March 03, 2024
Wheels

Prius is efficient hybrid that's fun to drive

All-wheel drive option makes 2024 Toyota hatch great Midwest option

The 2024 Toyota Prius is a hybrid hatchback that can generate smiles behind the wheel, from the second row – and at the gas pump.

I’ve been reviewing cars long enough to remember my first impressions of the 2000 Toyota Prius. This was a car whose exterior design provoked crazy, extreme reactions that were only equaled by the crazy, extreme mechanical distinctions under the hood.

Ah, what a couple of decades will do for your street cred. The most notable ding on the Prius was always its exterior style – or lack thereof. There was nothing exciting, nothing inspiring about the Prius’ look, shape or design. Until now.

The 2024 Toyota Prius is a hybrid hatchback that can generate smiles behind the wheel, from the second row – and at the gas pump. This is yet another green tech vehicle that shows everyone that being responsible doesn’t have to be boring.

Maybe the best part about the Prius is the impactful hybrid four-cylinder powertrain and its combined 196 horsepower. For those of us in the Midwest, where weather extremes are the norm, an optional all-wheel-drive variant makes the Prius especially attractive.

After a completely new vehicle was introduced for 2023, the Toyota Prius liftback goes mostly unchanged in 2024. This is an exciting sedan that no longer counts saving on gas as its primary goal – it’s cool and fun to drive.

The cabin

I found the Prius’ cabin to be quiet, comfortable, and a contemporary reflection of sporty and tech. This is a compact car, not unlike the Honda Civic or the sibling Corolla in terms of cabin space. The sportier looks on the outside, especially the raked profile lines, make the space a little smaller for cargo – but not passengers. Cargo capacity is down by 7 cubic feet for this new generation.

Legroom is fine for a compact car, with four adults easily fitting in comfortably. The lower roofline upfront is offset by a sportier, lower seating position. I thought the higher center console not only added storage capacity but also made the position of the driver feel sportier.

Prius features Toyota’s tried-and-true infotainment system, which operates the same whether you opt for an 8-inch or 12.3-inch unit. I found the system to be incredibly intuitive to use and responsive. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are standard with upgrades available for the audio power and speaker selection.

For those who have experience in a previous generation of Prius, things (thankfully) have moved around a bit. The shifter is now more conventional on the center console, and the gauges are now directly in front of the driver (used to be in the center of the dash).

The overall material quality is better, featuring more soft-touch surfaces and a less-is-more approach to whiz-bang tech screens. The center console has more storage, big cupholders, a vertical wireless phone charger, and a huge bin under the armrest.

Performance

Prius is still selling you impressive MPGs and there’s no letdown in that category with Toyota estimates ranging from 49 and 57 mpg combined depending on the trim and drivetrain.

The standard Prius hybrid is a 2.0-liter inline-four cylinder with two electric motors, one of which contributes power to the front wheels. The all-wheel-drive Prius features a third motor dedicated to moving the rear wheels. The total output is 194 horsepower, or 196 hp with all-wheel drive.

Maybe the best part, other than saving cash at the pump every week, is the Prius’ 0-to-60-mph time of 7.2 seconds (or 7 with AWD). This is not the previous decades’ Prius and it is both quick and efficient.

While the Prius is not the sluggish shoebox of old, there’s still plenty of droning on and some delayed acceleration given the hybrid mix of powerplants. I did find the transition from electric power (at a stop) to engine power is noticeably smoother and with less noise than previous tests.

Pricing

The 2024 Toyota Prius offers three trims with optional AWD ($1,400) on each one. The base Prius LE starts at $27,650; the XLE trim will cost you $31,095; and the top-end Limited lands at $34,665. Toyota adds a $1,095 destination charge to the bottom line on the Prius.

My Limited tester was a wonderful culmination of high-tech goodies, a comfortable cabin, and a responsive and fun powerplant. This is a hatch that will inspire you to get out and not duck out of sight. It is still the bar for hybrids in my book, though the competition is closing in very fast.

• John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations and vehicles.