What is this slick looking car? Did a Civic have an affair with a Lamborghini? What is this? A Toyota Prius! I was legitimately shocked the first time I put my eyes on the new Toyota Prius. The company has always been known for reliable and well-engineered transportation, but not necessarily cutting-edge design. However, not only is the new Prius well-engineered with its astronomical 52 mpg city and highway, but the design is downright sexy. Perhaps some of that sexiness of the sloping windshield rubs off to contribute to the fuel economy. My limited tester loads up the technology to make it compete with ultra-luxury cars. Imagine heated rear seats in a Prius. This could be the best Toyota Prius to date.
Oooh That Look
Now in its fifth generation, this latest Prius athletic look comes from a roofline that’s 56.3-inches high. That is around 2 inches lower than the previous generation. Its 70.2-inch-wide rear is nearly an inch stockier, too, adding flair to its modern style. The large 19-inch wheels fill the wheel wells, resulting in sport-inspired proportions that offer drivers added performance and handling. Coupled with the large wheels are 11-inch brake rotors on the front and rear, adding an inch to the previous model. Everything on the new Prius looks chiseled.
A lot of folks like EVs and plug-in hybrids because of the ability to operate without the gasoline engine. The 2024 Toyota Prius features an EV mode that allows it to move under its own electric power for short distances. This mode can be useful for operating the vehicle in parking lots or indoor parking garages. You can roll out of your garage in the morning without firing up the gas engine. Then you can press the garage door buttons built into the electronic rearview mirror and not leave any fumes behind. This is a godsend for those who are sensitive to the smell of vehicle exhaust.
We’ve all heard the tone generated by vehicles working in electric-only mode. Toyota calls it vehicle proximity notification, and it alerts pedestrians of the vehicle’s presence when running in battery mode. Of course, Toyota’s excellent vehicle safety suite is on board the new Prius.
e-AWD. It May Not Be a Bronco But …
Some consumers like the idea of the fuel economy of the Prius but are leaning toward a CUV for the addition of all-wheel drive. The new Prius has the ability to turn both sets of wheels through two electric motors. According to Toyota, the 2024 Prius e-AWD system gives it the capability to deliver added traction when needed – while retaining Prius’ exemplary fuel economy. The e-AWD system uses a motor to drive the rear wheels, enabling stable driving performance when starting off, when driving on slippery road surfaces, and to assist while cornering. As on other Toyota hybrids with e-AWD, it uses a separate rear-mounted electric motor to power the rear wheels when needed. AWD-equipped Prius models have a 196 combined system horsepower and a manufacturer-estimated 0-60 time of 7.0 seconds.
The Prius features a 12.3-inch touchscreen designed by the same Texas-based team that made the multimedia system on the new Toyota Sequoia that I enjoyed. Perhaps the easiest task is entering navigation destinations by pressing the small microphone icon and the excellent voice recognition understanding the address. With Intelligent Assistant, simple phrases like “Hey Toyota” awaken the system for voice-activated commands to search for directions, find points of interest, adjust audio controls and change the cabin temperatures. About the only thing I did not like was the location of the volume knob all the way toward the passenger side of the screen. You could use the steering wheel controls, but the volume knob made it seem like this Prius was thought of as a right-hand drive model for its native Japan. It isn’t a dealbreaker, but Toyota should move the knob for the US market.
Once you find the knob, the JBL audio system is a pleasure. Even though it only flaunts eight speakers in these days of luxury vehicles piling in additional drivers (speakers, not vehicle operators), sometimes simpler is better. The tweeter location in the sail panels works well in creating a stereo image (I was skeptical). The system also uses Harman’s Clari-Fi technology that is said to breathe life into compressed digital music formats. Overall, it is loud and clear like a good JBL home audio loudspeaker connected to a decent receiver.
Parking Made Easy
Some people are apprehensive about parking their car. The new Prius has a digital review mirror that can be toggled to a traditional mirror. Advanced Park is a well-engineered automatic parking system, especially since it uses a hard button on the dashboard to quickly enter parking mode. The feature takes control of the vehicle’s steering and braking to park in a selected spot. The spots come up on the camera view of the infotainment system. The system is capable of parallel parking and backing into a perpendicular space by using a combination of cameras and sensors to recognize the vehicle’s surroundings.
The Prius is easy to look at and live with. Coupled with phenomenal fuel economy without the need to plug it in, it becomes the obvious choice for anyone without access to a charging station. My fully loaded tester came in at $37K, but you’re getting a lot of technology for the money.