Quick, what nameplate do you think of immediately when I mention hybrid? If you said Toyota Prius, then you’d be right. No other vehicle is as synonymous with this term and for good reason. It helped jumpstart the move towards electrification and showed us endless possibilities. For the last four generations, the 2022 Toyota Prius remains one of the most recognizable vehicles on the market lauded for its efficiency and practicality. However, it’s no longer the only hybrid game in town. Toyota itself has nearly a dozen electrified vehicles ranging from the Mirai to the full-size Tundra pickup. Should you still get one? I spent a week with the Nightshade Edition to find out.
2022 Toyota Prius: Polarizing Yet Practical
Think of the 2022 Toyota Prius as a compact car on the large end of the spectrum. It’s larger than most vehicles of this type yet it offers the practicality of an SUV, more on the latter in a bit. There is the matter of its looks though because it’s surely not for everyone. From the angry front mug to the angular rear end with vertical taillights and a two-piece rear window, the edgy but aerodynamic appearance is an acquired taste. The Nightshade Edition gets extra cosmetic touches like black door handles, a black shark fin antenna, black badging, and black 17-inch alloy wheels.
Look past the looks and you’ll find a hatchback that’s super practical and easy to live with. The Prius fits four people comfortably, even tall ones. Thanks to the scalloped ceiling, the low-slung roofline doesn’t affect headroom as much and there’s respectable space even with all seats up. Fold the second row down and you get plenty of usable capacity for Ikea and/or Costco runs. My only quibble with the interior is the lack of usable storage space for small items other than the tray that barely fits a modern smartphone.
As for material quality, the Prius’ interior is typical Toyota. It’s well built but lands squarely in mainstream territory. You get lots of soft surfaces and padding but you’re not mistaking it for a vehicle a class above. However, there are more hard plastics in the rear. Additional sound insulation would also be welcomed because you get a lot of wind noise on the highway.
Simple but Aging Tech
The Toyota Prius sticks with the older Entune interface featuring a 7.0-inch touchscreen. While the controls are simple, their responses to your inputs are slow and the graphics look dated. Since it’s based on the XLE trim, you only get the base six-speaker audio system, which is clear but not very immersive. Every Prius also gets the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver assistance as standard equipment. While it works fine in most situations, it’s tuned conservatively. This is most evident in the way adaptive cruise control’s distancing component works because it leaves too much space between you and the vehicle ahead even in its closest setting. Additionally, its lane-centering component tends to ping pong you between the lane lines.
2022 Toyota Prius: Efficient and Comfortable
Efficiency is the Prius’s defining character since its inception. It takes a 1.8-liter four-cylinder and couples it to an electric drive motor, a planetary gear set, and a lithium-ion battery. With only 121 hp combined, it’s not quick and won’t set your hair on fire. That’s enough for daily driving duties since the electric motor’s instant torque keeps it from feeling winded. However, you’ll need to plan your highway passes and climb up steep grades at a steady pace because of the limited amount of power.
In terms of ride and handling, the Prius will surprise you. It was one of the first vehicles to benefit from Toyota’s TNGA-C architecture, which is more rigid. As a result, the car handles surprisingly well. While it’s no sports car, it’s confident and secure, meaning you’re not going to feel unsafe when you execute an evasive maneuver. The steering, however, is slow and disconnected. Ride comfort, on the other hand, is smooth and compliant. The suspension does a great job dealing with road imperfections and is free of any vertical motions. Even with the 17-inch wheels, you’re not losing out on compliance since the car is tuned towards the softer end of the spectrum.
Brake pedal operation is usually a sticky topic with electrified vehicles but in the case of the Prius, it’s fairly normal. Transitions from regenerative to mechanical braking are apparent but it doesn’t jolt you with a sudden increase in stopping power. You get a gradual build-up, allowing you to slow down smoothly and consistently. B mode provides additional energy recuperation but it won’t bring you to a complete stop.
Still the Best Daily?
At nearly six years into its current generation, the 2022 Toyota Prius isn’t the freshest entrant, even among compact cars. Yet it’s a testament to Toyota’s hybrid prowess thanks to its smooth and efficient powertrain, comfortable ride, and practicality. This hatchback has some flaws but it’s easy to see why consumers gravitate to it even in a crossover-crazed world. The fifth-generation Prius isn’t that far away and it could bring new life to this now-forgotten icon, especially in the age of obscene fuel prices. If the refreshed 2023 Corolla Hybrid is any indication, the new model will have lots to like. For now, the current Prius is still a feasible choice, especially for those looking for a cavernous compact car.