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Finally comes the real Gen 5 Prius review

Discussion in 'Gen 5 Prius Main Forum' started by Gokhan, Nov 23, 2023.

  1. Gokhan

    Gokhan Senior Member

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    I took my blue 2021 Prius Prime Limited for an oil change at West Coast Toyota of Long Beach yesterday. It costs $50 with the tire rotation and multipoint inspection using the AdvantageCARE package.

    While I was waiting, I went out to the parking lot to see if there were any Gen 5 Priuses out. And there were three parked side by side—a blue XLE, a red XLE AWD, and a silver Limited AWD! While I was looking at them, a salesperson came and asked me if I was interested in test-driving them. Since I am on the waiting list at Longo Toyota for a Gen 5 Prius Prime, I said no but I asked perhaps if I could sit in one. In fact, it turned out that they had left the doors on one of them open. Nevertheless, he was eager to get the keys.

    So, I ended up test-driving the blue XLE. I chose a non-AWD because I am interested in a Prius Prime, which has no AWD. I also turned on the Limited AWD and tested its JBL audio vs. the stock audio on the XLE.

    What a day it was! I was testing them for about an hour and a half, and they already called me to be pick up my car while I was still out there.

    It was nothing I expected. Gen 5 is a totally different car. It is no longer a Prius except for the badge—and not in a good way. There is so much more to it than the reviewers on the car blogs have been posting. Therefore, I am posting my review. I owned a used light-blue 1985 Corolla LE, a brand-new red 2009 Corolla XLE, a brand-new silver 2020 Prius Prime XLE, and I currently own a brand-new-purchased blue 2021 Prius Prime Limited. As a result, I have a good perspective on Toyotas as well as the previous-generation Prius Prime.

    Here comes the review:

    Highs:
    • somewhat improved styling
    • improved cornering
    • smaller steering wheel
    • easy, fun to drive
    • standard ADAS with all current Toyota safety features on all trims (except no FTCA, LCA, and TJA on non-Prime models)
    • improved multimedia functionality, including wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
    • giant, clear multimedia display as an option on XLE and standard on Limited (albeit, the smaller display on the lower trims is probably also OK)
    • electronic parking brake
    • thanks to Gen 5 Toyota Hybrid System (THS 5), much better very low-speed driving with much better HEV brake modulation and creeping at very low speeds—car stops or almost stops when no gas pedal applied and takes off very gradually when gas pedal applied instead of jackrabbiting with very little gas as in the previous generation
    Lows:
    • no longer a family car
    • cramped, claustrophobic interior, with very low ceiling
    • low visibility from inside, especially thanks to the window pillars
    • much narrower and much shorter trunk—much smaller than the previous generation—added depth improves the EPA-volume number and equates to that of the previous generation but does not actually help
    • mushy, vague, slow steering at center with nonexistent road feel, negating the improved cornering ability—a 180° downgrade from the previous generation
    • dismal stock audio with very poor sound quality, JBL audio does not help much
    • tiny meter-gauge display with a labyrinth menu
    • nauseating glossy black plastic trim on XLE/XSE and Limited/XSE Premium
    • lack of good color choices
    Road test

    If you owned a previous-generation Prius, when you first sit in a Gen 5 Prius, you will immediately feel a shock. The interior feels much smaller (and is smaller) than the previous generations—at least the useable parts. The best way of describing it is that getting out of a Gen 4 Prius and then getting into a Gen 5 Prius feels like getting out of a small SUV and getting into a mini car (not even a subcompact) from 1970s or 1980s. The headroom is virtually nonexistent for a person of any height, and the cabin simply feels cramped, both in the front seats and rear seats. You can see how cramped the interior is in my photo below.

    The same goes for the trunk. The EPA values that show that Gen 4 and Gen 5 have the same or nearly the same trunk volume do not convey the truth. There is no trunk depth left, and the width is much narrower as well. The trunk height must have been improved to make up for the greatly reduced depth and width, but that is not going to help with cargo in most situations. The new flimsy removable nontelescopic trunk cover is also a major downgrade from the removable telescopic trunk cover of the previous generation.

