2024 Toyota Prius Limited AWD: Elder Statesman, Youthful Verve

Eric Weiner

The Prius has earned this. Whereas the humble city car once represented the avant-garde of electrification, it’s now a veteran in the space and, in some sense, the victim of its own success. The vehicle’s hybrid technology—what Toyota calls Hybrid Synergy Drive—now powers the RAV4, Corolla, Highlander, Crown, Sienna, and a litany of Lexus models. Even as fully electric models have proliferated over the last few years, both conventional (parallel) hybrids and plug-in hybrids from automakers across the globe are in huge demand. As Toyota group Vice President and General Manager Dave Christ put it, “The weight of the Prius name is heavy—it carries with it the identity of an entire category of vehicle powertrain.”

The new Prius, launched last year for 2023, may not deserve your undying passion as a driver. That would be a stretch. But it does deserve your respect. Not only is this fifth-generation the best-driving Prius in the model’s nearly three-decade run, it’s by far the best-looking, all while remaining a committed MPG maven.

2024 Toyota Prius Limited AWD rear three quarter
Eric Weiner

Heavy may lie the crown, but this latest Prius is only marginally porkier than its predecessor. Base curb weight is up between 50 and 150 pounds, give or take, depending on trim. That’s despite a larger, 2.0-liter gas engine and significantly more overall power than the outgoing fourth-generation car. Whereas the prior Prius’ 1.8-liter engine and hybrid system peaked at 121 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque, here output ratchets up to 194 hp and 139 lb-ft (or 196 hp with all-wheel drive). That translates to a 0-60 time of 7.2 seconds for the new front-drive Prius, versus 9.8 seconds for the car it replaces.

Toyota says that the new Prius’ second-generation TNGA-C platform is lighter and more rigid than before. The battery pack now uses lithium-ion chemistry rather than nickel chemistry, saving space and as much as 40 pounds while increasing output by 15 percent.

Specs: 2024 Toyota Prius Limited AWD

Price: $37,160 (base); $39,938 (as-tested)
Powertrain: 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine, two electric drive motor/generators (one front, one rear), one integrated starter-generator; electronically controlled continuously variable automatic transmission
Output: 196 hp combined; 150 hp @ 6000 rpm, 139 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm gas engine
Layout: All-wheel-drive, four-door, five-passenger liftback sedan
EPA Fuel Economy: 49 mpg city, 50 mpg highway, 49 mpg combined
Competitors: Honda Civic Hybrid, Hyundai Elantra Hybrid, Kia Niro

2024 Toyota Prius Limited AWD interior front seats
Eric Weiner

Given that we’d previously reviewed a 2023 Prius Prime, the plug-in variant that comes exclusively with front-wheel drive, for 2024 we went with a Prius Limited with all-wheel drive. The $37,160 Limited is the loaded trim, incorporating the XLE’s standard features plus a 12.3-inch touchscreen, JBL eight-speaker audio system, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated seats, eight-way power driver’s seat with memory, and a power rear liftgate. Optional extras on our loaner: the Advance Technology Package’s 360-degree camera and automatic parking ($1085), heated rear seats ($350), carpeted floor mats and cargo mat ($299), door sill protectors ($250), a rear bumper appliqué ($69), mudguards ($150), and a dash camera ($375). All in, MSRP came to $39,938 including destination fees.

For nearly 40 grand, a mainstream car better turn heads, and the Prius does. We got a number of neck snaps and stares from Prius drivers in particular. The new design is sleek and elegant, rather than the drab or dorky appearance that usually results from cars drawn exclusively for their aerodynamic efficiency. Sure, the car’s lines are significantly cleaner and simpler than the overwrought fourth-gen Prius it replaces, but the success of this design starts with its proportions. The car’s roughly one inch of extra width allows for a more planted stance and a lower hip point. The roofline is two inches lower, and the wheels are pushed out closer to the bumpers. Our Limited tester rides on standard 19-inch wheels, which hamper fuel efficiency by about 4 mpg over smaller wheels, but look damn stylish in the process.

Nothing about the interior suggests outright luxury, but neither does it betray obvious cost-cutting. Behind the better-than-average-quality plastics is a logical, practical, unfussy design. The starter button is right where you expect it to be. Climate functions operate via two rows of buttons positioned below the center screen. Two of the car’s six USB-C ports are situated just below that, alongside a 12-volt accessory port and conveniently above a handy phone tray. Press the release lever on the tray and you’ll find yet another storage tray—this one perfect for hiding valuables out of view when the car is parked. I wouldn’t call the center console generous, but given the other storage options in the vicinity, it’s alright. As for the phone slot in which you can lay your phone on its side—twofold brilliance. It charges in there wirelessly, and while stored there it seemed much less tempting to reach for at long stop lights. 

