The car that pioneered petrol-electric hybrid technology for the modern era has been reinvented, with new looks, new technology and more power. But it is not expected to come to Australia.
The new 2023 Toyota Prius was unveiled in the US and Japan – but the ambassador of Toyota’s hybrid technology is not expected to return to Australian showrooms.
The new Prius, in its fifth generation since 1997, sits on familiar underpinnings but sports a new body, borrows technology from Toyota’s flagship models and gets a range of more powerful and efficient hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains.
But it won’t be coming to Australia, as the current-gen Prius was canceled locally in May – and its low sales likely make a return impractical.
Toyota has sold more than 300,000 hybrid cars in Australia, around 35,000 of which were Prius models – but after sales peaked in 2008, they never recovered, falling to fewer than 100 in 2021.
To set itself apart from Toyota’s Corolla and Camry Hybrid – which have far outsold it in sales – the new Prius cuts a smaller hole through the air than its predecessor and comes with more efficient hybrid powertrain options.
The entry-level option internationally combines a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor for a total output of 103kW – matching the 2023 Corolla Hybrid with which it shares its powertrain, and higher than the 90kW 1.8-litre prius
Toyota hasn’t released fuel economy figures, but Toyota’s global chief of design, Simon Humphries, told viewers of the car’s live stream that it will be the most efficient model in its “class”.
For the first time, a more powerful 2.0-liter hybrid system is available, shared with Toyota’s new small SUV Corolla Cross, developing 144 kW. Japanese reports suggest that both 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter Prius models will be available with front- or all-wheel drive.
The 2.0-litre model is the most powerful production Prius hybrid ever built and the fastest, with a claimed 0-100 km/h acceleration time in the US of around 7.5 seconds.
Crowning the offering will be a new Prius plug-in hybrid, combining a 2.0-litre petrol engine, multiple electric motors and a 13.6 kWh battery pack for a total output of 164 kW, with all-wheel drive as standard.
The claimed 0-100km/h time of 6.7 seconds is on par with the hot hatches of a decade ago – and a few tenths slower than Toyota’s GR86 sports coupe – while the all-electric range has been increased by a claimed 50 per cent, suggesting more suggests to 100 km in Japanese tests.
The plug-in hybrid’s battery pack is now located under the rear seats rather than under the boot floor – ostensibly to improve the car’s center of gravity and increase boot space.
It is believed that the basis of the new Prius is an evolution of the architecture of the previous model, which is also used by the Corolla hatch, the Corolla Cross SUV and a number of other Toyota cars.
European specs show the new Prius to be around 4524mm long, 1782mm wide and 1420mm high and ride on a 2750mm wheelbase – 46mm shorter overall, 22mm wider, 50mm lower and 50mm longer between the wheels than the previous car.
The design of the new Prius is more contemporary than the previous car – which was divided when it was launched in 2016 – with a slimmer five-door hatchback shape, smooth body surfaces and an aerodynamic windshield that almost merges with the bonnet line.
The LED headlights are inspired by Toyota’s BZ electric car range, while there’s a full-width LED taillight bar and alloy wheels measuring up to 19 inches in diameter – two inches larger than today’s car.
Inside is a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen fitted to the flagship models, running Toyota’s latest software with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation and over-the-air updates.
The outgoing Prius’ centrally mounted instrument panel has been ditched in favor of a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster – shared with the BZ4X electric SUV – in front of the driver.
Cloth or leatherette upholstery is expected to be available depending on the model class – with sport seats on flagship models – while a number of key interior controls have been moved to a series of slim switches on the dashboard.
Available interior features include dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated seats, an ambient lighting system integrated into the dashboards, USB-C ports, an electric parking brake, a panoramic sunroof and, on the plug-in hybrid model, solar panels on the roof.
Toyota’s latest advanced safety features are available and are expected to include Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
There’s also automatic parking, a built-in dashcam, a digital rear-view mirror and, on some models, in-car power outlets so external electrical devices can be charged from the car’s battery.
That 2023 Toyota Prius is slated to appear in Japanese showrooms before the end of this year in hybrid form, with the plug-in hybrid expected by mid-next year.
“Toyota Australia has no plans to launch the new Prius in the Australian market,” a Toyota Australia spokesman said in a media statement.
“In recent years we have significantly expanded our hybrid offering with vehicles suited to Australian market conditions including the Yaris, Yaris Cross, Corolla, C-HR and most recently the Corolla Cross.”