    Previous-generation Priuses used to be very good, popular family cars. Gen 5 Prius can no longer be considered a family car due to its cramped cabin and small trunk. It is no longer suitable for people with children or for more than two adults. It also no longer makes a good ridesharing car.

    Someone once told me that his Gen 2 Prius was his "escape pod," in which he could isolate himself from the world and find peace. Any previous-generation Prius owner knows what this means. This serenity and peace when you are inside a Prius is all but gone in Gen 5 Prius. It no longer offers comfortable everyday commuting or driving, let alone a comfortable road trip.

    Visibility from inside is greatly compromised, especially with the large window pillars, which somehow always get in the way of your vision. Unlike some other reviewers, I actually liked the low-angle windshield and did not find it objectionable.

    I found the faux-leather seats in Gen 5 Prius less comfortable than the faux-leather seats in my Gen 4 Prius Prime.

    Exterior styling is improved and more modern design features are employed, which makes the car somewhat good-looking, but I don't find the car's looks stunning in any way and, at some angles, I don't even like them. Nevertheless, aesthetics is highly subjective and personal. One thing that looked really bad was the glossy black exterior trim all over the car, which I found nauseating for the lack of a better word. The lower LE/SE trims replace them with matte black plastic trim, which might be less objectionable, but again, aesthetics is personal. Exterior color choices are very limited and unexciting. Interior color choices are dark gray (misleadingly called black by Toyota) or light gray.

    When you start driving the new Prius, you will immediately feel the difference. The electronic parking brake is confusing to operate if you never used it, like in my case, but I find it as a welcome upgrade. However, I kept looking for the foot parking brake with my left food. The most noticeable difference is in the way how the vehicle takes off. Since I was driving a brand-new car in a dealer lot, I was afraid that I could give too much gas and hit something since I am not used to its gas pedal, which could happen with some cars. It turned out that there was nothing to worry about, as the new Prius takes off and drives with little gas better than any car I ever drove. The way they did this in Gen 5 Toyota Hybrid System (THS 5) is perfect, with the car not moving (or moving extremely slowly) with no gas applied—and with perfect brake modulation. It was very impressive.

    When I merged on the street and started driving the car, it immediately resulted in one of my biggest disappointments with the new Prius. I owned a brand-new 2009 Corolla, and it was the first Toyota to ever employ electric steering. It was awful, being very vague at the center. I even complained to NHTSA and they came and investigated it. When I first test-drove a 2020 Prius Prime, steering felt perfect at center. It was even further improved in my 2021 Prius Prime. My 2021 Prius Prime's steering is very firm and fairly quick at center with good road feeling. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case in Gen 5 Prius, which brings back my bad memories with my 2009 Corolla. The steering feels vague, mushy, and slow at center with nonexistent road feel. I call such steering "grandparent steering." It was a big turn-off for me and a possible deal-breaker.

    While the new Prius's acceleration capabilities are highly praised, in normal driving you hardly ever notice them if at all, as the previous-generation Prius provides adequate acceleration for normal driving as well. I guess you would feel it if you floored the pedal, which is something I never do and I will never do with any car I own unless there is an emergency.

    Nevertheless, the new Prius is indeed very quick on its feet with its steering response, which makes it fun to drive. The body, wheels, and steering are certainly tuned to make the car have better quick lane changes and cornering than the previous generation, which makes the car more fun to drive. It is probably not going to make the car safer in emergencies or on curves, but it certainly makes it more fun. The smaller steering wheel is also greatly appreciated, which makes the steering quicker and easier. Overall, the car is not only fun but also very easy to drive.

    As you know, all current TSS 3.0 etc. ADAS and electronic safety features are standard on all new-Prius trims—with the exception of lack of front-traffic collision alert, lane-change assist, and traffic-jam assist on non-plug-in (non-Prime) models—which I find most welcome.

