2023 Toyota Prius Limited AWD – Electricity on ICE

The Prius is the most iconic nameplate of sustainable mobility and the first step towards decarbonization.

About a quarter of a century ago, when Tesla was unknown in the automotive world, the Toyota Prius symbolized green cars. Hollywood stars like Jennifer Aniston, Leonardo Di Caprio and Harrison Ford were proudly driving Prius and believed to make a statement about sustainability and environmental awareness.

Times have changed significantly since then. And some things haven’t changed.

Toyota Prius is still with us. The most famous hybrid car in automotive history is in its 5th generation and still a green car. The reliability and durability of a Toyota is still a recognized fact in the industry. And as proof of this statement, some, if not many of the first-gen Prius cars are still on the road. In many cities of the world, a Prius taxi car can reach half a million kilometres and beyond without major problems.

But there is another problem which doesn’t sound like a problem at first: What does a Prius represent now?

In the last decade with a rush towards electrification, Toyota (and Lexus) introduced a hybrid version of almost every model. So, do we still need Prius? The author of this article will not be able to give a definite answer to this question. However, let’s have a look at the current model and we probably can draw some conclusions.

The 5th-generation Prius is an attractive car before everything else. It looks almost stunningly beautiful. The dynamic style and right proportions suggest great design work and sportiness. The strongly sloping windscreen promises great aerodynamics. The big, 19-inch alloy wheels are a testament to performance.

Before I sat behind the steering wheel, even before opening the driver’s door, I thought that this Prius was different. It exercises a new kind of freedom in the Toyota family, and this is also a kind of tragedy. Why?

The current Prius looks different than all previous generations. With every model of Toyota offering a hybrid version now and several models of EVs in the pipeline for the next few years, the Prius is no longer the only flag carrier of green cars. It is one of the models and probably seeking a new identity.

As more people start driving the new Prius, this car will find a new fan base which will probably be something like “green-conscious sportiness,” an electrified ice car.

2023 Toyota Prius Limited AWD: Interior

After a while inside the cabin, you will discover that design had priority over functionality. It is a clean design with a minimalist approach. For example, it does not have a giant screen that crosses the dashboard from one end to the other.

The 12.3-inch, multimedia screen is well-placed, easily legible and easy to use. It is good that not all functions and controls are screen-controlled. Physical buttons look solid and convenient for especially elderly people who may feel confused with digital controls. All surround, 360-degree camera and digital rearview mirror with washer are standard features usually found more in luxury brands.

However, the 7-inch TFT information screen is too far from the driver and the steering wheel partly covers the gauge cluster and even the 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat cannot help much. Kind of a blind spot that I did not have with any other car so far. And even for a not-so-big boy like me, getting in and out requires some exercise. All this is because of the strongly sloping windscreen. The 8-speaker JBL audio system provides excellent sound quality.

The coupé-like design of the roof limits the headroom in the back. The hatchback body style enhances the functionality. The power-controlled 5th door is easy to load and unload. The 575L cargo volume is not huge but good for a compact HB.

Nevertheless, will the new Prius be a perfect taxicab? Probably not and this is not necessarily a bad thing for Toyota either. The sleek, aerodynamic design plays an important role in testing the limits of fuel efficiency beyond the advantages of the hybrid powertrain. For quite a while after the launch of the first-gen Prius, Toyota offers better options as a taxicab, such as the Camry.

Engine & drivetrain

With the new-gen, Toyota replaced the good, old 1.8L engine (2ZR) with the new, 2.0L 4-cylinder, direct and port-injected non-turbo engine, called M20A FSX. With 196 horsepower, this engine generates 60 percent more power and torque, and you feel it in daily driving. This engine also has a non-hybrid version proven at other models. The new Prius is built on the second-generation TNGA-C platform.

As a new vehicle with modern technology, the new Prius in its Limited trim we tested, has an electronic on-demand AWD system as standard. There is no physical shaft and the rear wheels are powered by electric motors. This is a big plus for the Canadian winter and mild off-road driving when conditions dictate.

The battery is installed under the rear seat for optimal room economy. As is usual for a hybrid vehicle, the all-electric range is strongly limited and the fuel economy is dependent also on the driving habits and style of the driver. The control screen helps and guides the driver for more fuel economy. And for people who want a higher level of electric driving, the Prius offers Prime, the plug-in-hybrid model.

Driving Impressions

Driving the new Prius gives you the feeling of driving a sports car. With some reservations. As is almost inevitable with hybrid cars, the new engine is mated to an e-CVT transmission. It is not entirely new but updated. However, I am somewhat disappointed and believe that Toyota did not do the best it could. I am not a fan of CVT transmissions. As a long-time Lexus ES Hybrid driver, I must admit that the difference in the level of refinement is palpable. To be fair, we have the remember the difference in pricing and market segment of two vehicles.

Still, I expected a better integration between the engine and the transmission.

Few people may remember it: When the first Lexus came to the market in 1989, a critic in the American automobile press said that the powertrain was so good as if the engine and the transmission talked to each other. Back to Prius: By sudden acceleration, the vehicle literally “shouts”. The sound of a high-revving engine is disturbing. I dislike CVT transmissions and whenever I drive a vehicle with a CVT transmission, it looks like I share the control of the vehicle with another driver.

When it comes to fuel economy, the results are impressive. After nearly 300 kilometres of mixed-mode driving, I was able to score an average of 4.8 litres. What a great fuel economy for a young or empty-nester couple driving this vehicle while making a bold statement when it comes to style.


Subjectively speaking, the era of Prius as we know until today has ended with the last generation. Hybrid cars occupy an important market share, and the world relies less solely on the Prius brand and more on the car with the advanced fuel economy the new Prius offers.

Prepare to welcome a stylish, sporty car for young or senior families with an environmental consciousness in mind. The new Prius is overall a reasonable choice in this price category.

For more information please visit: https://www.toyota.ca/

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