2023 Toyota Prius Prime
An EV When You Need It; Hybrid When You Don’t
While the Toyota Prius has been a game changer since day one, 2023’s 5th generation took a major step forward in style, performance, and refinement. And now Toyota is quickly following that up with a plug-in version. So, let’s take a deeper dive into our prime suspect.
The 2023 Toyota Prius Prime is a prime example of what we feel is the ideal situation for personal transportation in our current times; a car that essentially operates as an EV until it exhausts its battery range, at which time it then behaves like an ultra-efficient hybrid until you plug it back in.
So basically, it’s a 5th-generation Toyota Prius with a bigger battery, 13.6-kWh to be exact, delivering 39-miles of all electric range in our XSE Premium tester. But, lesser trims see as many as 44, which is a 76% increase over last gen. Another bonus, it will fully charge in about 11-hours on a standard household outlet, so no real need to go through the expense of getting a Level 2 charger installed.
Having built hybrids for more than 25 years now, Toyota’s latest setup is well-sorted, quite refined, and even feels powerful at times, all part of the reasoning that the latest Prius earned our most 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-kW electric motor to the tune of 220-horsepower total, 26 more than the standard Prius. All Primes are front-wheel drive, but drive modes allow you to select EV or Hybrid operation, or you can just let the car figure it out for itself.
Inside, a 7-inch LCD driver display is mounted up higher than the typical gauge package, eliminating the need for any type of head up display. As for infotainment, most will come with an 8-inch screen that seems sufficient, but XSE Premiums get a 12.3-incher. With the additional rear seat space of this generation Prius, all positions now feel very spacious, and cushions are more comfortable than last gen. Rear cargo space for top XSE trim comes in the same as the regular Prius at 20.3 cubic-ft.
The Prime mostly shares the Prius’ modern EV-like shape, 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 exhausted the battery pretty quickly, so our average came in at near the Monroney sticker at 48.9 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
At our test track, the Prime’s added power was quickly evident, getting us to 60 in 6.5-seconds.
We could feel the electric motor really doing the heavy lifting off the line, with the gasoline engine gradually taking over. The CVT operates very smoothly, and the accompanying engine noise was fairly subdued, sounding more like just a healthy engine holding its note longer than normal, not so much the typical CVT endless droning. Our best ¼-mile time was 15.1-seconds at 97 miles-per-hour. Not bad at all for a hybrid.
Toyota really beefed up the Prius’ handling chops for this generation too. Even with some additional battery weight, the Prime felt quick and almost darty through our cone course, with controlled amounts of body roll and smooth weight transfer. The hard rubber compound of the tires was the only weak link here, but sliding them around proved to be more fun than limiting.
It’s difficult to make direct pricing comparisons, with Prime in SE, XSE, and XSE Premium trims, starting at $33,445, and the standard Prius following the LE, XLE, and Limited family, starting at $28,545.
Regardless, both configurations are highly functional. If you do a lot of highway driving, or don’t have the ability to plug in regularly, the traditional Prius hybrid is better than ever and can do the job for you. But, if you can benefit from maximizing that EV range, like for daily commuting, then this 2023 Toyota Prius Prime is a no-brainer, and primed to offer you the best of both worlds.
- Engine: 2.0-liter I-4
- EV Range: up to 44 miles
- Torque: 139 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 15.1 seconds at 97 mph
- EPA: 48-Combined MPG | 114-Combined MPGe
- Battery: 13.6-kWh
- Horsepower: 220
- 0-60 mph: 6.5 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 110 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 48.9 MPG