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Toyota Prius Named 2024 MotorTrend Car of the Year


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For the first time in 20 years, an EV has established itself as the best car of the year and it is none other than the gold standard in EVs: Toyota Prius.

The Toyota Prius—the gold-standard hybrid—has made a design impact far greater than its carbon footprint. When you hear “Prius,” you might think of practical, eco-friendly transportation, or perhaps you see it as a virtue-signaling nerd-mobile. To many loyal owners, it’s simply a reliable means to get from A to B. For ride-hail drivers, it’s their office, shuttling people and meals. To some, it’s the annoying car hogging the fast lane; to others, it’s the quirky vehicle adorned with bumper stickers next to you in traffic. And now, for the first time since 2004, the new Toyota Prius is our Car of the Year.

It’s remarkable how much of what we wrote about the game-changing 2004 Prius still applies to its Car of the Year-winning successor two decades later: “For sure, a certain amount of skepticism is understandable. Prior to this year’s competition, it’s unlikely that many MotorTrend editors had the 2004 Prius on their short lists. … The all-new 2004 Prius, however, is an altogether more compelling car. Not only is it the first hybrid that an enthusiast can truly enjoy, it provides a tantalizing preview of a future where extreme fuel-efficiency, ultra-low emissions, and stirring performance will happily coexist in one package.”

We can say the same about the new Prius. In a year with some seriously stiff all-electric competition in the form of the new Hyundai Ioniq 6 and revised Tesla Model 3 Highland, the hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of Toyota’s stalwart proved it’s a more compelling car by combining traditional Prius brand values—efficiency, safety, and value—with newfound style and performance that are impossible to overlook.

Here’s the rewritten passage:

Unleashing Design Freedom: A Prius Reimagined

Gone are the subtle tweaks of the past. This 2024 Prius marks a radical departure, a clean-sheet redesign signifying a new era for Toyota’s hybrid champion. Freed from the shadow of its predecessor, the design team has crafted a car that transcends traditional Prius expectations.

This isn’t your average Prius. It’s longer, lower, and wider, boasting a head-turning style that complements its revamped TNGA platform. Under the hood, the powertrain receives its most significant overhaul since 2008, hinting at a renewed focus on performance alongside efficiency. The 2024 Prius is a bold statement, designed to attract a wider audience seeking both style and sustainability.

Power Up: A Hybrid Redefined

The 1.8-liter engine and forgettable plug-in system are history. In their place, a groundbreaking hybrid system featuring a modern 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, more powerful electric motors, and larger, high-density batteries. This translates to impressive efficiency: the Prius achieves up to 57 mpg, while the Prius Prime plug-in hybrid boasts an electric range of 45 miles. And for the first time ever, the Prius is offered with all-wheel drive right from launch.

All this innovation comes at a starting price of around $30,000, significantly undercutting the average new car price in the US by a substantial $15,000.

This isn’t just a new Prius; it’s a revolution in hybrid technology. It’s no surprise then, that the 2024 Prius has been crowned Car of the Year. Our evaluation criteria prioritize advancements across various aspects, and the Prius excels in each one. Its exceptional performance creates a domino effect, leading to an avalanche of excellence that sets a new standard for hybrid cars.

From Quirky to Conventional: The Prius Makes a Statement

Out with the Quirky, In with the Cohesive:

Gone are the days of Prius design by committee. The fifth-generation model throws away the awkward angles and questionable aesthetics of the past, embracing a refreshingly unified and undeniably attractive look. It’s a car that will turn heads on the road.

Japanese Design Flair:

This Prius, penned by Toyota’s Japanese design studios, ditches the utilitarian approach for a dramatic new silhouette. A longer wheelbase pairs with stylish, larger wheels, a sleek windshield, and a sharp fastback roofline that flows into a tight rear end.

The front borrows Toyota’s handsome new “Ferrari-inspired” grille, while the back boasts a slim LED taillight stretching across the entire width. Three-font badging adds a touch of personality.

Solar Style:

The Prius Prime takes things a step further with an optional solar roof that not only provides a sporty blacktop look but also trickle-charges the battery pack – a truly cool feature.

Interior Upgrade:

While less dramatic than the exterior, the cabin receives a significant improvement without sacrificing the practicality the Prius is known for. Gone is the hodgepodge of mismatched plastics and low-resolution displays.

