when 2023 Toyota Prius When first unveiled, pretty much the entire universe was awestruck by its all-new, And honestly striking, styling. The whole design works really well to create a cohesive, futuristic look for a car that wasn’t really known as a style icon. Toyota says this departure from the Prius past is the company’s way of making hybrids more attractive to younger buyers. I sat down with Satoki Wa, chief engineer of the new fifth-generation Prius, to find out more.
“We wanted to make a nice car that drives and performs well, and so when the design first came to me with the initial sketches, I thought it was really good,” Waugh told me through a translator. “So, the whole development team said, ‘We want to build this.’ What you’re seeing is actually the end result.”
During our conversation, Waugh also slyly ribbed the Prius currently on the market, saying the Prius has always been a good-looking vehicle… “4th generation aside.”
I asked Waugh to name his favorite part of the new car’s design. Coincidentally, this is exactly the part I find most interesting: the side profile.
To Waugh and me, the real focal point of the new Prius is the roofline. The peak of the roof is pushed fairly far back, cresting behind the B-pillar. It’s a unique touch that really sets the car apart — not just from other hybrids, but from most passenger cars in general.
In a very un-Toyota move, this styling comes at the expense of practicality. Headroom up front isn’t really an issue, but in the back, the sloping roofline means there’s very little room for your head. It also takes away some cargo space, and above all, the size slightly reduces the car’s aerodynamic efficiency. Toyota says the new Prius has a drag coefficient of 0.27, while the old car managed a slightly more slippery 0.25.
Continue passing by the car for style-for-style. There’s a massive character line that rises above the driver’s door, helping to visually slim down much of the lower body. And on the subject of doors, the new Prius has electronic rear door handles hidden in the C-pillar.
To me, the rear three-quarter angle is the best view of the new car. It really shows how far this Prius has come from the previous generation.
The car’s newly found longer and sleeker looks come from Toyota that push the 17-inch (or optional 19-inch) wheels further into the car’s corners. This means front and rear overhangs as well as a wheelbase that is now 50 mm (just under 2 inches) longer than before. On top of that, the new Prius is an inch longer and an inch wider than the outgoing model, with a two-inch lower roofline.
One big Prius design feature missing from this model is the old split rear window, which is gone in favor of a more traditional liftback design. It hurts rear visibility a bit, but with a great back-up camera, it’s a small price to pay in the name of fashion.
The front and rear styling of the new Prius is a bit more conventional, carrying forward Toyota’s new design language in a way that all works together beautifully. The straight lines and shape give the hybrid a minimalist look. Of course, the latest lighting trends are here: narrow, angled DRLs that look like headlights, while the actual low- and high-beam elements are almost entirely hidden within a dark recess in the headlight unit. A full-width light bar at the back lets you know this is a thoroughly modern car.
So while the new Prius may sacrifice some practicality, it does so on the way to becoming the new styling standard for Toyota. The automaker finally seems to be letting its hair down a bit. Most of the time, I’d say a trade-off like this is a mistake in an everyday car. But the fifth-generation Prius looks so good, I’m willing to let it slide.