Car guys, it was fun while it lasted. For 22 years, especially as the funny-looking last generation got ever longer in the tooth, the Prius has been a punching bag for folks who wanted more than sheer efficiency from their transportation. "Ugly." "Slow." "All the soul of a golf cart." Those were some of the kinder jabs.
But now? "Good heavens, Miss Sakomoto! You're beautiful!" It's Hot Prius Summer.
Do you think she'll remember how mean we were to her all through grade and middle school?
And it's not just looks. Toyota has significantly upped the power quotient---121 horsepower last year is 194 this year. Ten second strolls to 60 mph from a standing start are now 7.1-second sprints. All while promising an EPA-estimated 52 mpg city/highway average---arrived at by the simplest math: 52 city/52 highway (your mileage may vary, and ours did---unable to break 40 mpg in a week's worth of city streets and urban freeways). Handling doesn't match the styling or the acceleration, but it's competent and composed, as opposed to the last generation, which----drove like a golf cart (the best jokes have an element of truth).
The interior is much more modern and much more nicely appointed than any Prius that's come before. The only downvote I have is that the driver information cluster is a variation of the design used in the bZ4X EV and there's just never a steering wheel position that doesn't block some part of it.
The new Prius has base prices that start in the twenties, but our tester was the top of the line Prius Limited, with a starting point of $35,560 including destination. That price includes Toyota's comprehensive Safety Sense 3.0 suite of active safety features, 19-inch wheels, an eight-speaker JBL audio system, a power liftback, fixed glass roof, heated and ventilated front seats, an eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar and memory settings, a heated steering wheel, six USB ports and a wireless device charger.
Our tester had a few extra cost options: $200 for a digital rearview mirror, $1,085 for the Limited Premium Package (advanced parking assist and a panoramic view monitor, $350 for heated rear seats and $299 for carpeted floor mats and cargo mat. That brings the bottom line of the window sticker to $37,494.
And honestly, that price, for this level of quality and efficiency, is a screaming deal. I'm a bit concerned about the lower-than-expected fuel economy, but that could have just been this particular car, and I'm looking forward to other Priuses (Prii?) in other trim levels.