    One of my fears was not being able to see the new meter-gauge display behind the steering wheel. It turned out that this wasn't a problem, but with the caveat that you need to raise the seat and lower the steering wheel so that you can see it over the steering wheel, which unfortunately somewhat compromises the driving position.

    The new meter-gauge display is unfortunately tiny—especially for far-sighted people. I call the menus on it a labyrinth—good luck trying to find anything you need on it. I am pretty sure that it will go away in the next generation and will never come back.

    I only saw the larger multimedia display, which is huge, in fact probably larger than necessary. It is nice and clear, but unfortunately it is very user-unfriendly, as sadly it has been typical for Toyotas. Simple things like changing radio channels are next to impossible to do easily. Perhaps there are easier ways of navigating around it, but it wasn't obvious—hence it was very user-unfriendly.

    The stock (non-JBL) audio was a total shock. The sound felt like from a 1950s AM radio at times. There are bass, midrange, and treble adjustments. I tried every configuration of them but it didn't help. It was dismal. Nevertheless, it is very, very loud.

    I also tried the JBL audio—again with every bass/midrange/treble combination—which somewhat improved the sound, but it did not help much. It gets even louder and the bass even gets stronger, but it just does not sound high-fidelity. The doors also shake and rattle a lot with the JBL sound. If I give the stock audio a D−, JBL gets a D+. The JBL on my 2021 Prius Prime is pretty bad as well—perhaps a C—but at least it has some fidelity that makes the songs sound more natural. I think the problem is with the head multimedia unit, and the JBL amplifier and speakers don't help much.

    Final conclusions

    Prius is no longer what it used to be, and this is not a good thing. While improved styling, cornering, and acceleration help, these are not needed for most people. What is gone forever (at least until next generation) is the peace, serenity, and practicality of the Prius, which was what made a Prius a Prius. Therefore, other than the Prius badge and the hybrid system, there is no Prius left. If you have a family, this is probably not a suitable car for you. If you value comfortable everyday driving, this is probably not a good car for you. If you want practically, this is probably not a good car for you. If you want a sporty little car, this is probably a good car for you. In any case, don't follow the hype and thoroughly test-drive the car before you buy it. If you have a newer, Gen 4 Prius like me (Prius Prime in my case), it is probably not worth trading in unless something in it strongly appeals to you.

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    #1 Gokhan, Nov 23, 2023
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2023
  2. Pdog808

    Pdog808 Active Member

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    Since I'm also on Longo's list for a Gen 5 XSE Premium, that begs the question: will you remain on the list or call Arina for your $500 deposit back?
     
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  3. Gokhan

    Gokhan Senior Member

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    I won't cancel my deposit for a black Prius Prime SE until I get the call, which could be a long time because the black color is rare.

    You do lose practically and comfort with Gen 5 but gain better driving—except for the worse steering feel I explained—and a longer BEV range. I also need the consider the finances. Yours is three years older than mine; so, perhaps trading in makes more sense for you if you are OK with the smaller cabin and trunk. In any case, don't sign the deal before you thoroughly test-drive it.
     
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  4. Downrange

    Downrange Active Member

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    Very thorough review for a quick test run! Mostly spot-on, in my experience of both 22 and 23 models. Just returned from dinner in my wife's XLE AWD, and confirmed my impressions from the passenger seat - the car is essentially a two-seater, like a 64 Mustang, where the back seat is pretty much for the kids. There's enough room up front, but watch your head entering and exiting, esp. from the passenger side (don't ask me why, but I don't usually bump my head when I'm driving.) The steering is a bit numb, more like my old Gen 3, and not nearly as centered as my 22 Prime feels, although I concede it corners better. And spot-on regarding the usability of the hatch area, something I've posted about already in other threads. It's like they went the "sporty" route and threw out the baby with the bath water. Edit: One more thing, the headlights are not nearly as effective. The brights only push the light cone out about another 100 yards. But they at least do not light up the road signs and reflect them back at me as much. The 22 Prime lights are much more powerful.