Modern Tech & Materials:

All Priuses now feature a standard 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster display and an 8.0-inch infotainment screen. Higher trims offer a larger 12.3-inch infotainment option. Black and gray color schemes might seem a bit bland, but silver (Prius) or red (Prius Prime) accents add visual interest. Hard buttons for climate control provide a welcome touch of functionality below the screen.

Real Estate Revamp:

For the first time in years, the Prius boasts a real center console with a well-placed gearshift allowing for horizontal cup holders and convenient USB-C ports and a wireless charging pad.

Practicality Preserved:

Despite a lower roofline, the Prius maintains good headroom in the front seats and adult-friendly space in the rear, with improvements in legroom and shoulder room. Cargo space is slightly reduced in the standard Prius due to the new roofline, but the Prime actually gains cargo capacity compared to the previous generation.

A (Slightly) Flawed Instrument Cluster:

While the new design boasts many improvements, one area falls short: the instrument cluster borrowed from the bZ4X electric SUV. Judges found the screen difficult to see, with shorter and taller drivers struggling to access crucial information. An adjustment to the screen position and increased font size could easily address this issue.

Overall, the fifth-generation Prius represents a major design shift. It’s a car that sheds its quirky past and embraces a more conventional – and undeniably stylish – look, while still prioritizing practicality and functionality. While the instrument cluster requires a minor tweak, the overall package is a significant improvement for this iconic hybrid.

2024 Prius: Safety, Value, and Engineering Excellence

Safety First:

Peace of mind comes standard with the 2024 Prius. It aces the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Pick+ rating, demonstrating excellent crashworthiness and advanced crash-avoidance technology. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn’t tested the new model yet, previous generations consistently received the highest possible 5-star overall rating. With eight airbags and a suite of driver-assist features, we expect the 2024 Prius to follow suit.

Affordability with All the Essentials:

The 2024 Prius offers impressive value for its safety features and technology. The base model starts at a reasonable $28,745 and includes desirable features like wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Higher trims offer additional amenities like heated seats, parking assist, and automatic emergency braking, all at competitive price points. All-wheel drive can be added to any trim for just $1,400.

The plug-in hybrid Prius Prime follows a similar pricing structure, making it a compelling option for those seeking electric driving capability.

Engineering Advancements:

Built on Toyota’s TNGA-C platform, the 2024 Prius boasts a more rigid chassis and a lower center of gravity for improved handling. A new lithium-ion battery pack replaces the older NiMh technology, offering lighter weight and higher energy density.

A modern 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 150 horsepower, a significant improvement over previous models. Front-wheel-drive models pair this engine with electric motors for a combined output of 194 hp, while all-wheel-drive versions add a rear motor for a total of 196 hp.

The Prius Prime takes things a step further with a more powerful electric motor arrangement, bringing peak system output to 220 hp. It charges via a standard 3.5-kW onboard charger, with the option for a faster Level 2 charger at home.

While the 2024 Prius prioritizes affordability, the lack of a standard faster-charging option for the Prime is a minor drawback. However, its impressive safety features, exceptional value proposition, and advancements in engineering solidify the Prius’ position as a leader in the hybrid market.


Traditionally, when manufacturers enhance a car’s power, it often comes at the expense of efficiency. This familiar trade-off, however, is upended by the 2024 Prius. The base models achieve an impressive EPA rating of 57/56/57 mpg city/highway/combined, surpassing the previous generation’s top efficiency rating of 58/53/56 mpg. Midgrade and higher trims deliver 52/52/52 mpg.

Meanwhile, the Prius Prime SE leads in efficiency with an EPA rating of 127 mpg-e combined, slightly lower than the previous model’s 133 mpg-e, but it now boasts an extended EV range of 45 miles, an increase of 20 miles. Mid- and upper-tier Prime models still offer excellent efficiency at 114 mpg-e with a 40-mile range. Regardless of the configuration, the Prius Prime remains the most efficient plug-in hybrid on the market today.

Performance of Intended Function

This is where the new Prius truly excels. Historically, the Prius has been the go-to choice for those prioritizing practicality, efficiency, and affordability over style and performance. The 2024 model, however, transforms this perception. As noted by Rehbock, “It’s evolved from being a boring, practical choice to a charming, stylish hatchback with significant curb appeal.”


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