Proffit at the Wheel: 2022 Toyota Prius Nightshade FWD

Toyota’s Prius has been the genus of hybrid sedans, even though it did come to market a wee bit after Honda’s Insight, which was a coupe with soft hybrid tendencies. The first Prius sedan was flat-out ugly, but Toyota’s stylists found their way and have been honing this sedan that became a hatch to a science ever since.

The United States first saw Toyota’s Prius sedan as the century changed; it was quickly superseded in 2004, becoming a far more handsome hatchback, a configuration that lives to this day, with updates through its four generations, resulting in this 2022 Toyota Prius Nightshade FWD, dressed in classic silver metallic. with black interior. We drove this car from our Long Beach, Calif. home to Las Vegas in late October, to take in the penultimate NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series race, and to dabble in a bit of SEMA Show access.

The biggest complaint we’ve had with the Prius model – since its inception – has been the seats. On long trips, they really weren’t comfortable, requiring several stops simply to stretch. Thankfully, in the fourth gen Prius that’s been remedied and comfort was ours from start to finish. We normally make a stop or two in each direction no matter the vehicle. A standard power seat for the driver, with lumbar support, was definitely a help!

There’s a new Toyota Prius for the 2023 sales year, introduced in Los Angeles this November. As many manufacturers place their faith in pure electric vehicles, Toyota has emphasized its hybrids and plug-in hybrids, together with its Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. When you do something exceptionally well, why not continue to offer it to a supportive public? The new Prius is very different from the last – which shouldn’t come as a surprise – but isn’t available yet. And that makes the 2022 Toyota Prius Nightshade FWD a viable purchase option.

When we picked up this hybrid, it had more than 10,000 miles on the odometer so real world results we would achieve should compute to what anyone else might see through ownership. Fitted with a 121-horsepower (at 5,200 rpm) inline 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, paired to Toyota’s permanent magnet AC synchronous motor with lithium ion battery, the Prius produces 105 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. It’s mated to a continuously variable transmission that does the job. Nicely, too.

With struts and multilink suspensions, front to rear, the 2022 Toyota Prius handles predictably. It has electric power rack and pinion steering steering and vented front disc brakes mated to solid rears. Bridgestone 215/45R rubber is mounted on wide, five-spoke 17-inch black alloy rims that give the Nightshade some of its recognition as being not the everyday Prius model. At 3,075 pounds, the 2022 Toyota Prius Nightshade isn’t too light, isn’t too heavy and feels, well, just right.

The Nightshade model is differentiated by those blackened wheels and mirrors, black headlight accents and Nightshade accents inside and outside the hatch. Speaking of the hatch opening at the rear of this car, it is quite tall and a bit on the heavy side, making it difficult fort this shortie to reach. But once opened, it’ll contain 27.4 cubic feet of stuff when rear seats are in place, with a maximum of 50.7 cubic feet when using all space behind the driver’s and passenger’s seats. There is a good hatch cover and netting available under the hatch to hold items that tend to drift.

Most people choose a Toyota Prius for its efficiency, and ratings show this vehicle can get 52/54/50 mpg from the 11.3-gallon tank. Our mileage varied a lot, because the trip from Long Beach to Las Vegas is filled with hills that can sap mileage on the way out and give back all those lost miles per gallon on the return. We filled the tank three times: once before leaving Southern California, once in Las Vegas and once on the return.

When the first Toyota Prius models came to the USA, they didn’t have many amenities. One might even say they were fairly barren. As the popularity of this vehicle increased, so did the amount of features. On this XLE Nightshade model, there were only three options that added to the $30,470 initial cost including freight: door edge guards for $125, all-weather floor liners throughout at $402 and an emergency assistance kit for $59, bringing the total cost to $31,056.

That’s not a bad price, considering all the safety and convenience features that Toyota places on nearly all of its Prius models. Toyota fits its Safety Sense 2.0 system that includes pre-collision warnings, pedestrian detection, dynamic cruise control (worked through a separate steering wheel stalk), lane departure with steering assistance (we turned that off), auto high beams, road sign assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, sonar with parking assist, a three-door smart key system, and push-button start.

Amenities beyond the safety system include integrated fog lights, LED accent lights and, in fact, full LED lighting inside and out There are heated outside mirrors, rain-sensing monitors, a seven-inch touchscreen that operates the SiriusXM audio through six speakers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, vegan leather trimmed seats, dual-mode heated seats, the power driver’s seat with lumbar (yay), a heated steering wheel, wireless cellphone charger and tire repair kit to replace a spare tire.

Inside there’s a bit too much hard plastics, but there’s also four cup holders and a USB plug-in for anyone relegated to the rear (but no air outlets). Toyota fits a remote for the fuel opening but not for the hatch, which is opened by touch or with the fob. The central covered armrest has storage, while the steering wheel accesses audio, phone and trip information on the left side, while the right side has further info, steering wheel heater controls and the ability to change following distance when using the cruise control.

Drive modes on this vehicle are normal, eco and power. We kept it at normal most of our drive, using eco around town in Vegas, but not accessing the power mode because, well, mileage. The central floor phone charger is quite sensitive and one needs to adjust the phone on a variety of pavements. Behind the front dual-size cup holders lie both a 12-volt and USB outlet. The central gauge cluster has no tachometer but does give a good deal of information, from the fuel gauge to the speedometer, to the power usage, left to right. Trip info is on the bottom of the display with economy scores to the right. Warning lights are to the right of that. Our eco scores ranged anywhere from 50-80 on a 100-point scale.

The 2022 Toyota Prius was comfortable and economical for the longer parts of our drive and fun to manipulate in Las Vegas traffic. Traveling from the track to our lodging at night showed us just how good Toyota’s LED lights are on this vehicle. With dual trip odometers, we could keep track of mileage for the entire, nearly 800 miles during our week and noted an average of 47 mpg total.

So the question remains for anyone in the market for a Toyota Prius: do we wait for the new 2023 redesign or pick up the exceptionally competent 2022 Toyota Prius Nightshade FWD XLE? This particular model is so well-developed that the choice is made even more difficult. While this writer has often been hesitant to suggest a Toyota Prius – mostly because of the seating issue – this latest effort shows that Toyota is listening and reacting to driver’s needs. It’s a viable purchase or lease, especially with two years’ free maintenance.

words and photos by Anne Proffit

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