2023 Toyota Prius Prime Review - Time For Me To Fly

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

Fast Facts

2023 Toyota Prius Prime XSE Premium

Powertrain
2.0-liter four-cylinder with plug-in hybrid electric motor(220 combined system horsepower)
Transmission
Continuously-variable transmission, front-wheel drive
Fuel Economy, MPG
50 city / 47 highway / 48 combined (EPA Rating)
Fuel Economy, L/100km
4.7 city / 5.0 highway / 4.9 combined. (NRCan Rating)
Base Price
$40,265 US / $50,046 CAN
As Tested
$42,510 US / $50,046 CAN
Prices include $1,095 destination charge in the United States and $1,994 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

No doubt you’ve seen it, whether here on TTAC, other websites or magazines (GASP! You actually read something other than TTAC!), or on the roads. One of the most daringly styled, attractive new cars on our roads wears a badge that has, for over two decades, been nothing but an ugly duckling camped out in the left lane at well less than the speed limit.


Well, our ugly duckling has grown into a swan. The 2023 Toyota Prius Prime is still a mileage champ, but it now has power and styling to befit its avian glow-up. The thing with swans is, well, they crap all over the place. Is this new Prius Prime a plugged-in pile of dung on a freshly-waxed showroom floor, or is it a genuinely graceful bird spreading its’ wings?


Yeah, Tim just reviewed the standard Prius last week. The timing is strictly coincidental - we are a good six weeks past the end of Toyotathon, if my calendar is correct, so we aren’t hawking any Oh, What A Feeling! feelings.

For those not down with the Toyota nomenclature, Prime stands for plug-in hybrid. That means you can hitch up to 120v or 240v in your garage and add power, rather than relying on the engine and momentum to charge the batteries as in a standard hybrid. Depending on the trim selected, you can get between 39 and 44 miles of all-electric range from a full charge in a Prius Prime, up to 84 mph. That’s a pretty decent daily commute without using a drop of fuel.

Engage both the electric motors and the 150 hp two-liter four and you’ll find 220 combined system horsepower. That’s a nice boost over the 194hp for the standard Prius, and nearly doubles the 121 combined system horsies found in the previous-generation Prius Prime. This hybrid is no longer slow. And it’s actually not bad to drive, either, as the handling remains predictable and comfortable. It’s no longer a penalty box - well, it’s not shaped like a box, more a penalty suppository - for those who are dead inside.

That steeply-raked nose and windscreen surely improve the already-wind-cheating profile of previous Priuses (Prii?) with a quoted 0.27 drag coefficient. There is still, like in every Prius, a fair bit of wind noise at highway speeds, but it isn’t objectionable.

I’m generally happy with interior comfort in this newest Prius Prime, though rear headroom is at a bit of a premium. My kids, both a couple inches under six feet tall, found their hair closer to the rear headliner than in most sedans. The seats were plenty supportive front and rear, and I feel as if I’d hear little to no complaining if we were to test the quoted 550 miles of estimated range per tank in a single stint. Standard lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise control on all Prius Prime trims are part of the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 suite of driver assistance technologies that help with that long cruise.

One caveat to those obsessives who read the data panel atop the page first before grooving into my magnificent prose: yeah, the price is up there. Forty-two grand and change for a compact family hatchback is hard to swallow. While the larger 12.3-inch touchscreen (versus eight inches on lesser trims) is lovely to look at, the glass roof nice to look out from, and the heated and ventilated front seats (as well as the optional-even-on-this top-trim $350 heated rear seats) are lovely, I honestly think the lesser SE trim would be a good buy for someone looking to save even more money and fuel. That SE trim weighs about 110 pounds less - some of which comes from the smaller 17-inch alloy wheels, as well as the steel roof above one’s head instead of glass - which leads to a significant fuel economy savings. Instead of 48mpg combined in the XSE and XSE Premium trims like you see here, an SE-package Prius Prime manages 52mpg combined, as well as 44 miles of EV range. All for a much more palatable figure of $34,070 delivered.

The automakers send us their best and most loaded vehicles to try out, of course, because that’s where they shine. And if you want the nicest, sexiest (I still wince when I type that) Toyota Prius Prime out there, this XSE Premium trim is the way to go. But these birds flock together, and there is value out there in the branches if you’re willing to look for the right winged eco-warrior.

[Images: Toyota]

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Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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2 of 38 comments
  • Grant P Farrell Grant P Farrell on Feb 25, 2024

    If you floor it in the new model (the only way to experience the extra horsepower) your not getting anywhere near the best fuel economy. So you can get the same mpg as a 20 year old car, or drive fast but not both at the same time.

  • Scott Scott on Apr 17, 2024

    The previous generation had a lower coefficient of drag, and got better fuel economy.

  • 1995 SC I'll hold out for the VW Tassos
  • Gsc65794753 Volvo parts were rediculously expensive. That's what I remember.
  • Creekrat85 The right to work on your own stuff shall not be abridged. It's common sense. It's unAmerican to be authoritarian. A corporate authoritarian? Isn't that fascism? If the government colludes with a corporate authoritarian to restrict owner's manuals or not to be allowed to show how to make simple repairs or you cannot buy the parts yourself? That's what is wrong. It's benign neglect of the government and it is at the heart of Boeing and their problems, so they let Elon do more of the same over at Tesla ?... The analogy is poor. None of us passengers are going for a wing walk to repair something on a 737 Max. Using John Deere and the farm equipment for the right to work on your own stuff is the better analogy .... Just say no to the corporate authoritarian fascists, wherever they roam...
  • Arthur Dailey Can the auto-shut off feature be disengaged? If not that would be a deal breaker for me. I greatly dislike that feature/function on any vehicle.
  • 3-On-The-Tree I agree those men shouldn’t be enshrined or celebrated. Even my Japanese mother agrees, those men who did those atrocities should’ve been punished. Her father was in the Japanese Imperial Navy, he didn’t do those things. We had guys in Iraq do criminal activities and murder and they were punished. I was in Iraq I didn’t do that. My dad was in Vietnam, you going to judge him from the My Lai massacre? Group punishment as a whole from the deeds of others is wrong.
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