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U-turn time - the fifth-gen Toyota Prius is coming to the UK after all

Published: 31 October 2023

► New fifth-gen Toyota Prius coming
► U-turn on decision to not sale in the UK
► Timing and pricing decisions not finalised

The fifth generation of the Toyota Prius will be coming to the UK after all, following a U-turn by the company.

The famed hybrid car wasn’t going to be offered on these shores due to the market moving in different direction – customers are heading more towards SUVs for their hybrid fix, meaning it was seen that the Prius was surplus to requirements. Those who wanted something smaller and more akin to the Prius – private hire drivers for example – were likely to be served by the more conventionally shaped Corolla.

All about the new Mk5 Toyota Prius range

The all-new fifth-generation Toyota Prius made its world debut at the 2022 Los Angeles Auto Show and initially it was no more than a tantalising teaser for UK buyers, as the svelte, more Europeanised style and fuel-supping tech were not bound for these shores.

The new 2023 Toyota Prius hybrid: not being sold in UK

This would have brought to a close almost a quarter century of pioneering hybrids; the nameplate was synonymous with petrol-electric powertrains since global launch back in 1997. It was beloved of eco-conscious celebrities in the early days, before being adopted by Uber drivers in more recent years.

The economical Prius turned out to be even more prescient than first thought, as the world belatedly plays catch-up with Toyota’s innovative hybrid powertrain. No wonder ‘Prius’ became shorthand for the genre.

Why was Toyota axing the Prius in the UK?

Toyota must have some plans for the Prius, as the recent sales were not exactly barnstorming. The company registered just 563 Prius hybrids in Britain in 2022 and they were mostly sold to minicab operators, not more lucrative retail customers. Compare that number to the 18,000 Toyota C-HR hybrid crossovers sold in 2021 and you begin to understand the challenge Toyota faces.

At the time of the axing, a spokesman told CAR: ‘With our evolving UK product strategy and changing market conditions, we have taken the decision not to introduce the new-generation Prius in the UK as the new model represents a very different proposition to its predecessor – alongside a clear shift in UK consumer demand towards more SUV-style vehicles.

New Toyota Prius

‘Since its introduction as our first hybrid model back in 2000, over the years we have launched a much greater selection of self-charging hybrids, covering all the main segments of the market meeting a much wider customer base. Acknowledging its popularity in the private hire market, we are still able to cater for operators who continue to require our reliable hybrid technology, with the UK-built Corolla Touring Sports estate.’
What’s changed? Well, at the moment we don’t know. It could be that Toyota decided that there is enough of a legacy demand to justify it, or it could be that there is sufficient demand from another closely-related right-hand drive market that makes it easier to just pop it on sale here too.

We’ll know more as time goes by – at the moment the decisions on timings and pricing are ‘still being ironed out’ according to a spokesman for the brand. However, a further announcement is anticipated in the near future.

The new 2023 Toyota Prius: the lowdown

The Prius is arguably one of Toyota’s most iconic models, but it’s now embattled by hybrid and PHEV rivals from all sides. So the new Mk5 Prius has had the kitchen sink thrown at it – from Toyota’s latest electrified powertrain and design cues from the bZ4x electric crossover to make its design less alienating.

It’s part of Toyota’s new design era, kicked off by a range of concept cars and the bZ4x EV, the company’s first EV. The wedge shape of the Prius remains intact, it’s 50mm taller with a 50mm longer wheelbase, and it’s 22mm wider than the last generation.

Inside, it’s full of design details and equipment shared with the bZ4x, too, including the small steering wheel and high-mounted driver display that’s meant to be viewed above the wheel, not through it (a little like Peugeot’s i-Cockpit design).

A large central touchscreen features, too. We’ll be sitting in the car at the LA show this week and will report back on interior quality, functionality and space.

Is the new Prius still an efficient fuel-miser?

The plug-in powertrain in the new Prius PHEV is one major reason to get excite by its imminent arrival – not something you can historically say about a Prius. The new model has a 2.0-litre petrol engine and an e-motor making a combined 220bhp – punchy by Toyota’s usual standards.

This means a 0-62mph time of just 6.7 seconds. There’s also a new, bigger 13.6kWh battery pack which, Toyota promises, means an increase in electric-only range of up to 75%. the model on 17-inch tyres can go for 65 miles on battery alone.

This means an official fuel economy rating of 85mpg, so long as you go for the 17-inch tyres.

Will we get the Prius 24h Le Mans Centennial GR Edition?

Unlikely, but it would be cool, right? Although given that Toyota now offers a GR Sport version of its Hilux pickup truck, it is possible that there will be a sportier version of its hybrid hatch.

Revealed at Le Mans 2023 to celebrate the race’s 100th running, the Prius 24h Le Mans Centennial GR Edition is essentially a tuned-up version of the Uber favourite and also highlighted Toyota’s commitment to hybrid tech.

Prius in Le Mans exhibition

So what’s different?

The new Prius is already a striking car, but this model goes one further thanks to a raft of motorsport-derived parts; you’ll find everything from side skirts to a large rear wing and diffuser if you scan the pics. 

It’s like a GR Yaris meets the sleek monocab silhouette of the world’s most famous hybrid…

Anything else? 

The Prius’s track has been widened, and it now runs on 235/50 R18-inch tyres with aerodynamic wheels. Toyota has also added additional driving lights – because Le Mans.

Prius Le Mans side view

When is the new Prius going on sale?

The brand says the Prius PHEV came to Europe in the spring of 2023 although this didn’t include the UK at the start. Now this has changed, so we can expect to see more information by the end of 2023 with a likely on-sale date some time in 2024.

So, unexpectedly, the Prius story continues. The car that was probably responsible for more technological change in the car industry than people gave it credit for lives on. The company that has sold more than 15 million hybrid cars globally since the game-changing Prius first launched 25 years ago has decided its most famous model still has something left to give after all.

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's Digital Editor, F1 and sim-racing enthusiast. Partial to clever tech and sports bikes