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The new Toyota Prius that looks good and is fun to drive. We never thought we’d be writing that

The biggest hurdle is the price, but the latest Prius possesses an allure the model never had before

2023 Toyota Prius phev

It has taken five generations and over 20 years, but Toyota has finally got the Prius right. At least in terms of styling, for the technology behind the famous hybrid model was pioneering from the first time it hit the road.

Past Priuses carried a lot of eco kudos. But they were oddballs in terms of styling and design. They had a look only a Toyota engineer could love. People bought Priuses for practical reasons and eco image; no one ever longed for one.

That’s what makes this version so remarkable.

Let’s be clear; the new Prius is a great-looking car. We never, ever, thought we would be writing that.


Just for a moment, let’s park the eco-credentials. If this car was a pure petrol-guzzling sports coupe, we’d still be admiring it. The fact that it’s a plug-in hybrid, delivering 70km of full EV motoring before turning to its petrol-electric hybrid origins is a large boon. But for a certain cohort of car fans that’s merely the cherry on top.

The downside of the new styling is a little less practicality. Taxi drivers, mainstay customers for Prius – particularly used imports – will be disappointed with the lower roofline, which has impact an not only on getting in and out of the back but also in terms of headroom. The boot, while long, is not as adept at lugging several suitcases and duty-free bags from the airport. At less than 300 litres with the back seats up, that’s in the ballpark of a regular hatchback.

But for private buyers, none of these limit its ability as a family car, while the significant improvements in cabin quality make it a far more enjoyable place to spend your time.

2023 Toyota Prius phev

Drawing a lot from the interior of Toyota’s new EV, the BZ4X crossover, the new Prius has a clean uncluttered dash with a relatively small steering wheel and high-set instrument cluster. The controls are also world’s better than the past versions.

For €45,900 you’d rightly have expected that, particularly considering that a year ago a Prius (albeit non-plug-in) would have set you back just €31,450.

It doesn’t end there. The new Prius is actually nice to drive. Another first.

That’s largely down to one feature: Toyota has finally got the electric-power-to-petrol-engine recipe right.

Boasting an official full-electric range of 71km on a single charge of its 13.6kWh battery pack, with CO2 emissions of just 16g/km, once that’s completed the Toyota reverts to regular hybrid mode, with recuperated power feeding into the battery to support the 2-litre petrol engine.

It’s in this hybrid mode that the new generation really shows off its improvements.

Previous versions of Prius were unpleasant to drive unless you were feather-light on the throttle. Any pressure on the accelerator was met with a cacophony of whining from an underpowered engine and a CVT automatic transmission resistant to anything but slow, sedate driving.

2023 Toyota Prius phev

This time there’s an extra 100hp on offer along and it ultimately delivers a much smoother – and less noisy – acceleration. That 80 per cent increase in the hybrid systems horsepower compared with the previous generation plug-in version’s 122hp pays off every time you press down on the throttle and it’s a far more refined drive than any previous Prius.

Ultimately the various power options delivers an official WLTP fuel economy figure of just 0.7l/100km, which in old money is a whopping 336mpg (and no, that’s not a typo). In real-world it’s generally as efficient as you’d expect, though we did find it was matched by its crossover sibling, the Rav4, which is a bit strange considering the Prius as the poster car for fuel efficiency within Toyota for so long.

This is not the first Prius to be offered as a PHEV – Toyota initially introduced this format to the range back in 2012 – but it’s the first time the Japanese have adopted it with such enthusiasm. In the past, its engineers remained unconvinced of the benefits of the PHEV format, given that it required a much bigger battery pack than the regular hybrid, which was then dead weight for the car to haul around once the battery was empty.

Improvements in battery tech and the EV range have convinced them that it’s now a viable option for European buyers, so the regular hybrid will no longer be an option.

Our test drive proved the 86km in full EV mode to be a realistic target on a variety of Irish roads, and the car runs as a full EV during this time up to speeds of 130km/h.

2023 Toyota Prius phev

Admittedly charging does take time, as the maximum rate of charge for the Prius battery is just 3.3kW. That certainly means a Prius will not be welcomed at fast public charging parking spots.

The one issue we had with the new Prius was in its handling, being sometimes rather skittish when the extra weight of the battery pack comes into play, even though it shares the same underpinnings as the impressive Corolla.

While the millennium Prius was the car of choice for virtue-signalling celebs, it has been overtaken here by a fleet of fully fledged EVs. In the meantime it became the car most likely to turn up when you used a taxi app. The one-time star had become a dented hackney of the eco-world.

With this latest generation, Toyota is redefining the Prius as a car you would want to buy that happens to deliver on the environmental front. All the more so because it’s not yet another SUV or crossover. The biggest hurdle for this car is that price, but there’s now an allure that never existed with this car.

That’s combined with the ability to do 80km solely on battery power, along with the reassurance that you can then lean on the petrol tank to get you further if you need it. The Prius also packs enough punch in terms of performance to warrant those sleeker coupe looks. It’s that level of flexibility that will appeal to a new generation of Prius buyers, who don’t decide their car purchases solely on fuel economy grounds.

Lowdown: Toyota Prius PHEV

Power 2-litre petrol engine combined with 13kW battery pack to deliver 223hp

CO2 emissions 16g/km

Fuel consumption 0.7l/100km (336mpg)

Electric-only range 71km

0-100km/h 6.8 secs

Price €46,530

Our rating 4/5

Verdict Finally, a Prius that you’d want to buy for more than its eco-credentials

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer

Michael McAleer is Motoring Editor, Innovation Editor and an Assistant Business Editor at The Irish Times