The Prius is reborn. But does it matter?
Twenty-five years after the nameplate made its debut, “just in time for the 21st Century”, and six years since the introduction of its astonishing looking predecessor, Toyota have revealed a new generation of their hybrid trailblazer. Billed as the “Hybrid Reborn” by its maker, the 2023 Toyota Prius is set to arrive upon European shores in the Spring.
Now in its fifth generation, this evolution marks the most striking change to the model-line’s silhouette since the second-generation model largely codified its appearance in 2003. Since then, it has been a case of iterative steps; even allowing for the 2016 model’s unorthodox detail design, which was applique really. But no mention of musicians, entertainers or indeed pop-cultural references of any stripe this time around however, for although the 2023 car carries a noticeable resemblance to prior Priuses, this one is considerably sleeker in form.
Clearly aerodynamic performance remains paramount for Toyota’s designers, so it is no surprise that the new for ’23 Prius appears so clean-lined. Most notable however is the pronounced rake of the front screen, the cleanliness of the nose treatment and flanks, and the pronounced wheel arch flair at the rear, which lends the car a distinct musculature – a first for the model line and one underlined by larger diameter (19″) wheels.
In a landscape where Tesla has latterly taken some of the Prius’ mantle, it is perhaps not altogether surprising that the new model carries some faint reflections of the Model 3, both in the shape of its daylight openings and more non-specifically in its pared back visuals. Shades too perhaps of the current Mazda 3 (if one squints hard enough). Quite what such a pronounced screen rake is likely to do for visibility or reflected sunlight remains open to speculation, although for now, in the absence of any reliable reportage, this will have to remain within the realm of the speculative.
Technically speaking, the fifth-generation Prius is based around an evolved version of Toyota’s TNGA modular platform, employing a double wishbone rear suspension layout at the rear and a MacPherson strut set up at the front. The 2.0 litre engine as fitted to the plug-in hybrid model is capable (Toyota say) of developing a maximum of 223 PS and 0-100 km/h in 6.7 seconds. Toyota also assert that with the PHEV’s batteries now mounted under the rear floor pan (rather than beneath the boot floor as of yore), the car’s centre of gravity has been lowered, while boot space has also been improved. Battery capacity has also been improved.
While a series hybrid model will also be offered in select markets, Toyota maintain that for Europe, only the 2.0 litre, PHEV model will be exported – this being where the bulk of new hybrid car sales currently reside.
Over its quarter century on the market, the Prius has suffered from something of an image problem, often being characterised as the chariot of the virtuous (or virtue signaller perhaps), while in the UK, it has largely become the preserve of the private hire trade. A lot of this ambivalence was a function of the car’s disciplined and rather self-effacing appearance (until the 2016 edition at least), meaning that for the private buyer, there was not a lot to hang one’s hat upon.
But for Toyota, the big question regarding Prius 5 has to be one of timing. There is no doubt that Toyota have succeeded in creating a far more visually attractive automobile, but will its arrival coincide with a decisive shift in the market as full EVs become the default choice. It will probably depend on the numbers.
What shall go to the ball? The Prius represented the future once, but the future now looks somewhat different. What remains unclear is how the market will view the fifth-generation Prius, and whether the latest iteration can sufficiently tilt perception in Toyota’s favour. Who shall go to the ball? Perhaps for the first time in 25 years, the Prius appears to be a genuinely attractive design. But is it timely or simply too late?
 Total cumulative sales of the Prius worldwide have reached approximately 5 million units, accounting Toyota say, for a reduction, equivalent to around 82 million tons of CO2 emissions as of March 2022.
 The outgoing Prius’ design was said by its designer to have been inspired by the stage costumes of popular songstress, Lady Gaga.
 The fully electric driving range for the PHEV is about 50% greater than the outgoing model.
48 thoughts on “Who Shall Go to the Ball and What Shall Go to the Ball?”
What more car could you possibly need?
This is the most beautiful Honda that Toyota ever built. I like the sporty Honda shape, but i don’t think, this is a good way for the Prius.
Why buying a Prius and not a Corolla? Because it is not a normal car.
