According to its specs, the all-new 2023 Toyota Prius has perhaps 7 fewer cubic-feet of cargo space than its predecessor. That’s theoretically significant, but honestly, who the hell cares? If losing all those cubes in any way resulted in the new Prius looking the way it does rather than the horror show that was the last generation, well, Autoblog Luggage Test HQ is more than happy to look the other way. I do suppose this is the one way the old Prius was better, which still makes for a ratio exponentially in favor of the 2023. I really can’t underline enough how much better this car is, and for more reasons than just aesthetics.
But I’m here to talk about cargo capacity. On paper, the Prius LE has 23.8 cubic-feet of space, while the XLE and Limited have 20.3. That’s roughly equivalent to a subcompact SUV, but the shape of its cargo area is quite obviously different and the amount of actual stuff you can carry is therefore likely to be different. The trunk space is longer and shallower, and is similar in theory to the Honda Civic Hatchback, which will soon be available as a Hybrid.
This test is of the Limited, so the smaller of the two versions.
No problem with loading this sucker, that’s for sure. The hatchback makes for easy access.
You can also see the cargo cover. This is a similar unit as you’ll find in the Lexus NX, which folds up neatly and can be placed on top of your bags should you need to. It cannot fit under the floor (more on that later).
Now, although it’s easy to store aboard, there’s a very good chance you’d need to chuck it anyway. As such, I still tested with and without it.
As in every luggage test I do, that means two midsize roller suitcases that would need to be checked in at the airport (26 inches long, 16 wide, 11 deep), two roll-aboard suitcases that just barely fit in the overhead (24L x 15W x 10D), and one smaller roll-aboard that fits easily (23L x 15W x 10D). I also include my wife’s fancy overnight bag just to spruce things up a bit (21L x 12W x 12D).
Yikes. This would only be the four smallest bags, and even then, they’re a bit squished. If the fancy bag and the black one second from the right were full, this might not work.
Now, again, I could’ve just removed the cargo cover and plopped it atop the bags, but I decided to keep it in place for two reasons …
First, the good news: The trunk will still close even if you exceed the cargo cover’s height. That’s a good thing. The cover can still protect your stuff from the sun and thieving eyes.
Second, the bad news: This clearly illustrates just how limited in height the new Prius’ cargo area is. Those are the smallest bags, remember.
And let’s take another look at the picture, above left. Notice the slope of the opening at its rearmost point: I couldn’t put the biggest bags on their side since they would extend beyond that slope. They very much could fit in the Civic Hatchback, pictured above right. For the record, that would be the four biggest bags in the Honda, as opposed to the four smallest. The Civic’s unique side-scrolling cargo cover also neatly slides across it all without interference. And, when removed, it takes up even less space.
Admittedly, that’s not a Civic Hybrid. Adding a battery pack could certainly change the floor height.
Now, let’s get rid of the Prius’ cargo cover entirely, because you actually have to in order to add more bags.
This would be all the bags, except rigid medium-sized black bags. BUT! As you can see, the fancy bag is sticking up and if it was full, it might not fit. Ditto the bigger black bag there.
And yeah, no room for the cargo cover. Here’s what they look like through the rear window.
The reason for the Prius’ limited luggage-hauling ability is just how high the floor is. It actually looks like a stage. You can see how much of a dropoff there is on either side, including on the right where the regular-old lead-acid car battery resides.
Here’s what’s underneath the stage.
Sorry, wrong stage. Here’s the correct photo.
Giant white foam compartment thing!
I suppose this isn’t a worthless space, as there’s plenty of cubbies for various odds and ends. This isn’t the Odds and Ends Test, however.
When I reached out to Toyota to ask about the 3.5-cubic-foot difference between the LE and the XLE/Limited you see here, the answer was literally this giant white foam compartment thing. The LE doesn’t have it AND(!) it has a spare tire. The XLE and Limited have the tire repair kit you can see in the upper right corner.
So, um, I’d argue that makes the XLE and Limited way less useful than the LE.
You cannot move the floor down, as you can in a Kia Niro and various SUVs, although you could theoretically remove the giant white foam compartment thing. BUT!
It’s literally bolted down. I didn’t want to deal with those / break something, so I couldn’t see what’s underneath. Fair guess it ain’t flat. And, as in the Corolla Cross Hybrid, I’m guessing all-wheel-drive versions of the Prius would have a wiring harness down there feeding the rear motor below. That’s just a guess, though.
Now, it should be said that the Prius is still a hatchback, and it therefore provides a degree of versatility you wouldn’t get with a sedan. That’s more beneficial when carrying a chair or something … and even then, it can’t be a particularly big chair.
This would be my smallest roll-aboard, and it’s too high to fit height-wise. Therefore, the roof is less than 23 inches high. You can stand up the biggest bag in the Kia Niro (luggage test coming soon, and spoiler alert, it demolishes the Prius) and various other small SUVs that have similar on-paper specs.
So in conclusion, the Prius isn’t so great at hauling luggage. Or chairs, probably. But it might be OK at odds and ends. And we absolutely don’t want you to think that means we suggest you get a last-generation Prius instead.