The decision: The all-new 2023 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid pushes the boundaries of how sporty an environment friendly car might be with out being all-electric, nevertheless it makes the identical sacrifices as its gas-electric hybrid sibling.
In relation to the competitors: The Prius Prime is each extra environment friendly and sportier than the Kia Niro PHEV, however not as sensible or good inside. Whereas the effectivity is welcome, it is arduous to imagine that the Prius Primes’ sporty seems to be will win the hearts and minds of patrons.
When Toyota unveiled the redesigned 2023 Prius hybrid and Prius Prime plug-in hybrid on the 2022 Los Angeles Auto Present, I could not imagine my eyes: A Prius seemed Good? I used to be all set to seek out an optometrist till my colleagues agreed with me, though they had been simply as shocked.
We not too long ago drove the 2023 Prius Hybrid and declared it the most effective driving Prius ever. I simply obtained again from unusually sunny southern California the place I drove the brand new Prius Prime. With sport-oriented trim ranges, an additional 24-26 horsepower from the PHEV powertrain, however no accessible all-wheel drive like common Prius choices, may the Prius Prime be an excellent higher drive? (In accordance with Vehicles.com’s ethics coverage, we pay for journey and lodging when attending manufacturer-sponsored occasions.)
Associated: 2023 Toyota Prius Evaluation: Newly Attractive, Nonetheless Not Good
Virtually an identical inside, an identical issues
Let’s get the smaller stuff out of the best way first: The smaller inside we bemoaned within the Prius hybrid continues to be right here, and it is nonetheless problematic. I am not as involved about supplies high quality points as Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman, however there isn’t any denying that the inside of the Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid, the Prius Primes foremost PHEV rival, is rather more comfy, higher high quality, and higher designed.
I respect that Toyota moved the instrument cluster from the middle of the sprint within the earlier technology Prius Prime to a small 7-inch pod in entrance of the driving force, nevertheless it sits above the steering wheel and to maintain my view unobstructed. wanted to put the handlebars decrease than I most well-liked. The steering place is an underrated side of the driving expertise and that lack of consolation hinders confidence.
The again seat continues to be simply as cramped because the hybrids, though the bigger battery does not make it any worse. Headroom is missing, and taller passengers must bend or crane their necks to suit. Cargo house can be unchanged from the hybrid, and whereas Toyota’s estimated 20.3 cubic toes might be lots for two-person errands or journeys, the same Niro PHEVs’ cargo house is extra historically formed than Prius Primes.
Infotainment can be higher than the earlier technology, however nonetheless inferior to what you will discover in rivals, significantly the Niro. The 8-inch (customary on SE and XSE trims) and 12.3-inch (optionally available on XSE, customary on XSE Premium) touchscreens characteristic Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wi-fi smartphone connectivity, and the graphics are crisp and clear. Nevertheless, the show lacks devoted residence management, and plenty of of its built-in options are subscription-based or require an information connection.
Higher than the common Prius?
Regardless of the inside weaknesses, the driving expertise was the star of the present. Acceleration is fast (for a Prius) with a 0-60 mph time of 6.6 seconds, in keeping with Toyota. I do not doubt that quantity both. The earlier Prius Prime had 121 horsepower, however this new one has 220 horsepower. That makes up for a roughly 100-200 pound weight enhance (relying on trim degree) over the earlier technology. The brand new Prius hybrid is considerably lighter, nevertheless it’s nonetheless not fairly as fast to 60 mph with a time of seven.2 seconds for front-wheel drive fashions, in keeping with Toyotas estimates.
Braking was extremely spectacular in its directness and linearity. We have been praising the brakes on the Prius hybrid and I knew that going into this drivetrain, however given the non-linear braking really feel I am used to in Toyota hybrids, the Prius Primes brakes are a pleasing shock.