No longer. The last Prius that looks like a normal car was the first Prius, puh…
The first Prius looked like a four wheeled Birkenstock sandal or horse hair sweater.
It was done deliberately because Prius Mk1 sold at a loss and too many customers would have meant too much money lost.
Now they are making money from selling Prii and the cars can look less repelling.
Viewed as styling, it’s neat enough. As a car fit for purpose, it baffles me. Most the Prius I see are Uber type vehicles and I ask myself – would I want to sit as a passenger in the back of this, with its small windows and possibly reduced headroom, or would I want to drive all day behind that very raked screen? No to both. Though possibly styling studios are knowingly reducing the glasshouse incrementally as they work towards autonomous vehicles that won’t require passengers at all.
My experience with Prii is limited to being a passenger in such cars used as taxis.
The most overwhelming impression when being driven in one is the lack of suspension comfort and the cheap materials used in the interior.
My own Prius experiences are much the same. I was pleasantly surprised by the drivetrain smoothness but disappointed by the ride. But, although a newish Prius is a pleasant environment compared with a knackered Camry with stained seats (a typical default minicab of the dark ages), it hardly cossets. Maybe as a city dweller I get the wrong idea of the Prius demographic, and there are plenty of private owners out there who will appreciate the more graceful design even if it comes with accommodation compromises.
I’d certainly not bet against Toyota knowing what they are doing, so maybe they are consciously trying to move the customer base away from private hire by producing this alternative hybrid Tesla for those still not ready to sit patiently around motorway charging stations with their Greggs pasties.
Same here – the Toyota taxis I’ve been in, including Priuses, have always been awful. That said, taxis drivers swear by them, as Toyotas are so tough.
I can definitely see the Tesla influence in the overall shape and design, and it’s a big improvement on any previous Prius – especially the current version.
The first Prius I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen in.
I like this. It’s amazing to think we can now buy the concept cars from my childhood. It looks like it could be the big brother to the eighth generation Honda Civic. What is the drag coefficient, have Toyota said?
In the UK at least there will soon be no financial incentive to buy an electric vehicle.
I shall look forward to being taxied about in one at some point.
“In the UK at least there will soon be no financial incentive to buy an electric vehicle.” That remark could lead down a rabbit-hole of general woes about the UK. In Denmark and Norway these cars are steadily increasing in number, even inside the last year the leap is palpable. In Norway I stopped noticing when several e-cars passed by in an uninterrupted row.
It’s easy to go electric when most of your energy is produced in hydroelectric power station and the whole experiment is financed by selling your oil and gas and resulting CO2 emissions to other countries.
It could, but nonetheless it’s true. Yesterday it was announced that electric vehicle owners will have to start paying Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax) from 2025. The UK government already previously stopped the £3,000 grant towards the purchase price of an EV.
I don’t think it’s any great surprise to anyone that as the UK roads fill up with more electric vehicles the government were going to want to take a share of the action, but policy drives behaviour. It’ll be interesting to see if this puts the brakes on EV adoption in the UK.
The financial incentive comes still from lower operating expenses!
I must congratulate Toyota´s designers for finding a way to resolve the problem of the lights/bumper/bonnet junction. On a lot of cars the bonnet´s leading edge meets a bumper element; this junction often meets the lamp silhouette at an open angle and so creates a triangular rathole. This car has the three items very nicely arranged so the lamp outline carries on to the bonnet´s leading edge. The lamps are behind a rectangular graphic unifiying the lamp, badge-panel and what looks like a residual air intake. It´s a fine-looking device overall.
A crucial remark, Richard.
(I would point out Megane Mk2, various Yaris gens and some BMW models as the most prominent victims of that front-end Bermuda triangle you just defined in a scientific manner).
It’s reported that this new Prius won’t be sold in the UK market.
Yes – that’s a shame as it looks like it’s a nice car. I wonder how tall it is -it looks really low.
They only sold 563 Priuses in the UK last year, as opposed to 18,000 C-HRs. I wonder if they showed the new Prius to prospective UK buyers?
Not just the best looking Prius ever, but the best looking Toyota (by a country mile) in years. I’ll have mine in this colour, please:
If it’s a good to travel in, and not too compromised by its low-slung style, then Toyota should be onto a winner.
