Toyota Prius Plug-in

25 Jul, 2012 2:45pm Damion Smy

The Toyota Prius Plug-in offers staggering fuel economy, but is it worth the premium over a regular Prius?


The Prius Plug-in is an excellent all-round eco car, with space, practicality and outstanding fuel consumption. It takes advantage of its EV capabilities to make an excellent short-distance commuter, yet because it's a hybrid, you don't have to suffer from range anxiety. It shares the regular Prius' bland driving experience, but in the name of economy, it's an outstanding real-world eco car.

Is this the best Toyota Prius on sale? The all-new Plug-in version promises greater economy, as its more efficient batteries give an even longer electric-only range. The car is Toyota’s answer to range-extenders like the Vauxhall Ampera and Chevrolet Volt – and it undercuts them, too, at £27,895 after the £5,000 Government EV grant (the Ampera costs £33,995 after the same discount).

On the outside, this Prius looks like any other, with only minor touches like the chrome front bumper details, silver number plate shroud on the bootlid and badging setting it apart. But under the skin, new lithium-ion batteries replace the regular nickel versions, and they take the electric-only range from around two miles to 15 miles.

After testing 600 plug-in research vehicles in Europe 
over the past few years, Toyota found that most had an average daily journey of 12.5 miles – so the Prius Plug-in should be able to complete most commutes 
on electric power. It takes just 
90 minutes to charge, and this can be done at a regular socket. But if the battery runs flat, the Plug-in behaves like a regular Prius, running on petrol power, 
so there’s no range anxiety.

Due to the batteries’ greater range, however, the petrol engine – which is the same 1.8-litre as used in the Prius – doesn’t have to cut in as often, and won’t use as much fuel. Toyota claims a staggering economy figure of 134.5mpg, backed up by CO2 emissions of 49g/km. The Prius’ 72mpg and 89g/km suddenly don’t look quite so impressive.

But all this comes at a cost: 
the batteries add 50kg of weight to the package and 0.9 seconds to the 0-62mph time, taking the latter to 11.3 seconds. There’s also the price: the standard Prius range kicks off at £21,600, which is a massive £6,295 cheaper. Still, the £27,895 Prius 
Plug-in is based on the top-
spec T Spirit, so you get plenty 
of kit for the money, including sat-nav, Bluetooth, a head-up display, JBL stereo and leather seats. 

The driving experience is 
near-identical, too. You can switch between full EV and hybrid modes, an EV City setting – which requires a more forceful right foot to get the petrol engine to cut in – and an Eco mode that makes the throttle softer to conserve energy.

The steering is accurate and light, the ride comfortable (even though it thumps a bit over bumps) and overall the Prius 
is easy to drive. The only real 
negative is the drone from 
the engine due to the CVT 
gearbox, but that’s the 
same with the regular car.

The big question is whether the Plug-in is worth the extra? You’ll have to do your sums. If you do frequent short trips, you’ll hardly spend anything on petrol. Plus, drivers will benefit from the likely drop in the threshold for road tax exemption from 99g/km to 85g/km, and those in London will be able to cash in when the Congestion Charge threshold falls to 80g/km at the end of this year. Outside the capital, however, you’re probably still better off with the regular Prius.

Disqus - noscript

Nice - 6 grand extra for what - a 5KWh battery pack? That's about £1000-£2000 worth of battery depending on tech. Nice to see that they're really pushing the price envelope to make these electric cars affordable!

I agree (Although to be fair it's based on the T-Spirit spec so more like £3k) however that is the price after the £5k government grant.

Sure they must have inflated the price as looks like this could have been about £26-27k before grant but then that would have dropped it to £21-22k so no-one would have bought a normal Prius unless they slashed the prices.
Quite sad really as can you imagine how many they would have shifted and how big an impact it would have had at £21k!

"it’s a car that works for short trips, and a regular Prius is a better bet if you cover serious motorway miles."
Surely you'd be better off with a diesel for serious motorway miles, any Prius advantages are in stop-go motoring not cruising!

Some people have the view that an electric car is green clean and cheaper to run, of course when all the costs are broken down it’s obvious that it’s not.
Batteries take a lot of power to produce, it’s dirty technology, and it is another dirty un-green process to safely dispose of them.
All batteries have a shelf life & electric car batteries will be no different, only they will cost thousands of £ pounds.
The government has promised to subsidize with public money first time buyers of electric cars, with a replacement battery said to cost in excess of 2 or 3000 pounds, so it looks like the first replacement battery will be funded by the taxpayers of this country.
Therefore tax payers and none drivers will be subsidising all electric car drivers.

Key specs

  • Price: £27,895
  • Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl petrol; electric motor
  • Transmission: Continuously Varibale Transmission, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 11.3 seconds
  • Top Speed: 112mph
  • Economy: 134.5mpg
  • CO2: 49g/km
  • Equipment: Sat-nav, Bluetooth, seven airbags, cruise control
  • On sale: Now
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