Test Drive: Toyota Prius Handles Epic Roadtrip

Toyota Prius in from of schoolhouse in Nome, North Dakota, population 51. Photo by Tanya Gazdik

There’s nothing that puts a vehicle to the test like an intensive road trip. 

The Toyota Prius Limited, in which I traversed 1,100 miles in three days, held up extremely well. The seats were comfortable, the gas mileage was good, and I managed not to hit any deer.

It’s a trip I will remember for a long time. I finally got to tick off the last three U.S. states that I’ve never visited. Nebraska was No. 48, South Dakota was No. 49, and North Dakota was my very last state, No. 50.

The Prius gathered a lot of attention along the way, including a young hotel valet in Omaha who said “That doesn’t look like any Prius I’ve ever seen.” Coincidentally, the vehicle’s radical new design was highlighted in a series of commercials in April, including one from Saatchi where the Prius was the “black sheep” in a sea of actual sheep, a lot like the ones I saw on the road trip. 

The hotel employee’s admiration was not unwarranted. The Toyota Prius entered the 2023 model year as a completely transformed model. With a  new exterior design, a reimagined interior and an amped up hybrid powertrain, the Prius offers sporty style with a coupe-inspired shape.

Its sleek silhouette, low roofline, smooth body panels and widened rear are proportionally balanced by available 19-inch wheels. The interior features a clean, modern design combined with high-tech displays and ambient lighting.

The more powerful hybrid system delivers 60% more horsepower with up to 196 hp.

Although is is EPA rated at 52 mpg, during the test drive,  the vehicle averaged a respectable 45 mpg which is not bad, especially since the AC was at full blast for most of the trip since the outside temperature stayed in the low 90s. Another factor affecting mileage may have been that the legal speed limit is 80 mph in large stretches of South Dakota.

Despite the vehicle’s compact size, the back cargo area comfortably held four carry-on pieces of luggage without the need of putting down the rear seats, which can be split 60/40 when necessary.

My favorite feature in the vehicle was the automatic high beams, part of the vehicle’s standard Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 with pre-collision.  When driving through rural North Dakota at night, it offered an assist to more quickly spot the deer that might run across the roadway at any time. 

Toyota Prius comes well-equipped at a starting Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price of $27,450 for the Prius LE grade. The Prius tested was a Limited grade with a base price of $34,465. Options including heated rear seats and a dash cam brought the price to $36,924.

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