Has anyone seen a Nissan Ariya? That one is also very impressive. If I make a list of the new car designs that most stand out, they are electric.
There’s something Mazda-inflected in the surfacing that lends a greater sophistication than Priuses before. Together with one of the most tidily managed DLOs I’ve seen in a long time (especially given integration of the back door handle and complex A-pillar treatment) and a front end that feels elegant and effortlessly resolved vs the laboured and overwrought that is so much the default today, it’s a finely honed and crafted breath of fresh air that hopefully others will pay attention to. Hope springs eternal.
And they’ve also avoided the awful Lexus-front-end which was encroaching on many Toyotas.
I also like the Ariya – looks superior and premium compared to BMW, Audi and Merc equivalents.
Really nice – save for the extreme rake of the “A” pillar, which makes it unacceptable.
I think this is excellent, but like Eóin, I wonder if the Prius’ moment has passed, at least in Europe. Especially as Toyota is finally gathering steam (as it were) with its electric offerings (if not their nomenclature). The Gaga Prius already signalled that Toyota was seeking to rid the model of its staid image, this is just the continuation. A truly remarkable continuation, though. Kudos. A great joy to see such an attractive design from an established maker.
Honda has been mentioned in the comments, and I must say I’m glad that marque is abandoning its Gundam styling:
The detailing and shutlines aren’t all there, but at least they make for more palatable offerings. They’re also a bit less “deflated” than Mercedes’ current output, I think, which is more or less farina (the foodstuff) with a star planted on it and some Christmas lighting thrown on.
Yes, Honda are definitely back with the styling. The Civic is sleek and mature, without being boring (perhaps only cheating a bit on the footpring/size, and it is sobering that they do not have a conventional offering in a segment below.
It speaks volume about where the market is headed
(Jazz/Fit is something else altogether).
The Accord is also harmonic and smooth, although way more grown-up, and somewhat Da Silva – Audi-like from some angles, sacrificing visual identity for a subdued poshness
and class. Fitting, I guess.
On a marketing level, perhaps Honda are aware that the
non-SUV automotive goods will soon be mostly covered
by three cars:
One, a midi-MPV, “M”.
Another, a sedan in disguise, “L”.
And another, proper sedan, “XXL”.
(On another topic, but in relation to the above diminishing-segment talk: the Fiat 500 is fighting strong, and its Trepiuuno visuals are proving surprisingly resilient
and long-lasting – I find it fascinating, as it has become
a crucial part of the Strassenbild *both* in the USA and
in Europe, and they seem to be everywhere and enrich
the urban landscape no end. Chapeau!).
Indeed. I am surprised by the vitriol toward the new Accord in many American autoblog circles. You’d think Honda committed a heinous crime by cleaning up their D-segmenter with the cries of, ‘it’s so dreadfully boring and generic!’ Well, I for one welcome that after the rather visually noisy and challenged preceding generation, and Honda has historically been known for its clean design style anyway so it’s a bit of a return to form.
I do concede that it lacks a bit of distinction towards making it a ‘Honda’ stylistically, but that doesn’t make it an unattractive car by any means. I feel it’s a fair bit more angular than da Silva’s work for Audi—to me it seems more in line with Skoda’s circa 2015 design language merged with some of Peugeot’s latest efforts, sans the copious visual noise that has infiltrated French car design of late.
Hi Alexander. Looking at the photos you posted, I wonder if the new accord isn’t just a heavy re-skin of the superseded model? The DLO looks remarkably similar. I agree that its calmer looks are an improvement.
It is certainly largely just a reskin, though at this point most automakers are calling these thorough reskins ‘new generations’ (see final NMS Passat) to try to get buyers interested.
I understand fully the apprehension toward some of Honda’s recent US market design decisions, and the best way I think I can explain this is that these “cleaner” new generations look better (much, in some cases) in photos than they do in real life when seen as a whole. The latest Civic sedan is less affected to me, but the hatchback is jarring. The square-jawed low and flat front is completely at odds with the curvature going on with the bowed effect of the greenhouse, rear and actual tailgate itself. It comes across as if two completely different cars were conjoined in the middle. I fear this may affect the latest Accord in some fashion as well. The North American HR-V is bottom heavy and has a beginning-to-melt chocolate chip effect going on that I find extremely unappetizing . The CR-V seems promising in photos, but I thought the same about the HR-V, and as such don’t have particularly high hopes of being pleasantly surprised. Lithe does not seem an appropriate adjective when describing any of these new Honda products, unfortunately.
