the seat area. Legroom is very long at 43.2 inches.
Sightlines over the fenders and hood are good, benefiting from small corner glass in the side windows. But the new driver display screen of speedometer and other gauge readouts is behind the steering wheel atop the instrument panel. In my orientation drive, the black display nagged as a visual obstacle to a clear view. In time, I might adjust. And tall drivers might have to adjust the wheel higher, which will crop the bottom quarter of the display.
Back Seat and Cargo Space
At least there is no more split rear window from the previous kammback body style. However, the new rear window is a slim ellipse, so rear views will be familiar to veteran Prius drivers.
Back seat dimensions are tight. Headroom of 36.4 inches and legroom of 34.8 inches will be adequate for the grade-schoolers carpool. But the space will be too cramped for ride-share use.
Cargo space is luggage capable at 20.3 cubic feet in the XLE and Limited, and 23.8 cu.ft. with the bilevel floor in the LE. Fold the back seat for about 5 feet in length.
The Toyota Prius is weird. It’s always been weird. And the 2023 Prius is weird, too. But its weirdness has been an asset to distinguish this stalwart fuel miser.
The new model will sell easily for those ready for its 50s mpg ratings. It’s still just a gasoline-electric hybrid, with no charging needed, but the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid will go on sale next spring.
Toyota expects the new Prius to sell well, but it also cites a modest annual output of 35,000 cars. With what might be a shortage of new Prii, Toyota dealers will have the opportunity to charge “market pricing.”
Toyota now has 13 electrified models, and by 2025 the carmaker says 40 percent of its lineup with be electrified. That provides many choices for a hybrid Toyota, including the upcoming Crown hybrid sedan.
The Toyota Crown could become what the Prius had been; it is a more powerful hybrid and more expensive but with a 30-mpg combined city/highway fuel economy rating.
Will the Prius lose its crown?
Body style: compact, 5-seat, 5-door liftback in front- or all-wheel drive
Engine: 150-hp 2.0-Liter 4-cylinder aluminum block and head, double overhead cam 16-valve VVT-I; 139 lb.-ft torque at 4,400 rpm
Hybrid System Net Horsepower: 194 hp FWD; 196 hp AWD
Motor generator: Drives front wheels, regeneration during braking
Motor: Permanent Magnet AC Synchronous Motor; max voltage DC 600-volts
Electric motor power output: 111 hp/83 kW
Torque: 152 lb.-ft.
Hybrid battery: Lithium ion, 222 volts, 4.8 Ah (ampere hour)
Transmission: Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (eCVT); AWD, Rear Motor Interior Permanent Magnet (40hp, 62 lb.-ft.)
EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings:
- 57/56/57 (LE FWD);
- 52/52/52 (XLE/Limited FWD)
- 53/54/54 (LE AWD)
- 49/50/49 (XLE/Limited AWD)
0-60 mph acceleration: 7 seconds, AWD, estimated
Coefficient of drag: 0.27 (Cd) with 17-inch wheels
BY THE NUMBERS
Fuel tank: 11.3 gallons
Cargo space: 23.8 cubic feet LE; 20.3 cu.ft. (XLE and Limited grades)
Front head/leg room: 38/43.2 inches
Rear head/leg room: 36.4/34.8 inches
Length/wheelbase: 181.1/108.3 inches
Curb weights by trim level:
- 3,097 pounds, LE
- 3,164 pounds XLE;
- 3,219 pounds Limited;
- 3,230 pounds LE AWD;
- 3,285 pounds XLE AWD;
- 3,340 pounds Limited AWD
Turning circle: 34.4 feet w/17-inch wheels; 35.4 feet w/19-inch wheels
Tires: Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 Plus 215/45 17-inches; Limited,
Toyo Extensa A/S 195/50 19 inches
Safety features include: 8 air bags, enhanced vehicle stability and traction controls, brake-force distribution, brake assist, smarts stop technology, blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, hill start assist;
Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 includes: a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, road sign assist, automatic high beams, proactive driving assist (PDA)
Where assembled: Japan
Warranties: 3-years/36,000-miles bumper to bumper; 5-years/60,000-miles powertrain;
Hybrid battery warranty: 10 years from date of first use or 150,000 miles, whichever comes first;
Hybrid-related components: The battery control module, hybrid control module, and inverter with converter are covered for 8 years or 100,000 miles.
ToyotaCare: Free scheduled maintenance for 2 years or 25,000 miles; 24/7 roadside assistance for 3 years (other Toyota models receive 2 years) and unlimited mileage.Read more