The Prius Prime additionally has an important trip high quality, even with the accessible 19-inch wheels and flawless steering and chassis that make it gratifying to throw within the corners. Even on a wet trip that made me extra cautious, I believe the added energy (regardless of the FWD-only setup) makes the Prime the sportier of the Priuses and the Prii. It was additionally clear, nonetheless, that the Primes’ weak level is the primary efficiency tires. The Prius Prime could not obtain its spectacular mpg or mpg-equivalent estimates with out them, however a stickier set of tires would make for lots extra enjoyable. There are rumors of a doable Gazoo Racing or GR variant of the Prius a la the GR Corolla, and if true, I hope Toyota provides the Prius the efficiency tires it deserves? (I can not stress sufficient how bizarre it’s to jot down this stuff a couple of Prius.)
Gas financial system is estimated at 53/51/52 mpg metropolis/freeway/mixed for the Prius Prime SE on 17-inch wheels and 50/47/48 mpg for the XSE and XSE Premium on 19s. The place the Prius Prime actually beats the Niro PHEV is in its estimated all-electric vary of 44 or 39 miles, relying on trim, versus a most of 33, and in mpg-e scores: 127 (SE) or 114 (XSE, XSE Premium) in contrast with the Niro PHEV 108 mpg-e. However in the event you actually need an environment friendly compact plug-in, the previous-generation Prius Prime has 54 mpg mixed and 133 mpg-e, however solely 25 miles of all-electric vary for 2022. It is spectacular that the brand new Prius Prime sacrifices so little effectivity for a lot extra efficiency, however nonetheless sacrifices a bit.
One other side of the PHEV expertise is the plug-in section. In keeping with Toyota, the Prius Prime might be totally charged in about 4 hours utilizing Stage 2 service and 11 hours on a regular family outlet. It is not 4 hours that lengthy, however different PHEVs can totally cost in much less time, the 2023 Hyundai Tucson PHEV can cost a equally sized battery in simply two hours, in keeping with Hyundai. Why the distinction? The Prius Primes on-board charger has a most output of solely 3.5 kilowatts, which is far lower than the 7.2 kW on-board charger within the Tucson PHEV. It’s a limiting issue when charging the Prius Prime to Stage 2.
As an uncontrolled experiment, as soon as I obtained the battery to 0%, not driving with efficiency in thoughts, I modified the drivetrain mode to at least one that makes use of the two.0L gasoline engine solely and recharges the battery. In simply over 20 minutes of driving, Id added about 25% cost again to the battery. This additionally added much more engine noise to the cabin, nonetheless. the Prius Prime is joyful to remain in quiet, all-electric mode, however the gasoline engine can sound just a little noisy as soon as it is engaged.
Extra from Vehicles.com:
Do you have to select the Prius Prime?
After our latest assessment of the brand new Dodge Hornet, which has a sporty R/T PHEV variant that disenchanted, it seems to be just like the Prius Prime might have to affix it on the isle of misfits. The Prius Prime is not a disappointment, however patrons on the lookout for efficiency within the Prius Primes $33,000-$40,000 worth vary are unlikely to gravitate towards it. not when Hyundai has a number of N automobiles, Honda has the Civic Si and Sort R, Volkswagen has the Golf GTI, and Toyota itself has the GR Corolla. For all of the Primes sporting deserves, it is nonetheless held again by a few of its inherent Priusness, and I do not assume it is going to sway performance-minded patrons towards a Prius. A GR Prius perhaps, however not this one.
And whereas its all-electric vary is longer than the Niro PHEVs, the inside’s flashiness and lack of house make the Prius Prime really feel like a much less sensible alternative. The Niro hybrid has already gained the Greatest Automotive of 2023 award, and the Niro EV is our Prime Passenger EV Choose. I wish to pit the Prius Prime in opposition to the Niro PHEV and settle issues in a head-to-head comparability.
The Vehicles.com editorial division is your supply for automotive information and opinions. In accordance with Vehicles.com’s longstanding ethics coverage, editors and reviewers don’t settle for presents or free journeys from automakers. The editorial division is impartial of Vehicles.com’s promoting, gross sales and sponsored content material departments.