I do get the feeling they were going for “substantial” rather than “lithe”, yes. I do feel Honda’s latest efforts are better than the previous ones, but there was a lot of room to grow. We don’t get the American HR-V over here, which in pictures looks a bit Porsche-Macan-through-a-heavily-vaseline’d-lense to me. The European one (more compact, inevitably) looks alright – for an SUV. I haven’t yet seen a Civic in the flesh, I think, so I’ll have to withhold judgment.
Given the market situation in Europe (up until five or even three years ago, that is), it is a shame that the Jazz/Fit is such an idiosyncratic car while the Civic’s aims are more universal. For the last decade or more, the B segment has been more or less defining in Europe, as the C segment was before that. Surely this is part of Honda’s decline over here. Now with SUVs being their despicable trend, the much more universally appealing (if still expensive) HR-V – the European one – should stand more of a chance. Universally appealing next to the Jazz, I hasten to add. It’s still a nicely leftfield choice in broader terms.
Futhermore, after years in which it seemed Honda was going to follow Daihatsu and pull out of Europe (even if as a company, Honda is several times larger and independent), I’m happy that they seem to have renewed their commitment to this market.
Echoing the previous comments about the profile looking like a continuation of the previous Civic – perhaps with elements of the latest Leaf or Corsa E around the front lights. Looks like it is a coupe now…no, wait, I was tricked by the ‘hidden’ handles…
Looks like it is true – only 563 sold in the UK last year (the article compares that with 18k CHR): https://www.carmagazine.co.uk/car-news/first-official-pictures/toyota/prius/
It seems that UK EV VED will be at the post-2017 standard rate of £165 per year (second year onwards). The EV exemption from the £40k+ supplement will be dropped, meaning VED of £520 for years 2-5 instead.
A recent Auto Express review of the latest MG5 suggested that taxi drivers have moved to that, although I haven’t seen one myself.
In London, lots of Kia/Hyundai electric cabs and ID5s, too. And of course our plug-in hybrid London Taxi.
I love this – the first shape I’ve seen to wipe out some of my nostalgia for the Citroen GS that was the first car I drove when I got my licence. You see loads of Priuses (Prii?) in the US – it’s one of the definitive “non-truck” choices as far as I can see in bits of the Pacific NW. I really respect the Japanese logic that rejects huge batteries and keeps looking for ways to persuade us (Mazda MX30, Honda E) that 100 miles is plenty of range 90% of the time, so why carry more weight and use more materials for the edge cases? If only chargers were reliable when you reach them. EV buyers (myself included0 end up paying for larger batteries than we need to circumvent the uncertainties of charging away from home. The unreliable infrastructure also means that people are reluctant to buy a cheap second hand first-gen car like a Leaf with 60-70 mile range, which otherwise would e a bargain reliable entry point. No such problem with a 150,000 mile Prius!
It is definitely not too late – would prefer to swallow this assumption only if understood as a rhetoric, ‘protreptike-tehne’ fuel for a fruitful commentariat debate (Btw., DTW
seems to be heading in that direction – both sad and a joy, depending on what one has learned to expect from it
– but I surely digress).
A further ‘spike’ that Doyle nonchalantly throws in the article, is “…as full EVs become default choice”. Could be valid in
a localised context, but even then, probably a useful intellectual nudge in the ribs once more – esp.when observing the private purchase statistics – where styling obviously matters more.
And, in fact, Prius’ only limitation from becoming the
‘Alt Mainstream’ (yes, we do live in a paradoximoronic era!)
in Europe, as it undoubtedly has been in the States, was
its unorthodox, rather “Forcefully-Sci-Fi” appearance
(as Doyle rightly anticipates).
