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2023 Toyota Prius first drive review: Sexiness, but at a cost

The 2023 Toyota Prius is the best looking Prius to date. Heck, we’d go as far as to say that the Prius is the best looking Toyota to date. There are more than just cosmetic changes for the new model, and there are some compromises made to make the car look as good as it does. It’s still a heck of a car, so let’s get into it.

The 2023 Prius is basically all-new, and will come either in a standard hybrid trim or the plug-in Prime version. For more details on the Prime, check out our post from the recent revel at the 2022 LA Auto Show.

We’re in the standard hybrid today, which is available in either LE, XLE, or Limited trims. All-wheel drive is available on all three.

Power is 194 hp in the front-drive models, and 196 in the all-wheel drive models. Nearly 200 hp from a Prius feels almost ridiculous, but a 7 second 0-60 mph time is appreciated when merging on the freeway.

The Prius sits lower and is wider and longer than the version it replaces. The driving position is lower, and the car feels noticeably sportier behind the wheel. A steeply raked windshield helps improve the car’s aero, with a bit of sacrifice in headroom getting in and out of the driver’s seat.

More sacrifices were made to make the car look good. That includes rear cargo storage rated at 20.3 cu-ft with the rear seats in place. For comparison, the 2022 Prius hatchback has 27.4 cu-ft with the rear seats up.

Rear headroom also seems less. While there’s enough room for kids and child seats — with easy to reach ISOFIX child safety seat anchors — adults won’t have a great time on long trips.

For a car that is often used for taxi, Uber, or Lyft, the new Prius is going to disappoint some users in the space department.

Making up for those sacrifices is a very competent car to drive. In fact, it’s easily the best driving Prius ever. The new platform is compliant and comfortable, and the only real noise in the cabin is tire noise.

Acceleration is brisk thanks to nearly 200 hp. The CVT automatic transmission does its job well enough when getting up to highway speeds, it’s a bit louder than we’d care for it to be. The Kia Niro hybrid uses a traditional automatic transmission that feels a bit more refined.

Depending on model, the $1,100 to $1,400 all-wheel drive upgrade is worth it. It now works at all speeds, and takes 0.2 seconds off of acceleration to 60 mph. For the 2 mpg sacrifice in MPG, it’s worth it for the extra capability.

Inside, the Prius seats are comfortable. Getting in if you’re a bit taller might involve hitting your head on the steeply raked roof, but once inside it’s easy to get comfortable.

The steering wheel and instrument cluster setup is straight from the bZ4X, and while this reviewer has no trouble setting it up for the wheel to not block the cluster, not everyone will be able to. It really is one of those try before you buy situations.

Premium models offer heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, an around view monitoring system, and a digital rearview mirror. The digital rearview mirror is nice because rearward visibility is a bit lacking.

Toyota’s latest infotainment system is on board and supports wireless Apple Car Play and wireless Android Auto. A slick wireless charging pad holds your phone securely while also keeping it out of your eyesight causing a distraction.

Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 is standard, and includes standard blind spot monitoring. We appreciate Toyota offering nearly all of its safety features as standard. More automakers can learn from this.

The LE model starts at $28,545. To add all-wheel drive, add $1,100 to the cost. There are no additional options except for premium paint — Wind Chill Perl and Supersonic Red — at $495.

The XLE starts at $31,990 and the jump to all-wheel drive adds $1,400. Some big changes here include heated front seats and a power driver’s seat, rain sensing wipers, and even a wireless phone charger.

Options include the before mentioned premium paint, Digital Key support for $275, an upgraded 12.3-inch infotainment system for $735, and a fixed-glass roof for $1,000.

If you want all the goodies, you’re going to want the Limited trim. It starts at $35,560 — plus $1,400 if you want all-wheel drive — and includes niceties like ventilated front seats, a power liftgate, all the optional features from XLE, and JBL premium audio.

Options here include a digital rearview mirror at $200, which you probably want considering rearward visibility, heated rear seats at $350, and the “Limited Premium Package” at $1,085 that includes Advanced Park automatic parking and a Panoramic View Monitor.

Again, premium paint is $495. All pricing includes the $1,095 destination charge.

The new Prius is more attractive and better to drive, while making some sacrifices to make that possible. It’s priced well and it’s a solid performer, and if it’s not right for you the upcoming Corolla Cross hybrid or RAV4 hybrid are likely solid contenders.

Written by Chad Kirchner

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