Toyota Prius Prime 2023 – MotorWeek Road Tests
While the Toyota Prius has been a game-changer since day one, the 2023 fifth generation takes a huge step forward in style, performance and refinement. Now Toyota is quickly following up with a plug-in release. So, let’s take a deeper look at the prime suspect.
The 2023 Toyota Prius Prime is a shining example of what we feel is the ideal mode of personal transportation in today’s era; A car that essentially acts as an electric vehicle until it exhausts its battery range, at which time it behaves like a super-efficient hybrid until you plug it back in.
So, it’s basically a fifth-generation Toyota Prius with a larger battery, 13.6 kWh to be exact, offering 39 miles of all-electric range in our XSE Premium tester. But lower models see up to 44, which represents a 76% increase over the previous generation. Another bonus, it will fully charge in about 11 hours through a standard household outlet, so there’s no real need to go to the expense of installing a Level 2 charger.
Having made hybrids for more than 25 years now, Toyota’s latest setup is well-sorted, quite refined, and even feels underpowered at times, all part of the reason why the latest Prius took home a recent Drivers’ Choice award for Best Family Car.
Based on the same 2.0-liter I4 Synergy Drive powertrain as the regular hybrid, the Prime works with a larger 120-kilowatt electric motor for a total of 220 hp, 26 hp more than the standard Prius. All entry models are front-wheel drive, but drive modes let you choose EV or Hybrid operation, or you can just let the car figure that out for itself.
Inside, a 7-inch LCD display is mounted higher than the typical gauge package, eliminating the need for any type of overhead display. As for the infotainment system, most will come with an 8-inch screen which seems sufficient, but the XSE Premium gets a 12.3-inch screen. With the additional rear seat space of this generation Prius, all positions are now roomier, and the cushions are more comfortable than the previous generation. The top XSE model’s rear cargo space is the same as the regular Prius at 20.3 cubic feet.
The Prime has much in common with the recent EV-like Prius, making it easily the best-looking Prius yet by a wide margin.
Government fuel economy ratings are 48-Combined and 114-Combined MPGe. Our driving loop drained the battery pretty quickly, so our average came in close to the Monroney sticker at 48.9 miles per gallon regular.
At our test track, the Prime’s added power was quickly evident, getting us to 60 in 6.5 seconds.
We can feel the electric motor already doing the heavy lifting off the line, with the petrol engine gradually taking over. The CVT transmission operates very smoothly, and the accompanying engine noise was fairly subdued, sounding like just a healthy engine holding its tone longer than usual, not much like the typical endless CVT sound. Our best time for the quarter-mile was 15.1 seconds at 97 mph. Not bad at all for a hybrid.
Toyota has really beefed up the handling chops of the Prius for this generation as well. Even with some extra battery weight, the Prime felt quick and almost dashing through our conical track, with controlled amounts of body roll and smooth weight transfer. The solid rubber compound of the tires was the only weak link here, but moving them proved more than enjoyable.
It’s difficult to make direct price comparisons, with the Prime in SE,
Regardless, both configurations work with a high degree of efficiency. If you drive a lot on the highway, or don’t have the ability to plug in regularly, a conventional Prius hybrid is better than ever and can do the job for you. But, if you can benefit from maximizing that EV range, such as for daily commuting, this 2023 Toyota Prius Prime is a no-brainer, and it’s ready to give you the best of both worlds.
- engine: 2.0L I-4
- Electric car range: Up to 44 miles
- Torque: 139 lbs.ft.
- 1/4 mile: 15.1 seconds at 97 mph
- EPA: 48- mpg combined | 114-MPGe combined
- battery: 13.6 kWh
- Horsepower: 220
- 0-60 mph: 6.5 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 110 feet (average)
- Fuel economy in MW: 48.9 mpg