Pros: Excellent fuel economy; cool looks; optional all-wheel drive; quick for a hybrid; good interior storage
Cons: Small cargo area; gauges may be hard to see; tech can frustrate; top trims awfully pricey
The 2024 Toyota Prius is the second model year for the latest Prius generation and we still haven’t gotten over just how radically different and better it is. It all starts with the looks: Not only is its design vastly superior to its predecessor, one of the ugliest cars ever made, it’s legitimately cool. The interior is also far more conventional in terms of design and functionality, resulting in a car that should be more appealing to those who haven’t spent the last two decades driving Priuses.
Basically, the Prius is no longer just about saving gas. You can look good doing it and it won’t leave you making sacrifices (OK, so the cargo area is pretty small). It also drives surprisingly well, with responsive steering, a composed suspension and surprisingly quick acceleration. In fact, the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid made us go “whoa!” when we gunned it from a stop.
Of course, the Prius is ultimately more about fuel economy than anything else, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. EPA estimates sit between 49 and 57 mpg combined depending on trim/drivetrain, which isn’t as big of a difference in terms of gas burnt as it seems. The Prime, meanwhile, can go between 39 and 44 miles depending on trim level on electricity alone before effectively operating like the regular model.
Add it all up, and the Prius is back on top in terms of hybrid appeal. Now, there isn’t actually a direct competitor (at least until the Civic Hybrid arrives for 2025), but the Kia Niro and various hybrid compact SUVs are out there for those OK with sacrificing a few MPGs for more passenger and cargo space.
What’s new for 2024?
After the radical overhaul last year, changes are 2024 verge on inconsequential. There’s a new lock/unlock chime! A new Integrated Streaming feature lets your stream your Apple Music or Amazon Music playlists through the infotainment system! And the price has gone up across the board by $200! OK, so that’s let’s exciting.
Those coming from a previous Prius generation are bound to find things have moved around a bit inside: The shifter is now on the center console and the gauges are directly in front of the driver. For those coming from any other car, you’ll find the new Prius agreeably normal. That goes for both functionality and appearance, but in terms of the latter, it’s an attractive design that doesn’t lose itself to its tech elements. Materials quality is better than the last Prius and is above-average for eco-oriented cars in this price range as well. The center console also offers thoughtful storage: big cupholders, a clever vertically oriented wireless phone charger, a large forward bin and a cavernous under-armrest bin.
We like that Toyota has maintained separate, physical controls for the climate system rather than mashing everything into the touchscreen as other brands increasingly do (including Lexus). The latest Toyota infotainment system is present, which works the same regardless of whether you get the standard 8-inch size or the 12.3-inch unit found in the uppermost trim levels. This system is certainly one of the better-looking ones, but it suffers from a few snafus that have us pulling our hair: no easy way to quickly exit Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, odd radio functionality and the navigation system erasing your preferred zoom and orientation settings every time you go to another touchscreen menu. Toyota ditching its old physical menu shortcut buttons is a big part of this.
Another controversial element is the gauge cluster. We like that it’s no longer in the middle of the car, but its placement above the pleasingly small steering wheel isn’t quite high enough to prevent the wheel rim from blocking the view for some drivers. The shorter you are, the greater the problem seems to be. Basically, Toyota solved one problem and created another.
The Prius is basically the same size as its predecessor, and in terms of the wider automotive landscape, is basically a compact car like a Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. It does pay a price for its racier looks, however. Cargo capacity is down by a not-insignificant 7 cubic feet for this new generation, and in our cargo capacity testing we found that it holds less luggage than a Kia Niro and both Honda Civic body styles (both of which will be offered on the upcoming 2025 Civic Hybrid). A high load floor and the lower, more raked roofline are the culprits here, which also reduce its versatility as a hatchback.
Rear seat headroom was already tight in the Prius and it basically stays the same despite the racier roofline. If you’re tall, your head is going to touch the roof. The slope of the door made it tricky to lift a kid into a child seat (and also increases the chances of adults clonking their heads). Legroom is just fine for a compact car, meaning four adults can fit quite comfortably. There’s no issue with space up front. The roof may be lower up there, but it was goofy-tall before, and the seat has been lowered. This not only creates sufficient headroom, but provides a more carlike driving position. A higher center console furthers the car’s overall racier feel as well as increasing storage.
The standard Prius hybrid powertrain consists of a 2.0-liter inline-four and two electric motors, one of which contributes power to the front wheels. The all-wheel-drive Prius features a third motor powering the rear wheels. Total system output is 194 horsepower (up from the previous generation’s measly 121) or 196 hp with all-wheel drive. The car’s 0-to-60-mph time is 7.2 seconds (or 7 with AWD), which is quick for both a compact car and a hybrid.