    If it weren't for the more than 50% extra EV range and the TSS 3.0, I probably wouldn't even consider trading (up?) from my Prime. That and the prospect of getting 8350 off in Federal and Provincial rebates. I honestly don't know if I'll trade in or keep my 22.
     
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  5. converseguy

    converseguy New Member

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    I have never driven or rode in a Gen 1-4 Prius. I have always considered them the ugliest cars ever made that could not get out of their own way. I could not imagine owning one. I now find myself the owner of a 2024 Prius Limited. Many of the things some consider negatives I consider positives. I agree that it is very different from the older models. Toyota probably should have made the Gen 5 a new model and called it something not Prius, it is that different. I love my new Prius and have zero regrets buying it.
     
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  6. Tooly

    Tooly Junior Member

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    Let's be honest, Toyota is not really going for the existing Prius owner with the 5th gen beacuse if they were, it would be the death knell for the Prius. They're after the the person who would have never considered a Prius before (be it because of the very polarizing styling or anemic power) and like the idea of an electric car but don't have the infrastructure to charge it at home or have range anxiety. I would have never considered a Prius until this new 5th gen came out so they converted me.
     
  7. purplePriii

    purplePriii Member

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    Which mode did you have the car in? The steering feel is adjustable and you get a more responsive steering in sport mode or custom, if you customize it so. Unfortunately you can't have the car automatically start in "custom" mode.

    I drove both since I ordered a 2022 and received a 2023. The 2022 was an OK every day car. Slow but okay for A to B commuting with good interior space. I'm probably one of the few who liked the styling of the Gen 4. The 2023 is better in nearly everything but trunk space. It's gone from an OK every day car to what I call an "economy sports car". My biggest thing with the 2023 is the trunk space and not even in length but in height. The line is much sharper vs the little "bubble" trunk the 2022 had. Reverse camera is good too but without it it'd be pretty hard to see anything backing up.
     
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  8. Mr.Vanvandenburg

    Mr.Vanvandenburg Active Member

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    Have you had your eyes checked for cataracts? They cause vision acuity problems. No ride review, noise review?
    I find my 2020 Prime gas pedal action at stops perfect, just the right amount of movement forward. You want movement forward as you take the foot off the brake to the “gas” pedal. Then you can inch up to things using only the brakes, much safer in traffic and intuitive.
    I was surprised you reviewed the 20 Prime steering too. I just feel awful I have the bad one. Of course people are usually suddenly harsh on the car traded away. I think it’s psychological. It’s probably the exact same steering. Just the two aren’t side by side to actually compare. One is from memory.
    Why did they have all the beautys there, letting people drive them. Too high on mark up?
     
  9. Mr.Vanvandenburg

    Mr.Vanvandenburg Active Member

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    So only two people keeping and having to state once more the old myth the Prius is a slow car, but never owned one. Not bad.
     
  10. Pdog808

    Pdog808 Active Member

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    Currently driving a Toyota Paseo temporarily. I wonder if anyone even remembers that car. It's like a sporty version of the Tercel. Same 4-speed manual shifter. Hopefully the Gen 5 Prime will be slightly larger on the interior but I think I should be OK.

    Appreciate the review, though. Since I expect to be waiting well into next year, I'll keep my options open. Holding out for an XSE Premium with the solar roof.
     
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  11. Louis19

    Louis19 Active Member

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    I do share the escape pod feeling ...:cool:
     
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  12. Gokhan

    Gokhan Senior Member

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    Interesting. I wouldn't drive in the sport mode because of fuel efficiency, and it is inconvenient that the sport and custom modes reset to the normal mode everytime you turn off the car.

    That said, I doubt the steering feel in the sport mode solves the issues of vague steering at center and no road feel. I don't know, but I am guessing that all it does is to decrease the steering assist and make the steering effort harder. In fact, when Toyota engineers came to test-drive my 2009 Corolla for 800 miles when I complained to NHTSA about vague center steering, that's exactly what they did—they decreased the steering assist. This actually made steering at center even more vague than it was originally when the steering was lighter. The steering got harder but it felt even more vague at center than before. Nevertheless, I didn't test the sport mode vs. normal mode, and I don't know what the sport mode actually does to the steering. In any case, the steering feel in Gen 5 Prius Prime is not nearly as bad as it was in the 2009 Corolla.
     
