Can a sedan be exciting? With their production numbers dwindling, sedans have adopted a rather inoffensive persona and seem now to make for average daily drivers—but there’s nothing in the rules that say they MUST be average. Every now and again, we get a sedan that helps remind us of this.
Your local Toyota dealership likely has the perfect example of this on hand: the 2023 Prius Prime, which delivers a remarkable driving experience surpassing most modern expectations for a sedan. It’s far better than last year’s model, thanks to a full redesign that elevated an already-great car to a new level of exceptional power, sleek design, and fantastic features.
An Engine That Wants to Be Driven
One of the most exciting things about the 2023 Prius Prime is its engine. This isn’t something I would say about most sedans out there. Some poor cars are laden with engines that just seem miserable, barely pushing out enough power to get onto the highway, wishing they’d been made larger or with better performance. The engine in the Prius Prime, however, makes its host a joy to drive.
This is a 2.0L four-cylinder plug-in hybrid that delivers 220 hp, which is a huge jump from last year’s model. Being a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) makes it a fantastic choice for anyone interested in getting a taste of what it’s like to own and drive an electric vehicle (EV) without making a full commitment to one. Some PHEVs are given a weak engine as a sacrifice to reap the greatest possible fuel economy, but that’s an outmoded design practice that doesn’t give you a true sense of what driving an EV is like. It’s fantastic to see how Toyota has addressed this.
Not only is the engine in the Prius Prime much more powerful this year, but it also performs better than the previous engine in just about every way. Thanks to its PHEV design, the Prius Prime gets an estimated 53 MPG in the city and 51 MPG on the highway, with an estimated 127 MPGe—an equivalent of gas fuel efficiency for electric operation. Not only that, but it can get up to 44 miles of estimated all-electric range from a full charge, letting you drive short distances—relatively moderate distances, really—without ever touching your gas tank.
As I said, this is an engine that wants you to get in, buckle up, and go for a drive. Its horsepower is excellent, the fuel efficiency keeps you on the road longer, and the front-wheel drive system is highly responsive, so you stay in control at all times. I’m particularly pleased by the fact that this is the standard—and only—engine available; you don’t have to pay more money to get a PHEV that’s actually a thrill to drive.
Fantastic Interior Features and Options
A great driving experience starts with the engine and performance, but it’s only ever as good as the interior features. I don’t need every vehicle to be a high-end luxury model, but it should at least be comfortable and have enough going on to make it feel like I’m driving a modern car and not something from the 1990s. There are three trim levels or grades available for the Prius Prime, and all of them have fantastic features inside—although you’ll get more at higher levels, as you’d expect.
The starting SE grade features fabric-trimmed front seats with six-way adjustable seating, along with a SofTex-trimmed heated steering wheel. It has a gauge cluster with a 7.0-inch LCD screen, numerous USB charging and connectivity ports, additional charging outlets, and a Smart Key system for the driver door as well as Push Button Start. Support for wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay syncing is standard on all Prius Prime models—plus, the SE has an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with a six-speaker sound system.
Moving up to the XSE grade brings along numerous improvements, such as an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated front seats, and SofTex-trimmed front seating with an eight-way power driver’s seat. The XSE comes with a Qi-compatible wireless phone charger and a Smart Key System on both front doors; more upgrades are available for the XSE that aren’t offered on the SE.
The XSE Premium represents everything the Prius Prime offers, such as heated and ventilated front seats, including a driver’s seat with two memory settings, and fantastic options like heated rear seats and a digital rearview mirror. This model features Digital Key capability that lets you use your smartphone as a key, making it even easier to go about your daily routine. The XSE Premium comes with a gorgeous 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, which is available for the XSE but not standard, as well as an eight-speaker JBL Premium sound system with an amplifier to seriously boost your overall driving experience.
Safety’s the Name of the Game
Don’t let the fact that I’m mentioning this third fool you: safety is the single most crucial aspect of any vehicle on the road. Powerful engines are great, and comfortable interiors make driving a lot more enjoyable, but these things don’t matter if you never feel secure. More than anything else, what excites me most about the Prius Prime is that every model comes with the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 driver assistance suite as standard, regardless of trim level.
Every Prius Prime features a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection to help avoid crashes with other vehicles and people, as well as Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control that makes long drives and daily commutes a lot easier. Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, and Road Sign Assist help drivers stay in their lane and remain aware of speed limits. Every model also comes with Automatic High Beams to help illuminate dark roads and deactivate to avoid blinding oncoming traffic, along with a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert to warn about vehicles hiding in blind spots or approaching while the Prius Prime is in reverse.
If these standard features aren’t enough, then there are even a few available options, such as Front and Rear Parking Assist with Automatic Braking, which is offered on the SE trim and comes standard on the two higher grades. A Panoramic View Monitor with a 360-degree Overhead View for low-speed driving is available on the XSE Premium trim, as is an Advanced Park system that offers hands-free parking. All of this comes together to create one of the safest vehicles on the road, which is always something to get excited about.
Bringing It All Together Into Something Remarkable
Not every vehicle out there needs to be as thrilling as a sports car, but that doesn’t mean a sedan should be dull or unpleasant to drive. The 2023 Toyota Prius Prime is the perfect reminder that even a four-door daily driver can be reinvigorated with an all-new design and major updates to make it fun and exciting to drive. A PHEV like this is the perfect vehicle for anyone interested in getting a sense of what it would be like to own an EV without committing to the fully-electric lifestyle; this model’s sporty performance and gorgeous design help showcase this beautifully.
I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, but if you find yourself feeling excited about what a Prius Prime has to offer, just know that you’re not alone. No one will blame you for acting on that feeling, either.