Fuel economy is 52 mpg in city, highway and combined driving for the XLE and Limited trim levels. Sticking with the base LE trim nets you ratings of 57/57/56, which seems impressive, but keep in mind that at these lofty mpg figures, the actual fuel cost difference is minimal. The least efficient Prius is estimated to cost you only $150 more to fill per year. Speaking of which, the AWD Prius XLE and Limited score fuel economy ratings of 49/49/50, while the LE is 54/52/54.
Prius Prime XSE Premium
You do not need to plug in the regular Prius for its battery to be recharged – the car does that itself by recouping energy normally lost while braking. The Prius Prime has a much larger battery, and although it too recoups a small portion of its capacity through regenerative braking, its full capacity is achieved by plugging it in. A regular household outlet will do, but it’ll take 11 hours to recharge. Install a 240-volt outlet or a home charger, and that time drops to 4 hours.
The result is that the Prius Prime can travel an estimated 44 miles (SE) or 39 miles (XSE, XSE Premium) using its electric motor alone. The engine will still fire to life should you need a little more acceleration oomph or if the climate control system demands it. Once the all-electric range is depleted, the Prime operates in the same way as the regular version … albeit with even more power. Total output jumps to 220 hp and the 0-60 time falls to 6.6 seconds.
Fuel economy estimates are tricky with plug-in hybrids since they’re so dependent on how often the individual owner recharges the car and how far they routinely drive. In short: the more you drive within the electric range, the more efficient the car will be. That said, the Prime’s mile-per-gallon-equivalent estimate (aka the EPA’s best attempt at measuring the fuel economy of PHEVs) stands at 127 mpg-e for the SE and 114 mpg-e for the XSE trims.
By Prius standards, the new car is a revelation. The electric motor runs just a bit longer while accelerating from a stop and when the engine does engage, it’s a much smoother transition and blending of power. There is generally less noise and vibration, which is also thanks to the more powerful powertrain that doesn’t have to work so hard. The old car’s hopelessly numb and imprecise steering is gone, and there’s even a Sport mode for those who want just a little more heft when turning the wheel. Body motions are also now better controlled and the ride quality is still good, even with 19-inch wheels.
Moving beyond comparisons to the old car, the 2024 Prius is a surprisingly spry driver. We took it up a tight, technical mountain road and it held its own, flicking back and forth between corners with impressive poise from the chassis. The steering is numb in terms of feedback, but the effort is consistent and appropriately weighted. Altogether, the Prius is more enjoyable to drive than the Kia Niro hybrid and plug-in hybrid.
There’s still plenty of engine droning due to the way the hybrid system operates, but this is alleviated to some degree with the Prius Prime. Operating in electric mode removes the engine from the equation in regular driving, though it will kick in with a hefty stomp of the throttle. Doing so will create no shortage of noise, but the resulting acceleration is legitimately quick.
One oddity in both cars is the standard Proactive Driving Assist that slows the car down when coming up to a slower car ahead or when approaching a turn. It feels like having adaptive cruise control or low-level EV regenerative braking engaged (the latter of which the Prime does not offer), and although the description of it sounds a bit HAL 9000, it works in a surprisingly natural manner. We only noticed it when approaching other cars, however, and not on some of the more engaging roads we tested the cars on. You can turn it off, but it comes back on after you turn the car off and on again.
What other Toyota Prius reviews can I read?
Dig deeper into everything that’s new about the 2023 Prius, including its design and engineering.
We went back to San Diego to drive the next batter up in the Prius lineup: the Prime plug-in hybrid.
The regular Prius and Prius Prime offer different trim levels. The regular comes in LE, XLE and Limited, while the plug-in hybrid offers the supposedly sportier SE and XSE. Unlike other SE/XSE Toyotas, there are no suspension and steering changes apart from a small structural brace in the front end of the XSE. There aren’t even particularly noticeable design differences apart from the red trim on the Prime’s dash and seats. Broadly speaking, the LE and SE, XLE and XSE, and Limited and XSE Premium align in terms of equipment. The Prime does offer a “solar roof” function not available on the regular model that’s capable of charging the battery while parked (albeit to only a tiny degree) and can even supply power to auxiliary vehicle functions once underway.
All prices below include the $1,095 destination charge. Each went up by $200 for 2024.
Prime SE: $33,770
Prime XSE: $37,020
Prime XSE Premium: $40,465
Every Prius comes with the “Toyota Safety Sense 3.0” suite of driver assistance tech: forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, rear automatic braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, Safe Exit assist (will warn you if you’re about to open a door into an oncoming car), the unique Proactive Driving Assist feature (see Drive section above), and adaptive cruise control with lane-centering steering assist and hands-free driving capacity under 25 mph on a highway.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the Prius a Top Safety Pick+ after achieving the best-possible marks for crashworthiness and crash prevention. It’s headlights scored a sufficient high “Acceptable.”