2024 Toyota Prius Limited AWD interior driver display
The new instrument cluster is simply laid out and clearly visible through the steering wheel.Eric Weiner

Longtime Prius fans may notice a few other important shifts. For starters, the giant iPad-like screen from the upper trims of the outgoing car has been replaced with a much more handsome center touchscreen. Beyond that, the instrument cluster now sits behind the steering wheel on a little perch, rather than up in the center of the dashboard behind the display. The shifter, too, is positioned in a more conventional location between the seats rather than on the dashboard like some electro-mechanical proboscis. All of these choices indicate a kind of design maturity—the Prius doesn’t have to constantly remind you it’s a hybrid, because the West has already been won. Instead it can focus on, well, being a thoughtful and useful car.

To wit, the new Prius’ liftback body style works great in daily use. The trunk is nice and wide, with a reasonably low load height. The all-wheel drive hardware on the rear axle—an electric motor and its accompanying components—contribute to a slightly taller trunk floor, but it’s within reason. On either side of the main floor are useful cubbies, perfect for the odd single grocery bag or tote. My favorite feature: a molded plastic piece on either side of the rear seats that, when said seats are folded, keeps the seat belt in position and out of the way of large cargo. 

2024 Toyota Prius Limited AWD interior seat belt integration
This seat belt holder is crazy helpful.Eric Weiner

The interior’s sole weak point I found during a week with the Prius is that rear-seat headroom is worse than before. (The price we pay for that sweeping roofline.) The seats could use a bit more support for longer drives. Oh, and when the windows are open at speed, the wind causes the moonroof shade to flap like a beached carp.

My only other major gripe concerns the noise of the gas engine when it kicks on from pure-electric operation. (It stays on if you select B mode, which better charges the battery.) The 2.0-liter sounds hoarse and unhappy, as if it just swallowed a cylinder of black peppercorns. 

That clatter arrives in contrast with what is otherwise a serene driving experience. The ride is composed, comfortable, and not excessively floaty. Turn-in isn’t exactly crisp, and the steering feels artificially weighted, but the Prius changes direction with poise. It’s sure-footed on bumpy roads, twisty roads, freeways, you name it. The car’s biggest achievement is how it blends brake feel, resulting in a seamless transition between mechanical and regenerative braking—no easy feat. (Those brakes do groan a bit at low speeds, however.)

2024 Toyota Prius Limited AWD high angle rear three quarter
Eric Weiner

In several hundred miles of mixed driving, the Prius had no problem getting 50 mpg, equaling its mixed highway rating from the EPA. The new car’s combined rating of 49 mpg is 2 mpg greater than the outgoing XLE e-AWD’s 47 mpg, but the older Prius highway rating beats this car’s 50 mpg rating by 1 mile. Suffice to say, the new car is about as efficient as the Prius it replaces while offering much more useful passing power and far superior handling. 

All that said, unless you live in an area that experiences severe winter weather, I’d much sooner buy a set of top-shelf winter tires for a base Prius LE ($29,470) or a mid-grade XLE ($32,490) and stick with front-wheel drive. This Prius makes a lot more sense as a mainstream car that punches way above its weight than it does as a luxury-adjacent commuter, and the LE returns an impressive 57 mpg. 

In fairness, the heated seats are nice and the 360-degree camera works flawlessly, but for $40,000 a Prius—even one this good—is facing competition from the Audi A3s and Mercedes-Benz CLAs of the world, not to mention the more spacious Honda Civic Sport Touring that comes with a standard hybrid powertrain for 2025. Hell, for the same price you could lose 6 or 7 mpg and pick up an Accord Hybrid Touring, which is a whole lot more spacious and luxurious.

Naturally, none of the above can boast Toyota’s track record for reliability. That and low long-term maintenance costs remain major factors in new-car decisions, which also explains the Prius’ generally fabulous resale value.

So far in 2024, its first full year of sales, Toyota is on pace to sell about 45,000 examples of the new-generation Prius. That’s a long way off from the heyday of the early 2010s, when sales topped 200,000 for three years running. However, don’t take that to mean the Prius has lost its way—if anything it has found it, maturing into a well-sorted and sophisticated hybrid commuter nobody should be embarrassed to drive. Think of this fifth-gen car as the Prius entering its golden years as a silver fox—older, wiser, and relieved from the burden of carrying so much early water for hybridization. Like it or not, this is the Prius’ world; we’re just living in it.

2024 Toyota Prius Limited AWD

Price: $37,160 (base); $39,938 (as-tested)

Highs: Useful power, practical interior, handsome styling. Excellent brake feel. And, of course, 50 mpg.

Lows: Sub-par headroom in the back seat. Noisy gas engine. Limited’s nearly-$40K price pits it against more spacious rivals.

Takeaway: Far and away the best-driving, best-looking Toyota Prius in history.

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    It’s the best Prius but at $40k I have a tough time wanting it over a much cheaper car. If you can find a decent $25k vehicle you now have $15k left to spend on gas.

    This moves the Prius closer to my wheelhouse, but the Prius Prime plug-in sounds like it would probably be the sweet spot for me. Not sure if it offers heated seats like this one (Midwest winters can be brutal), but the electric-only range would be perfect for my commute. The current design largely eliminates the dork-factor, too.

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