2024 Toyota Prius Prime XSE Premium Review: Less practical than before but so much better for it

The Toyota Prius has long been the poster child for putting function over form, its lineage of awkward designs (especially that of the fourth generation car) and associated quirkiness seemingly overshadowing the ability of the vehicle to do its intended job. Yet the fifth generation car is a legitimate looker, something you don’t immediately loathe upon staring at it, and it’s still a truly good economy car. After a few days milling about in a new Prius Prime, Toyota’s confidence in and dedication to hybrids makes even more sense now that the car is not just financially attractive to own, but attractive to look at.

Headlining the newest Prius’ selling points is unquestionably its styling. Toyota hit it out of the park here, with this marking perhaps the largest improvement in design from one generation to the next that the automotive industry has ever seen. The Prius isn’t just good looking for an economy car, it’s genuinely good looking— full stop. It’s swoopy, aggressive, and characterful in a way most cars in its class aren’t. Some people would go so far as to say it’s better looking than most cars on sale today. I’m one of those people.

Still an MPG hero

Of course, the real reason to consider the newest Prius is the same as it has always been for the nameplate: Fuel efficiency. The Prius Prime is a plug-in hybrid. Our press vehicle was delivered with the battery completely depleted, and we didn’t try out Florida’s lacking EV-charging infrastructure given our limited time on this trip, but even given this the Prius still managed an indicated average 46.1 MPG in our care. Considering the XSE’s 50/47/48 city/highway/combined EPA rating (SE models do even better at 53/51/52 MPG) and that we didn’t pay much mind to maximizing efficiency, that’s pretty fantastic.

The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes a measly 150 horsepower and 139 lb-ft of torque, but it’s paired with a Permanent magnet AC synchronous motor that Toyota says is good for 120 kW or 161 hp. Somehow, the math works out to 220 horsepower combined, which isn’t a ton but certainly feels like more than enough for even Florida highway cruising. Toyota says the Prius can also do 39-44 miles on an EV charge alone, but we didn’t get to test that.

A car you actually want to drive, too

Our time with the new Prius was spent driving on freeways and in stop-and-go traffic, and in both circumstances the Prius performed as expected. The new, almost comically small steering wheel is a treat and makes maneuverability supremely easy, though the positioning of the gauge cluster is easily obscured by the wheel’s upper rim. The ride quality is quite good, too, and though we noticed a bit of excess wind noise at highway speeds the car proved very pleasant to get from place to place in. We wouldn’t go so far as to call it sporty, but it definitely has some of Toyota’s fun-seeking mojo baked in, even if you have to search a bit to find it.

Everyone who lays eyes on the new Prius can already guess what the drawbacks are in the model’s changeover from awkward and purposeful to stunning and slightly focused but oh-so-much more desirable. Interior space suffers (albeit only slightly), visibility is worse all around than before and cargo volume is down. We still managed to fit a fair amount of stuff into it, though a full wagon (a la Prius V) would go a long way to quelling these issues. The other concern is the price, which as expected has risen, in this case to a base MSRP for the Prius Prime XSE of $39,670 and an as-tested price at $43,010.

Looking good does come at the expense of the Prius’ practicality and costliness, but the vehicle is so much more enticing as a package that we can shamelessly admit we’d happily make those sacrifices for the Prius to have the curb appeal that it now does. Even though some aspects of the vehicle’s usability has suffered, the Prius is now both a vehicle you want to look at and have as a money-saving, high-efficiency vehicle in your driveway. If only other manufacturers took note of this, the automotive world would be a happier– if not prettier– place.


Looks like it costs twice as much as it does, excellent fuel efficiency even when not using EV mode, comfortable and easy to spend time in, touchscreen is well incorporated and works great


Engine groans when taxed, cooled seats don’t do much cooling, visibility is sub-optimal, wireless charger didn’t work with an iPhone in an Otterbox case


When was the last time you thought to yourself, “Wow, that economy car is something I’d actually want to put in my driveway?” When financial constraints and keeping close tabs on budgets aren’t a worry, this notion is usually nonexistent in an enthusiast’s mind. But the fifth-gen Prius, and especially the plug-in hybrid Prius Prime, make an excellent case for the Prius as a vehicle you would want to own, making the model’s price creep and decrease in practicality versus its predecessor well worth the financial and cargo inconveniences.

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3 responses to “2024 Toyota Prius Prime XSE Premium Review: Less practical than before but so much better for it”

  1. Boro Todorovic Avatar
    Boro Todorovic


  2. Kenwood Avatar

    I’m impressed. To the point I’m actually wondering, “what would a Prius roadster look like?”

    1. Kenwood Avatar

      ok, someone beat me to it…