2023 Toyota Prius Limited first test: non-cash costs
- The drives are great
- Looks great
- Just a little more expensive
- It’s still very noisy inside
- The back seat is cramped
- Less cargo space
Sometimes, the cost cannot be fully expressed in monetary terms. There are certain things you gain or lose in the transaction that are not necessarily covered in the price card. It may mean that you get more than you feel you paid for, or that there is a trade-off. In the case of the 2023 Toyota Prius Limited — the most expensive Prius — it’s a combination of both.
What’s so limited about it?
If you like convenience features, the Limited model is a surprisingly good deal, starting at just $3,500 or more than the mid-grade XLE. Sure, you can add the standard 12.3-inch infotainment screen, panoramic sunroof, and phone as a key to an XLE for $2,010. But what you can’t get are standard heated and also cooled front seats on the top model (XLE fronts are heated only), driver’s seat memory (the only trim it offers), a power liftgate (all other models are manual), and an eight-speaker JBL sound system. With subwoofer (up to six speakers and no sub). Add that up, and the equipment is worth well over $1,500.
The large expansion also gives you the opportunity to get more useful things if you are so inclined. The Limited model is the only Prius to offer 360-degree exterior cameras, heated rear outboard seats, a digital rearview mirror, and free parking as extra-cost options — but lower trims don’t offer those things at all, so there’s no money-saving hack. here. It seems pricey, but it’s not. You can bundle all of these options together for just $1,635, making a fully loaded Prius Limited with plenty of features and an optional $495 paint job only about $4,400 more than a fully loaded XLE. It’s not free, but it’s a pretty good deal. Best of all, it’s still under $38,000.
All these features increase the weight of the car. The Limited you see here was 82 pounds heavier than the XLE we tested earlier this year. It’s not worth mentioning, and doesn’t show up at all in fuel economy; Both models are EPA-estimated at 52/52/52 mpg city/highway/combined.
That’s also not why the Limited performed significantly worse in our automated tests. This is down to the tires. Both models come with 19-inch wheels, but the XLE gets a grippier Michelin Primacy tire while the Limited makes do with a Toyo Extensa AS II tire. They’re the same size and have the same ratings, so the difference is undoubtedly down to the rubber compound and tread pattern.
To wit, the Limited is 0.3 seconds slower to 60 mph from a stop, needing 7.5 seconds to do the deed. You’re unlikely to race with anyone in your Prius, and you’re unlikely to notice three-tenths of a second. It’s also 0.3 seconds slower in passing, taking 4.0 seconds to accelerate from 45 mph to 65 mph to the XLE’s 3.7 seconds. This is something you might notice on the highway when you’re trying to make a quick turn on a slow road.
The real difference in performance you’ll notice is in braking. The Limited needed 132 feet to stop from 60 mph, 9 feet longer than the XLE. That’s more than half the length of the car, which could mean the difference between a close approach and a fender bender. It’s best to leave a little extra space to protect your investment.
The difference also appears in handling. The XLE hangs on to pavement tighter and pulls an average of 0.88 lateral gravity on the skidpad to the Limited’s 0.82. The XLE is also quicker in the figure-eight test, needing 26.8 seconds for an average of 0.65 compared to the Limited lap’s 27.5 seconds for an average of 0.61 g.
The car itself
As we’ve written before, the new Prius is a really fun car to drive now, and it’s also ripe for a bit of cornering fun. No longer a soul-sucking device, it delivers driver engagement and fuel efficiency. In fact, although the tires on the Limited may have less grip at the limit, except for emergency braking, you won’t notice the difference – even in aggressive driving.
You also won’t notice a difference in interior noise. Whatever the reason for Toyota putting different tires on the two trim levels, it can’t be the hype. Even the most expensive Prius can still be loud inside at times. The tires transmit every bit of nasty pavement noise into the cabin, but the engine is the biggest culprit, racing hard and loud when you put your foot to the ground. There’s also wind noise around the windshield when you reach highway speed. We’d be willing to carry a little more weight and perhaps get a little more mileage in a top-shelf Prius for more sound deadening. Consider purchasing a Prius Prime plug-in hybrid if you have the budget; An all-electric driving range of 44 miles will save you from having to listen to the engine on most if not all of your commute.
However, you will notice a difference in passenger and cargo space. The significant improvement in exterior design has come at the expense of rear-seat headroom and luggage space. Whereas the old Prius was very roomy in the back, the new one will be claustrophobic for tall passengers. The new Limited and XLE also feature 7.1 cubic feet less cargo space behind the rear seats (the base LE loses 3.6 cubic feet to the old model). The large back seat and cargo area were major selling points in older Priuses, and the loss is sure to disappoint repeat customers, no matter how much improved the car is.
If you’re not of average height, you might also have some ideas for a fighter-themed steering wheel and instrument cluster. It looks great, but editors of above- or below-average height had trouble finding the seat and steering wheel position that allowed them to see the high-mounted digital instrument cluster clearly. The small font on that screen doesn’t make it any easier. Otherwise, we all appreciate Toyota’s continued use of physical buttons and switches on the steering wheel and dashboard, as well as the much-improved infotainment system software.
Since the Prius Limited isn’t that expensive compared to the average new car (the average new car selling price is currently $49,000 as of this writing), we recommend paying for a 360-degree camera system and even a digital rearview mirror. The sweeping roofline that reduced rear seat headroom and cargo capacity also made it difficult to see the back of the new Prius. Screens help a lot.
If you ask us, the power move is to replace the Limited’s tires with XLE tires when they wear out. This will give you the best of both worlds, and for only a few thousand dollars more than a loaded XLE. With all the things that come standard and optional on the Limited, it’s the easiest cost to justify in today’s market. But even if you don’t join the Limited, you’ll still get the best-looking, best-driving, and most efficient Prius ever, so you can’t really lose.
|Toyota Prius 2023 Limited specifications|
|Price as tested||$37,494|
|Car layout||Front-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, 5-pass, 4-door hatchback|
|engine||2.0L Atkinson cycle DOHC 16-valve I-4, plus two permanent magnet electric motors|
|Energy (SAE network)||150 hp @ 6,000 rpm (gas), 111 hp (electric); 194 hp (comb)|
|Torque (net SAE)||139 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm (gas), 152 lb-ft (electric); Not available (comb)|
|moving in||Automatic variable function|
|Empty weight (F/R DIST)||3,211 lbs (60/40%)|
|Length x width x height||181.1 x 70.2 x 56.3 inches|
|0-60 mph||7.5 seconds|
|A quarter mile||15.8 seconds at 87.5 mph|
|Braking, 0-60 mph||132 feet|
|Lateral acceleration||0.82 grams (average)|
|MT Figure VIII||27.5 seconds at 0.61g (average)|
|EPA City/Highway/COMB Fuel ECON||52/52/52 mpg|
|EPA scope, comb||588 miles|
(tags for translation) hatchback