  13. AndersOne

    AndersOne Member

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    Nice review - thanks!
    May I ask what you expected? Pain points like smaller interior seem to be the number one complaint in most reviews.

    I was honestly surprised that you wrote "somewhat imrpoved styling" though given you seem to be a big fan of the P4 styling :cool:
     
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  14. Gokhan

    Gokhan Senior Member

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    Yes, with every generation, styling is modernized. Certain things fall out of fashion quickly. For example, the glossy black plastic trim I mentioned became the new thing lately, even on German luxury cars, but I think it will be a short-lived fashion.

    I am farsighted as I said, with no other vision issues.

    It is hard to judge the noise and ride while driving the car for only a few blocks, but I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, and it felt similar to my Gen 4 Prius Prime.

    As I explained, the way Gen 5 creeps (or does not) with no gas or little gas felt much better and safer than my Gen 4 Prius Prime. It was unusually smooth and controlled both for a hybrid and a nonhybrid car. There were occasions when my Gen 4 Prius Prime acted erratically both through the gas and brake when coming out of a parking spot.

    They were asking for a $5,000 markup. He even told me that he could bring me a Prius Prime in a couple of days if I paid the markup. I suspect that the dealers network and split the markups.
     
    #14 Gokhan, Nov 24, 2023
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 24, 2023
  15. bisco

    bisco cookie crumbler

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    i can't understand how a hatch that is narrower, shorter and shallower can have the same cubic volume.
    has anyone ever measured both generations?
     
  16. Mr.Vanvandenburg

    Mr.Vanvandenburg Active Member

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    As I said, check with eye doctor about cataracts, you never know. I didn’t know I had them developing, now I know why the acuity has gone down.
    The steering column and related part numbers are identical between 2020 and 2021 Primes.
    I wouldn’t want the gas pedal creep forward motion to be different than what I have. It may be seating position, pedals, or driving a different car is an adapting process. It’s like a safety feature.
    I bet an msrp offer on any of those there would be a sale. That’s profit on the table now for them, plus getting a 2021 Prime Limited low mileage in blue on the lot.
     
  17. Trollbait

    Trollbait It's a D&D thing

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    Gerdes(xcel) at Cleanmpg had posted some photos doing so.

    There is something like 3 cubic feet of space loss between the gen4 and gen5 hybrids. The Primes end up the same because of the poor battery packaging in the gen4.
     
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  18. bisco

    bisco cookie crumbler

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    lower floor, i forgot about that, thanks.
     
  19. Gokhan

    Gokhan Senior Member

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    I do get eye exams.

    My 2021 Prius Prime Limited has the better Dunlop Enasave 01 A/S tires vs. the not-so-good Toyo NanoEnergy A41 tires on my 2020 Prius Prime XLE. It also has TSS 2.0 vs. TSS 1.0 of the former. The cars were produced fourteen months apart, and there may be other steering-related changes as well. Perhaps the 2025 Prius will have a different steering feeling than the 2024 Prius.

    As I said, it is a different hybrid system now: THS 5. The car no longer tends to move without gas applied.

    $5,000 markup is the asking price. You can probably negotiate it down.
     
    #19 Gokhan, Nov 24, 2023
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2023
  20. Mr.Vanvandenburg

    Mr.Vanvandenburg Active Member

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    Negotiation lite, “if you can sell for msrp maybe I’ll take it.”
    Did you review if the brake lights are on with your foot on the gas while at a stop? I’m thinking also of my manual vehicle, but there is the clutch and gear selector. I guess it’s legal to stand in neutral with foot off the brake and brake lights out, don’t really know as it hasn’t been something to think about. But you say car isn’t in neutral. One pedal driving cars do apply the brake lights. Not sure if at a stop. I would guess yes they do.
    I get eye exams also. They aren’t all the same.