02189-20230623 2023 Toyota Prius Prime SE from Toyota Carlsbad rental fleet-iPhone 14 ProMAX

Impromptu review of the 2023 Toyota Prius Prime SE plug-in hybrid

The Prius Prime is a stylish, especially economical, practical, affordable and overall awesome daily driver, and yet it still remains unfamiliar to many — even those who you’d think would know better. I will try here to change that.

Last week I dropped off my 2021 RAV4 Prime at Toyota Carlsbad’s Service Department to solve an intermittent issue with Apple CarPlay. Since this would be a warranty repair, they agreed to provide me with a rental vehicle.

I asked the rental agent if she had something small and economical for me to drive. She offered me a Toyota Prius.

I checked to make sure that it had a full tank of gas, since that is how I was supposed to return it. It did. Beside a gas pump icon on the dash, it displayed 487 miles to empty. However, it also revealed something that I did not expect. There was a battery icon, although with a blank for miles remaining. To my surprise I realized that this was no ordinary Prius. It was a nearly brand new, 2023 Toyota Prius Prime SE plug-in hybrid!

That prompted me to return to the rental desk several times with questions. First, I asked the agent where the car’s charging cable is (since I would rather save money by driving on electricity rather than gas).

Trying to be helpful, the woman at the rental counter helpfully suggested that I would not need a charging cable — that I could just use gas. I told her that I would rather use electricity, since the Prius Prime offers that option, adding that the solar panels on the roof of my house generate solar electricity, which enables me to save money driving my 2021 RAV4 Prime XSE Premium fueled by electricity instead of gas. Furthermore, it is far more convenient, since I can merely plug the car in at home in my garage and recharge it, instead of needing to go to a gas station. I explained to her that is a huge benefit of the Prius Prime, which she should share with her rental vehicle customers.

She went and asked someone about the whereabouts of the charging cable, learning that it was actually in the trunk. We found it on the rear deck of the Prius Prime, still in its factory-sealed plastic packaging. I demonstrated to her where it is meant to be stored, under the luggage compartment deck.

With my RAV4 Prime in mind, I asked her if this Prius Prime has high-speed charging capability too, so that I could use my 240-volt vehicle charger at home? She said she did not know, but expressed concern that trying to do so might damage the Prius Prime if it does not have that capability.

Determined to confirm my expectation that it can do high-speed charging, I asked her for the owner’s manual. She went back inside the building and got it for me. To my surprise, I could not find anything about high-speed charging. It just explained how to use the vehicle’s included 120-volt charging cable.

Undeterred, I searched the Internet and found an independent review, which said the Prius Prime can indeed do both 120-volt (11 hours) and 240-volt high-speed (four hours) charging, as long as the vehicle plug on the charging cable is the same. I left and proceeded to do my real-world test drive and high-speed charging.

The Prius Prime is truly a joy to drive, and it is extremely economical in both its electric and gas modes (127 MPGe and 52 MPG gas estimated). Its styling is way more attractive than the rather homely styling of my previously owned 2006 and 2012 Prius models, and it is quick and nimble.

Even in its base SE trim this car is well-equipped, with Toyota’s “Safety Sense 3.0,” which provides a full suite of driver assistance features, including Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist; and Wireless Apple CarPlay and Wireless Android Auto.

My only gripe is minor: the shallow view out of the steeply sloped rear window.

For more information about the 2023 Toyota Prius Prime’s three models, visit: https://www.toyota.com/priusprime.

To explore a wide variety of content dating back to 2002, with the most photos and the latest text, visit “AutoMatters & More” at https://automatters.net. Search by title or topic in the Search Bar in the middle of the Home Page, or click on the blue ‘years’ boxes and browse.

Copyright © 2023 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #796

Jan Wagner


  1. David Sperry on June 29, 2023 at 9:19 pm

    Hey Jan. As well as being an auto review, it’s entertaining how you kept returning to the rental agent for more information. You were lucky to have such a cooperative agent.

    Did you have to pay a rental fee or just the fuel cost, like a “loaner”? In all my years with my dealer, which includes all four generations of the Jeep Grand Cherokee (the last two being SRT8s) and my son’s Jeep Wrangler, I’ve never been offered a free loaner car. I am dropped off at home and picked up later, but it means I’m without transport for most of the day. If I insist on a car I have to pay a daily rental charge.

    You have outfitted your home beautifully to be free of gas pumps, but I remember on your trip to Vegas that you had to plot your trip carefully to be in reach of charging stations. (As an aside, I just read that most EV manufacturers are going to align themselves with Elon Musk’s charging plugs. Sounds like a rewrite of the Betamax saga).

    As for the car itself, how does it compare to your RAV4 for your purposes…gear stowage, etc? I do like the bright blue color.

    • Jan Wagner on June 30, 2023 at 4:09 am

      You could also say that she was lucky to have such a helpful customer.
      I just had to pay the fuel cost which, in my case, was returning it somewhat charged. They did not initially offer me a free loaner. I asked for it because I had no way to get home or back to the dealership, and they wanted to keep it overnight. I live pretty far away — too far for them to drop me off and pick me up, especially when there is rush hour traffic.
      The Prius is significantly smaller than my RAV4 Prime, and I have the top level of trim whereas the Prius I rented was the lowest level.
      The blue is nice but it does not photograph nearly as well as a brighter color.
      Thank you for the comments.

Leave a Comment