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Kelley Blue Book: It’s sexy, it’s fast. It’s…the new Toyota Prius?

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The new 2023 Toyota Prius

Toyota hasn’t released pricing for the 2023 Prius. We anticipate it will start around $26,000, climbing into the low $30,000 range

Toyota estimates that the hybrid Prius will achieve up to 57 mpg in combined driving, while plug-in hybrid versions could have an electric-only range of approximately 38 miles

The eco icon gets dramatic new styling inside and out, but efficiency gains are surprisingly modest

Toyota
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has revealed an all-new Prius. In some ways, it’s a dramatic leap forward for the world’s most well-known hybrid car. In others, it’s surprisingly not.

The Prius name is known for frumpy styling as much as for revolutionary fuel economy. The all-new 2023 Prius will change that perception.

Dare we say it – the 2023 Prius is a good-looking car.

Sleek, rakish new style

Designers have pulled off something remarkable. The 2023 Prius couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than a Prius. But it’s gone from awkward to sharply styled. 

The well-known Prius teardrop silhouette is here, but it looks more sleek and sporty than eco-conscious and nerdy. A sharply restyled front end wears narrow C-shaped daytime running lights as thin as slits. They sit above small projector headlights embedded in a long horizontal cut line like a sly smile.

The 2023 Toyota Prius

Toyota

A big lower air dam framed in satin gray is the only possible off-note – from some angles, the car looks like it’s yelling at the traffic in front of it.

The classic Prius wedge is more sharply raked, turning what was the car’s biggest visual drawback into a sporty stance.

The 2023 Toyota Prius

Toyota

Clean, appealing, simple cabin

Moving into the cabin, we find a clean layout, not quite Scandinavian in its simplicity but pleasantly uncluttered.

It lacks the traditional shade over the driver’s instrument bezel, instead using a hexagonal low-glare screen. A central touchscreen – 8-inches on lower trims and 12.3-inches on the top-of-the-line Limited grade – is mounted high, so the driver doesn’t have to look down to read it. But a physical volume knob and climate control buttons save you from paging through menus to adjust audio and temperature settings.

See: Want that $7,500 EV tax break? Why buyers need to talk with an accountant and not just a car dealer

With the available Connected Service Drive Connect subscription, owners get access to a voice-activated intelligent assistant (say “Hey, Toyota,” to activate it) for hands-free control.

Wireless Apple
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CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. Buyers get a one-month trial of onboard 4G Wi-Fi connectivity. That same connectivity will allow Toyota to send over-the-air updates to the new Prius, potentially saving owners a trip to the dealership for software updates and some recall fixes.

More driver assists

Safety gear includes Toyota’s Safety Sense 3.0 suite of driver assistance features, with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assist, and dynamic cruise control. A new Proactive Driving Assist system “provides gentle braking into curves or gentle braking and/or steering to help support driving tasks such as distance control between a preceding vehicle, pedestrian, or bicyclist.”

It can also slow the vehicle to a stop if the driver doesn’t respond to alerts to take control, as in a medical emergency.

Modest efficiency gains

By now, you’re noticing that we haven’t addressed the most Priusy part of a Prius. This is where it gets a little weird.

The current model earns up to 56 mpg combined. Toyota says the new Prius, in pure hybrid form, is the “most fuel-efficient Prius ever with a manufacturer-estimated 57 mpg.”

That’s…that’s just OK.

The Toyota Corolla Hybrid is EPA certified for 52 mpg in combined driving. The current Camry Hybrid is certified for 52 mpg by the same measure.

The Prius has always been viewed as the peak of hybrid capability. Prius buyers accepted awkward looks and, in some corners, a nerdy image in exchange for fuel economy well beyond what more conventional cars could achieve.

A plug-in hybrid Prius Prime increases the value proposition. Toyota hasn’t revealed the 2023 Prius Prime’s electric-only range, saying instead that it “increases its EV range by more than 50% over the previous range of 25 miles.”

But that figure isn’t much better than other products on the Toyota sales lot, either. The current RAV4 Prime can travel up to 42 miles on electric power alone. It’s not even clear that the next Prius Prime beats that number.

Toyota has likely improved the experience behind the wheel. The 2023 Prius uses a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine to replace the 1.8-liter model in the 2022 Prius. Combined with the hybrid’s electric motors, that means 194 horsepower in front-wheel-drive (FWD) Prius models and 196 in all-wheel-drive (AWD) versions.

Check out: Four valuable lessons I learned taking a road trip in an electric car

The added power, Toyota says, means a 0-60 mph time of 7.2 seconds in FWD models and 7 seconds flat when all four wheels are powered.

Prius Prime plug-in models get 220 horsepower and a 6.6-second ride to 60 mph.

We expected a new Prius to mean a jump in performance…but this isn’t what we had in mind. The 2023 Prius will be Toyota’s most fuel-efficient hybrid. But barely.

The 2023 Toyota Prius

Toyota

This new Prius seems out of character

Instead of the next leap in fuel economy, Toyota has brought us a sexier, quicker Prius that isn’t much more efficient than the model it replaces.

That’s a curious decision for a model that historically came with more green credibility than any other car. But in the electric car era, Toyota may be betting that the most environmentally-conscious consumers are moving on to electric cars.

The best way to sell a Prius may not be trying to steal eco-conscious buyers from Tesla
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Instead, it may be trying to entice Prius loyalists to buy a better-looking one.

Also see: How does this car seem to run on almost nothing? It’s really quite something

Price will probably play a big part in determining whether that approach works. Toyota says, “Price and on-sale date of the exciting, all-new 2023 Prius will be announced later this year.” Details for the Prime plug-in will be announced in the first half of 2023.

This story originally ran on KBB.com

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