Toyota isn’t giving up on its iconic Prius nameplate, yet. An all-new and drastically different looking 2023 Prius hybrid and Prius Prime plug-in hybrid were unveiled at the City Market Social House in California on Wednesday night, ahead of the 2022 Los Angeles Auto Show.
“We want to build as many hybrids as we can because the goal is carbon reduction,” said David Christ, group vice president and general manager of Toyota Motor Sales USA, in a one-on-one interview ahead of the unveilings. “Since we started with Prius 25 years ago, we’ve sold 5.5 million hybrids in the U.S. – 20 million globally and that has resulted in 82 million tons of CO2 emissions that have been reduced – that’s the equivalent of 5.5 million all-electric EVs.”
Toyota is banking on a number of solutions, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and all-electric vehicles, to reduce emissions and reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. But some have criticized Toyota for not developing all-electric vehicles, or battery electric vehicles (BEVs) faster. Toyota doesn’t sell any all-electric cars in Canada. In October, Toyota resumed sales in the United States and some other markets of its first mass-produced all-electric vehicle, the bZ4X, after a recall because of risks the wheels could fall off.
“I would say that we’re really trying to improve and move toward carbon neutrality more than we are putting all of our efforts into one solution,” he said. “We started this effort to reduce carbon in 1997 with Prius and we really think the goal for the industry should be carbon reduction – not how fast can we sell how many BEVs. BEVs are great for a lot of customers, but they may not be great for every customer.”
When the original Prius launched it was the world’s first production hybrid car, combining an electric motor with a small high-efficient engine. And it was a homerun. Hollywood celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Aniston, and Cameron Diaz jumped on the Prius bandwagon, making it cool to go green. But, it has recently faced growing competition from other Toyota hybrids including the RAV4 hybrid and Corolla Cross hybrid and other carmakers. The Prius hasn’t been redesigned since 2015, which is long in a car’s lifecycle. Many cars see a redesign every four or five years. But this 2023 Prius hybrid makes up for lost time with a drastically different design language, more technology and improved fuel economy.
Designed in Japan, the all-new Prius is cool again. No longer quirky with odd angles and shapes, it’s sleek, sophisticated and striking with flowing aerodynamic lines along its body. Built on a new platform, dubbed the second-generation TNGA-C, it’s slightly lower and wider than the previous generation.
Under the hood is the fifth-generation hybrid powertrain coupled with a larger two-litre gas engine and a newly developed lithium-ion battery, located underneath the rear seat so it doesn’t eat up cargo space. The battery offers a 15-per-cent increase in output compared to the previous generation Nickel Metal battery – reducing the size and the weight. All-wheel drive will be standard in Canada.
Technology looms large inside with over-the-air updates, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and Intelligent Assistant, which allows you to use voice commands such as “Hey Toyota” to search for directions, adjust audio controls, or change the cabin temperature. Safety wise, it has the latest Toyota Safety Sense, or TSS 3.0, with Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection which can now detect motorcyclists, in addition to bicyclists and pedestrians, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control is standard.
Alongside the Prius was the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. For 2023, it gets a larger lithium-ion battery that increases its electric range by more than 50 per cent over the previous range of 40 kilometres. Plus, it gets nearly 100 more horsepower to 220 with an acceleration time to 100 kilometres per hour in 6.8 seconds. It also adds a solar roof – an on-board charging feature that uses roof-mounted solar panels to recharge the Prius Prime’s battery when parked. The panels deliver supplemental power to accessory functions, such as air conditioning, when driving and they also use a clever design that conceals the electrodes for a seamless look.
Toyota also took the wraps off a stunning all-electric vehicle, the bZ compact SUV concept with a tech-savvy cabin made with eco-friendly, sustainable materials and a rectangular-shaped steering wheel.
The Prius price and date it will go on sale will be announced later this year; pricing and sale dates for the Prius Prime will follow in the first half of 2023.
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.