5 thoughts on the 2024 Toyota Prius Limited

During the massive upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 and the years to follow, our little automotive corner of the world was seeing some strangeness, too. Obviously, car shows were out the window, but with vaccines becoming available and testing procedures being established, automakers and press found ways to meet up here and there. In 2021 and 2022, Toyota hosted media at its sprawling campus in Plano, Texas for what basically were Toyota-only auto shows. 

The events were called HQ Confidential, and they featured loads of conferences and announcements about updated Toyota products. But the more interesting aspect was the “Confidential” aspect. Each event let press get a sneak peek at completely new models. Groups would be taken down some large halls to a conference room that had been emptied out to have a new model on display. In 2021, they showed the new Tundra, and in 2022, they showed the Crown and the Prius. And in that latter display, I was far more intrigued and interested in the Prius. That ultra-low wedge shape and clean flanks, even in a bland, fluorescent-lit conference room, were eye-catching, especially next to the busy and somewhat bulbous Crown.

What I was surprised by, though, was the fact that the Prius ended up being the last of those three to be officially revealed and launched. Fittingly, I’m also driving the Prius after I’ve driven the others. Not only that, but it’s also my favorite of the trio. And it’s most definitely the best Prius ever made.

1. Yeah it still looks cool

I know, I know, we’ve talked about this countless times, but it’s still true, the new Prius is really cool looking. Nothing on the road has as wildly swept back a windshield, and the low nose rivals legitimate sports cars. The rear doors are nicely deemphasized with the hidden door handles. And after years of kinda lumpy and cluttered lines on Prii (sorry, Priuses), it’s amazing to see one with clean, lean lines and panels. It doesn’t sacrifice on the model’s heritage, either, since it still has the kammback tail and fastback roofline. It’s just a great piece of design.

2. There are compromises for the looks

Of course, there’s a price to pay for the style, though not necessarily in the ways you might expect. For instance, getting in the front seats is still quite easy. But once you’re there, you notice that you get some pretty serious blind spots from those super-raked pillars. And in the cargo area, a combination of a high floor and low roof makes for less space than you might hope from the hatchback. While everyone’s needs are different, I think the tradeoff is totally worth it.

3. It’s surprisingly sporty

Now, if you’re looking for an actual performance vehicle around the $30,000 price range, there are better options. But if you want a commuter with some playful spunk, the Prius can actually provide. The suspension is on the firm side, and the chassis feels pretty light and quite rigid. With all-wheel drive like my tester, having that little bit of rear-wheel propulsion helps cancel out a bit of the understeer in corners. And with 196 horsepower, right on par with a Honda Civic Si or Kia Forte GT, it has some real get-up-and-go. The only weak points are somewhat lackluster turn-in, and a clear penchant for understeer if it weren’t for that rear motor. That and …

4. That engine, though …

What blunts some of the fun on the powertrain, though, is the internal combustion engine. In what’s become all too common on Toyotas, particularly the hybrids, the engine is loud, coarse and droning. And since the engine contributes a large amount of that 196 horsepower, you’ll be hearing it frequently when you’re accelerating with any gusto. The CVT exacerbates the situation, too. Thankfully, between the solid power and relatively light weight of the Prius, at least you get to cruising speed faster than Toyota’s larger or less powerful hybrids.

5. I want more now

I’ve come away very impressed with the Prius. It can do just about anything now. But those weaknesses have had me thinking that Toyota could do even more. For one thing, something that would instantly solve the refinement problem while potentially increasing the car’s environmental credentials would be to make an electric version of the Prius. This is something I was even surprised at when I saw the example in Texas and saw the shifter for the tried-and-true Toyota hybrid powertrain. It just seems like with the model’s strong association with green driving, and Toyota’s need for an EV win, the Prius would be a great candidate.

Then there’s the sporty side. Some grippier tires, some more aggressive suspension tuning like a strong rear anti-roll bar, and a dash of power and extra style, and you could have a genuinely cool and fun green machine. You could call it a Prius TRD, or a GR Sport Prius. I don’t think it would take much, and the reward could be great. Even more so with more power. Could you imagine a Prius Prime with a much bigger rear motor, like from the RAV4 Prime? Or what if it was all EV? It could have loads of torque and fancy power distribution.

Some of this could be easy, some of it less so. But my point is, the Prius is good, and it has potential to be even better. I hope Toyota can take advantage of that.

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