2024 Toyota Prius Limited AWD: Stylish and Thrifty

Published on December 28, 2023 in Test Drives by Marc Lachapelle

In the history of cars, there were those before the Toyota Prius and the ones that came after. Introduced in Japan back in 1997, the humble sedan ushered in a new era of fuel economy thanks to a remarkably smooth and efficient combination of gas and electric power sources. Its exceptional frugality largely eclipsed the awful steering, brakes and handling, paving the way for other green cars to go mainstream in the years that followed.

To this day, Toyota has sold over 20 million hybrids globally including 8 million units of the Prius. The latter is as good a success story as it gets.

Photo: Toyota

That’s a Prius?!

For about a quarter of a century, the Prius was nothing more than a vehicle one would buy to help save the planet and save money at the pump in the process, with styling dictated by a focus on aerodynamics and performance taking a back seat to fuel efficiency. Looking good and having fun behind the wheel didn’t seem to factor into the equation at all. Of course, the Prius has also proven to be a model of durability and reliability despite the complex powertrain it relies on for motivation.

Then, at the 2022 Los Angeles Auto Show, Toyota took the world by surprise with a completely redesigned, fifth-generation Prius that for once sported a sleek and racy appearance. The new model is longer, lower and wider than its predecessor, with a giant windshield that gracefully blends into the long-arching roof culminating in a tiny spoiler atop a flat rear end. The car’s drag coefficient is somehow worse with the new and much more attractive design (0.27 vs. 0.24), but it almost doesn’t matter.

Photo: Marc Lachapelle

Another big surprise lies under the hood. The latest Prius combines an Atkinson-cycle, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with a pair of electric motors for a total of 196 horsepower. That’s 75 horsepower more than the previous generation. Not only that, but all Canadian-spec models come standard with all-wheel drive.

The Numbers Game

Our Prius Limited AWD tester accelerated from 0-100 km/h in 7.66 seconds, ran the quarter mile in 15.53 seconds (at a speed of 148.2 km/h) and achieved 80-120 km/h passing manoeuvres in 5.6 seconds. In comparison, the old, 121-horsepower Prius was 3.46 seconds, 2.42 seconds and 3.85 seconds slower, respectively. That’s huge not only in terms of performance but also safety. Fuel consumption? The official NRC ratings are 4.8 L/100 km city, 4.7 L/100 km highway and 4.8 L/100 km combined—essentially the same as before.

Photo: Marc Lachapelle

In the braking department, the new Prius Limited AWD needed 39.9 metres to stop from 100-0 km/h vs. 41.4 metres for the previous model. That being said, the brake pedal has a long stroke and feels soft, while the ABS proves quite noisy. Oh, and we noticed a fair amount of nosedive under hard braking. Clearly, there is still some room for improvement.

The doors close with a slam not unlike a 1968 Pontiac Parisienne, which is rather disappointing. Also, while the instrument cluster has moved from the middle of the dashboard to right in front of the driver, part of it is blocked by the steering wheel—unless, of course, you adjust the latter to the lowest possible position.

Photo: Marc Lachapelle

A similar display and layout can be found in the all-electric Toyota bZ4X crossover. You see, it was initially designed to go along with a yoke-style steering wheel, like the ones fitted to select models in Japan. And that yoke is controlling a variable-ratio, steer-by-wire system that reduces steering effort. Neither is available in Canada yet. We hope Toyota will fix this sooner rather than later.

Good Looks That Come at a Cost

The new Prius’ low-slung design comes at the expense of headroom both front and rear. The first-row buckets are pleasant to sit in and keep the body nicely in check, while the rear bench offers decent comfort and support. The trunk is a bit tighter than before, yet still reasonably practical, and the white Styrofoam trays under the floor don’t seem like they belong there.

Photo: Marc Lachapelle

The Prius offers a proper driving position, but the tiny steering wheel finished in matte leather is connected to a fairly lightweight and vague steering that lacks on-centre feel. That’s a shame, because the nimble, AWD-equipped Prius effortlessly attacks corners and isn’t prone to understeer despite what the squealing, low-rolling resistance tires may suggest. The body feels solid and ride quality on bumpy surfaces isn’t bad at all.

The low roofline is not a problem as far as visibility is concerned, but the long A-pillars sometimes get in the way when cornering. The small side windows are fine if you ask us. On the other hand, visibility out the rear window is severely limited, which makes driving in dense traffic or parking lots more difficult. The adequately sized mirrors and rear-view camera come in handy, mind you.

Ditto for the 360-degree camera feeding a crystal-clear image to the 12.3-inch centre display, both of which are included in the top-line Prius Limited AWD starting at $43,250 (MSRP) for 2024. These tech bits are tough to live without once you get a taste of them, but rest assured that the base XLE AWD model ($37,150) offers pretty much all the features you need.

Prius or Prius Prime?

Choosing between the standard Prius and the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid (starting at $39,050) is quite a dilemma. The latter enables up to 72 km of pure electric driving and comes with mouth-watering federal and provincial rebates, but unlike the former, it doesn’t benefit from all-wheel drive. There’s also a pretty long waiting list due to strong demand.

Go with the Prius if you want a more affordable and more readily accessible hybrid. Alternatives include the Toyota Corolla Hybrid and Hyundai Elantra Hybrid.

Watch: The Car Guide Presents the All-New Toyota Prius

Test drive report
Test model 2023 Toyota Prius
Trim level Limited AWD
Price range $37,150 – $43,250
Price as tested CA$43,500
Warranty (basic) 3 years/60,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 5 years/100,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 4.8 / 4.7 / 4.8 L/100km
Options Supersonic Red paint ($255)
Competitive models Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla
Strong points
  • Gorgeous lines
  • Sharper driving dynamics
  • Seriously improved performance
  • Just as efficient as before
Weak points
  • Odd instrument cluster layout
  • Rear visibility is severely limited
  • Rear door handles are not very handy
  • Space in the rear and trunk is tighter now
Editor's rating
Fuel economy 4.5/5 Still one of the most fuel-efficient cars around despite the big power boost.
Comfort 3.5/5 Ride quality is not bad at all and the front buckets are pleasant to sit in.
Performance 3.5/5 The new hybrid powertrain delivers spirited performance at last.
Infotainment 3.5/5 The large, crystal-clear centre touchscreen combines with a nice assortment of physical controls.
Driving 3.5/5 The latest Prius feels nimble and lively. Too bad steering lacks tactility.
Overall 4.0/5 The hybrid pioneer finally gets the sleek looks and pleasant driving dynamics it deserves.
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