Toyota unveiled three major new vehicles Wednesday night ahead of the Los Angeles auto show.
Appearances at the show, which opens to the public on Friday:
- The bZ Compact concept, a small SUV that anticipates the second tranche of the company’s electric vehicle strategy. Toyota first unveiled the concept in Japan last December.
- The 2023 Toyota Prius Hybrid and Prius Prime Plug-in Hybrid, the latest editions of the fuel-efficient icon that has made Toyota the leader in hybrid vehicles.
Toyota has recently been criticized for being a latecomer to electric vehicle adoption as it maintains its leadership in hybrids that use both gasoline engines and electric batteries.
The Japanese giant argues that hybrids are the quickest and most realistic way to reduce emissions and climate change until all buyers are ready for electric vehicles, while other automakers – notably General Motors, Ford, Hyundai and Volkswagen – have a more aggressive sales schedule define a high number of purely electric vehicles.
“Twenty years ago, the Prius helped advance Toyota’s ‘green’ image,said Katherine García of the Sierra Club. “Today the Prius is a relic of the past.”
Longer range and (slightly) higher mpg
Faced with such skepticism, Toyota promises that the 2023 Prius Prime plug-in hybrid will increase its range by more than 50% on battery power over the 25 miles the current model can travel before its petrol engine kicks in.
Toyota also says the conventional hybrid will be the most fuel-efficient Prius yet, with a projected EPA rating of 57 mpg in combined city/highway driving. That’s 1 mpg better than the most fuel-efficient 2022 Prius.
Prices and official EPA fuel economy ratings for the 2023 Prius and Prius Prime will be announced before the 2023 vehicle goes on sale.
As the fifth generation of the car that inspired the Hybrid Surge, the new Prius retains the familiar aero hybrid look but adds a steeply raked windshield and aggressively flared fenders. The roof is 2 inches lower while the body is almost an inch wider with a short rear deck.
The Prius will be available with front or all-wheel drive. AWD models will have an electric rear axle. A new lithium-ion battery is smaller, lighter but 15% more powerful than the current Prius.
Front-wheel drive models have 194 horsepower and accelerate to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. That might not get your pulse racing, but it does put the current Prius’ 9.8-second 0-60 time to shame.
AWD models have 196 hp and trim 0-60 times even more, to 7 seconds.
According to Toyota, the electric motor powering the rear axle was designed to improve cornering stability and overall performance in low-traction conditions.
2023 Toyota Prius trim levels and select features
- LE: 17″ tires, 8″ touchscreen, six USB-C ports, blind spot and cross traffic alert
- XLE: 19-inch tires, dual cup holders for rear passengers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated front seats, power driver’s seat, wireless charging, front and rear parking sensors with automatic braking
- Limited: 12.3″ touchscreen, 8-speaker JBL audio, fixed glass roof, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, driver’s seat memory
Prius and Prius Prime safety and driver assistance features
- Pre-collision system with pedestrian, bicycle and motorcycle detection
- Lane Keeping Assist with Steering Assist
- Automatic high beam
- Adaptive cruise control
- Traffic Sign Recognition
- Pro Driving Assist automatic braking and steering assistance in traffic and in bends.
Prius Prime: More power and features
The Prius Prime will go on sale in the first half of 2023. It features a roof with solar cells that helps charge the battery while parked.
All Prius Primes have front-wheel drive. They develop 220 hp from a 2.0-liter engine, electric motors and a lithium-ion battery under the rear seat. The Prime accelerates to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds.
The Prime will add several driver assistance features. The lane change assistant checks for vehicles approaching from behind and steers into the next lane. The driver’s hands must always be on the steering wheel. The front cross-traffic assistant warns of approaching vehicles at intersections. The traffic jam assistant operates the accelerator, brake and steering wheel up to a speed of 40 km/h as long as the driver’s eyes are on the road.
The three trim levels of the Prime – SE, XSE and XSE Premium – are similar to the trim levels of the Prius Hybrid. The Prime plug-in hybrid offers some features not available on the hybrid, including the solar roof, heated rear seat and digital rear-view mirror.
Hints at upcoming smaller electric SUVs
The bZ Compact concept builds on the design of the larger bZ4X that went on sale earlier this year.
About 6 inches shorter than the 4X, the concept likely foreshadows a coming bZ3X.
The first two letters of Toyota’s rather tormented EV nomenclature – bZ – stand for “below zero,” a reference to the fact that EVs that charge from the mains don’t emit exhaust gases directly.
The bZ Compact concept is about 3 inches longer than Toyota’s small Corolla Cross petrol SUV. However, it’s 2.4 inches wider and has a 3.4-inch lower roof for a significantly sportier look.
Exterior flourishes include a narrow light bar across the nose, headlights that wrap nicely into the fenders, and pronounced rear hips reminiscent of Toyota’s small CH-R SUV.
The interior features seats made from recycled and plant-based materials to evoke sustainability. A digital assistant named “Yui” responds to spoken requests.