it would not have been difficult for Toyota to say that the new 2023 Prius is faster and more attractive than its predecessor, but they chose not to do so. Being slow and unattractive has always been the Prius’s thing, and that’s hardly really a criticism. The Prius was a sales success for many years and won one of our 10Best awards in 2004 despite being slow and unattractive. However, the prototypical mass-market hybrid has recently lost favor with both purchasers and C/D employees.

The fifth-generation Prius, which has been extensively redesigned, appears to be the ideal antidote. Significantly more potent than its predecessor, it also boasts slightly improved fuel economy and other additional amenities, such as solar panels and hands-free driving. And wait, it looks like that?!

Same teardrop shape, but smooth sides, beautiful details, and athletic proportions make us wonder what happened. Why wasn’t the Prius always like this? The front end has scooped headlamps with a C-shaped LED accent light, while the rear gets a full-width LED taillight strip like the new Crown sedans. The Prius is 2 inches lower and 1 inch broader than before, giving it a fresh attitude and aspect.

This includes the updated powerplant, which boosts output to 194 to 220 horsepower. The previous generation had 121 horsepower. Toyota estimates the new Prius will accelerate to 60 mph in 6.6 to 7.2 seconds, faster than the old model’s 10-plus-second sprints.

The 2.0-liter inline-four gasoline engine replaces the 1.8-liter unit, contributing to the newfound muscle. All Priuses employ a lithium-ion battery pack under the back seat; the old nickel-metal-hydride pack is gone. All-wheel-drive Prius replaces its rear-mounted induction motor with a permanent-magnet synchronous unit.

Front-wheel-drive is usual; all-wheel-drive adds 2 horsepower. The FWD-only Prius Prime tops the line with its 220-hp plug-in system and larger lithium-ion battery, which claims 38 miles of electric driving range.

Despite the increased power, the front-wheel-drive LE variant with 17-inch wheels gets 57 mpg combined. That’s one better than the outgoing 2022 Prius Eco’s 56-mpg rating, though AWD and the XLE and Limited models’ 19-inch wheels will likely lower that number.

The Prime plug-in has less visual distinction than before (fortunately, they both look good now). Toyota is promoting the most powerful Prius as the sporty one, offering it only in SE, XSE, and XSE Premium trim levels. The LE, XLE, and Limited models will return.

Lower grades lack power seats, have a modest 8.0-inch touchscreen, and ride on 17-inch wheels, but the Limited and XSE Premium add tech and convenience options. Upper trims include a 12.3-inch touchscreen, motorized liftgate, and digital rearview mirror. Solar panels atop the Prime’s glass roof will charge the battery while the car is parked to power accessories and air conditioning. Traffic Jam Assist, exclusive to the Prime, offers hands-free driving under 25 mph.