2023 Toyota Prius Prime: Older Hybrid Good, New Better, No Stereotype

James Raia

2023 Toyota Prius Prime XSE

During the past two decades, the Toyota Prius has been as polarizing as any car in the United States. Many consumers associate the vehicle with liberalism and chastise its appearance. Sometimes lost is the significance of the carmaker’s advancement in the hybrid and electric marketplace.

The Prius debuted in the United States in 2020, three years after it was unveiled in Japan. It arrived a few months after the Honda Insight, which had limited availability and in only a few states. Toyota’s innovative lineup had mainstream distribution. Approaching its mid-20s, it has surpassed 15 million in global sales.

The 2023 Toyota Prius Prime marks the debut of the innovative car's fifth generation
The 2023 Toyota Prius Prime marks the debut of the innovative car’s fifth generation

Toyota now also has several other hybrid and electric sedans and SUVs and this year, the redesigned and 2023 Toyota Prius Prime. It’s the start of the car’s fifth generation. Gone is the much-maligned exterior look. Gone are the sluggish acceleration and horizontally blocked rear window.

What’s new is a stealth sports car design, more horsepower, better performance and an overall welcoming appeal. Even some Prius detractors’ political silliness has stopped.

The reviewed Prius Prime plug-in model has 220 horsepower, a substantial boost. Toyota has also addressed one of the car’s biggest drawbacks. It was sluggish. With increased power in its 2.0-liter inline setup, acceleration improves in the 0-to-60 miles per hour standard by nearly four seconds to 6.6 seconds.

The 2023 Toyota Prius Prime rear cargo area
The rear cargo area of the 2023 Toyota Prius Prime has an easy-access tailgate and the storage appears larger than its specs.

The plug-in hybrid now features a larger lithium-ion battery rated with a 38-mile electric-only range. Depending upon trim level, front-wheel-drive models are rated at 52 miles per gallon in city and highway driving on new, higher-quality standard 19-inch wheels.

The exterior offers the most striking changes, notably the headlight and taillights. It’s Toyota at its most modern self. The front headlines have a hollowed look with a C-shaped LED accent light. The rear light configuration runs the width of the new design. Its stance is two inches lower and one inch wider than the fourth generation.

As the most powerful Prius, the Prime plug-in is offered in SE, XSE and XSE Premium trims. The Limited (non-plug-in) and reviewed top-line XSE Premium have several keen new features. A 12.3-inch touchscreen (it’s nearly twice as big as the old offering) is standard on upper trim levels as is a power liftgate.

The 2023 Toyota Prius Prime dashboard and steering wheel
A clean, simple-to-use dashboard and its overall interior design are strong 2023 Toyota Prius Prime attributes.

A digital rear-view mirror and a traffic jam assist function (hands-free driving in some under 25 mph scenarios) are new options. The Prime also offers solar panels for its glass roof. The feature charges the battery when the car is stationary; it helps power the air conditioning and accessory functions.

With its sloping, sporty roofline, the new Prius has two drawbacks. There’s less headroom, which hurts the sedan’s entry and exit functionality. Only smaller occupants will be comfortable in the rear seats.

The bothersome split rear window in previous generations is now an improved single pane. The available rearview camera on higher-level trims helps mitigate the petite new window’s view.

Not every vehicle requires upscale leather, bespoke roof liners and wood trim. The new Prius has none of it, and there’s plenty of appeal in simplicity. Plastic is prominent, with knobs, dials, cupholders, etc., all neat and tidy.

The 2023 Toyota Prius Prime interior passenger seat

Sales of the Toyota Prius family of vehicles have drastically fallen to about 20 percent of its one-time top annual tally. Unfairly maligned throughout its tenure, the unveiling of the hybrid’s fifth generation provides brand optimism.

The Prius started an automotive revolution, albeit still an all-too-small percentage of vehicles on the road. The 2023 Toyota Prius Prime, in its top-line presentation, is a $43,000 vehicle. It’s an ideal money-saver and an environmentally considerate sedan. It’s also perfect for driving slowly through lofty neighborhoods, if for no other reason than interrupting the status quo.

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Article Last Updated: August 4, 2023.

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