What we now have on the table is a shock to the system,
I think. Toyota seems to be in a now-or-never path these days. Apart from the hideous wheels (nowadays apparently
a politically-correct feature, as if The Wheel is being
made ugly on purpose…), a very pleasant shock it is.
Although the slightly angled transition from hood
to windscreen makes a somewhat half-baked effort,
the way they managed to execute a “Smolten-Cybertruck”
roofline/DLO, coupled with a clever way it is visually
anchored to the (almost 992-like) sculpted flanks/rear wheelarch, is nothing short of profoundly admirable.
The front end solution is something entirely new,
authentic and so pleasing to the eye it is almost
a surprise to witness it in 2022 – the year when most
front-ends appear almost gaping in a downright
If it wasn’t for the somewhat droopy rear-end horizontal layout (and those unbelievable wheels), I would guess
the ’23 Prius would be almost Supercar-like in its
assumed street cred / stance. Perfection to these eyes.
In hindsight, deleting entirely the visual notion of a flat,
or relatively flat roof surface, was something the public was apparently not prepared to swallow. It is such a novelty, that the Prius generations had to bear it as a handicap – and it
is only now they turned it into a clear styling advantage.
(The Cybertruck apparently helped to make such a solution
more palatable, and, what with it being so radical in its
razor-like, stainless-steel edginess, even made it
subliminally attractive in the process).
The ‘polite’ crease, starting in the lower middle part of the front door, is obviously there to supply visual directionality
to the shape (an inevitable victim of the peculiar roofline(s),
a trait that the Cybertruck does not suffer that much from because it is a pick-up and clearly conveys which is
the front – despite its house-like roof).
Doyle is right about the Kodo Arigato influence, as the pronounced contrast between the sculptural curvature
of the rear flanks, and the visually rigid front fenders,
is almost a direct nod to Mazda’s 3 (especially the HB).
Almost guaranteed to yield a dramatic street presence.
A really lovely looking car. I can see the influences others have mentioned – the Mazda3, mid-noughties Civic, and Tesla Model 3 (the latter to an extent – I really can’t warm to that car’s looks). It’s well proportioned, has a great stance, nice taut surfacing and neat detailing.
It also rings bells as a ‘last hurrah’ – a final attempt to inject life into a dying breed – and as such reminds me of the most current (recently extinguished) Renault Scenic, which went all cross-over-esque in order to disguise its MPV-ness.
Good point about the Scenic, although this ‘hurrah’ strikes me as more convincing than the never-entirely-honest Scenic. Also: Toyota sells globally, while the Scenic was Europe only (for all intents and purposes anyway). If the Scenic had been a global car, Renault would have kept it an MPV and racked up sales in Asia and the US. Likewise, the Prius might very well stand a good chance outside Europe where charging infrastructure is (even) less prolific. Although Toyota’s boast of by how much the Prius’ success has reduced carbon emissions is a tad self congratulatory, it does have a point.
This has already been debated at length on the more U.S. centric blogs I frequent but it is certainly commendable, the restraint and cleanliness of this new Prius. For DTW I’m surprised there isn’t more whinging about the ‘DLO fail’ filler panels at the front and rear which first made their appearance on the current Corolla sedan; the fact that there is one on each end definitely cheapens the look by making the DLO appear ‘bracketed’ by plastic.
Previously I’ve come to the defense of the hidden rear door handle and I think it works well here, but with the caveat that I think a hidden rear door handle combined with a DLO fail is simply clumsy (also see last gen Juke for this). It means the entire rear section of the DLO is all plastic fakery, and I wonder how it must impact interior visibility for rear passengers. I am a huge proponent of the ‘third light’ on fastback cars to lighten up the back seat area so I am disappointed that it hasn’t returned (last seen on the gen3 Prius).
Many people mention the Model 3 connection, but I’m afraid to say I don’t really see it. Graphically they’re similar, sure, but the Model 3 has a much lower longer hood shape and is staunchly not a hatchback. This Prius reminds me more of a ‘chopped’ Xsara Picasso with its nearly one-box form. I find it fascinating and a bit hilarious that Toyota’s new corporate fascia is highly similar to Ferrari’s as seen on the SF90 and Purosangue. I wonder who came up with it first?
All said and done, I view this new Prius as part of Toyota’s subtle push for a ‘near-premium’ lineup within its typical fare. In the U.S. we get the Japanese-built Venza and Crown Cross which sit toward the pricier end of the Toyota spectrum and are hybrid-only. It seems like this new Prius will also be in that realm of ‘premium hybrids’ in contrast to the more mainstream Corolla, RAV4, and Camry type products. That’s backed up by the fact that for the first time ever the Prius will be available with over 200 hp! (though only for the PHEV)
I think the DTW commentariat is sufficiently pleased with the overall calm of the design to be able to overlook the DLO fails you spotted. I saw the messy area ahead of the side mirror but thought, heck, the rest of it is very nice. If you don´t want plastic bits on the DLO the effect can be limiting. Sometimes it´s egregious e.g. the last Opel Insignia or the second Lexus GS. Other times, it seems acceptable. I don´t see a Tesla link; I do see a hint of Xsara Picasso – well spotted.
I’m prepared to give Toyota a pass on the detail stuff. The Prius is a fairly inexpensive car, so one can forgive a few cost-cutting cheats. Rather this than the visual horrors perpetuated by any number of European ‘premium’ carmakers, who are running out of excuses even faster than ideas.
My only driving experience of a Prius was a second generation version, which did impress from a drivetrain perspective. I have also travelled in the back of a Prius taxi and can confirm that the ride was jarring. However, I am certain that the advent of 19″ inch wheels will do wonders for this…
Great call on the SF90. I also thought “Ferrari” when I first saw the Prius and I’m surprised you are the only person to point this out!
I would guess it was the Ferrari which influenced the Toyota rather than the other way round, as in addition to the front end it also has a facsimile of the SF90’s crease on the lower half of the door panel. Taking these two elements into account, I’m struggling to think of another mainstream car that has so obviously taken inspiration from/ripped off (delete as appropriate) a supercar since the Sierra with its Porsche 928-worshipping glazing. Any other suggestions?
All that being said, this is by far the best looking Prius, with a great stance and nice clean surfacing. A massive improvement on the ghastly, melted 2015 car.
It’s impossible to know the inner machinations of either company, but it was odd to me that Toyota showcased the Crown ‘Sport’ variant CUV right before Ferrari unveiled the Purosangue, and their styling cues are just so similar to my eyes. WBizarre on my ‘home’ blog of Opposite-Lock created this .gif to compare the two (if WordPress will allow the animation to play):
I can see the Xsara Picasso similarity; I knew there was something else familiar about this car.
Out of curiosity I threw together a Powerpoint to compare the new Prius and the Xanae concept; the shapes are remarkably similar:
What a beautiful car this is. I really hope it will be available in the UK.
To answer Ceri’s question, the Rover SD1 owed a lot to the Ferrari Daytona, didn’t It!
Cannot think of any other cars though.
The only two I can think of are the Fiesta’s ‘Aston Martin’ grille and the ‘Miniature Maserati’ Fiat Grande Punto.
I like it and , as a matter of fact, I would certainly consider buying one if it drives reasonably. Here in South America the infrastructure has a long way to go so pure EV are not going to become really practical in the near future; I believe that is also the case in most of the southern hemisphere.
Hasn’t the Prius lost its relevance anyway? I mean, most of Toyota’s European range is already either only hybrid, plug-in hybrid or has an optional hybrid version in offer, so what’s special about the Prius now? What does it bring to the party? I remember when the whole deal about the Prius, especially Mk2 and Mk3, was that it was a sort of hybrid Corolla/Camry alternative for progressive thinkers. Now almost every car sold in Europe that is not electric is a hybrid too; nothing special in that. Don’t get me wrong, I love the “ultimate in efficiency” mission of the Prius in any of its vintages, and this new one with its super slippery bodywork certainly covers that mission, but I wonder if that’s going to be enough to justify its existence. I have a feeling that this will be the last Prius.
Yes. I was wondering if someone else would say this.
It’s certainly the most attractive Prius for ages – heck, the most attractive Toyota anything for ages – and for that point it is to be applauded. But is it really necessary? With hybrid versions of most (or all) of their other vehicles, is there still a need for the Prius to exist as a separate model?