18.4.2021Toyota Prius Plug-in review
Toyota’s Prius is widely regarded as an efficient car, but the Prius Plug-In - though less famous - is even more so. The plug-in hybrid has a much longer electric-only range than the conventional hybrid, and updates to the Prius Plug-In have made the current model more practical than ever.
Review by Chris Lilly
TOYOTA PRIUS PLUG-IN: PERFORMANCE
Powered by a four cylinder 1.8 litre petrol engine producing 97 bhp, and twin electric motors, the Prius Plug-In puts out a combined 120 bhp (90 kW).This means the Toyota is capable of getting from 0-62mph in 11.1 seconds, and reach a top speed of 101 mph. In short bursts, the Prius Plug-In feels quicker than the sprint time suggests, thanks to the electric motors pushing things forward with instant response.
In fact, the Prius Plug-In drives far better as an EV than as a hybrid, and makes great sense as an urban runabout - a better one than the conventional Prius. Other than in built-up areas, where the Toyota does well is on longer runs when the e-CVT transmission can settle down at motorway speeds. It means the Prius Plug-In is a car that performs nicely at opposite ends of the driving spectrum, but it’s not got the response or performance to do well in between - B-roads and twisty A-roads.
The Toyota Prius Plug-In, as you may have gathered by now, is not a performance car. Its focus is very much on efficiency, and complementing that, comfort. Although relatively lightweight, the Prius Plug-In is not a car to drive enthusiastically, rather it is better suited to the areas where its powertrain works well - motorways and built-up areas.
There could be greater refinement in the suspension set-up, but it does a good job of dealing with speed bumps, pot holes etc, and the car’s wheelbase and springs combine well to make the Prius Plug-In a comfortable cruiser.
One of the key changes to the current Prius Plug-In is the addition of a rear bench. Initial models of second-generation Prius Plug-In had two seats in the rear, and a central storage tray in between. Updates in 2019 mean that three can be sat across the back seats, though those in the middle are going to need to be small or only carried on occasional trips. There’s a transmission tunnel and sloping roofline reducing the ability for the Prius Plug-In to be a comfortable machine for five adults.
Boot space is the same as before, which is decent but an ‘odd’ shape. Toyota has packed in the litres in terms of capacity, but it’s a shape that is dictated by the Prius’ focus on efficiency, and thus the slippery shape of the bodywork. The fastback styling means that although the boot goes back a fair way to the rear seat backs, the load capacity isn’t particularly high. Ideal for flat-pack furniture boxes or bikes, less good for bulkier items. Most of the time there will be no issue compared to a conventional hatchback, but it’s worth bearing in mind.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Comfort is pretty good throughout for Prius Plug-In occupants. It’s not got the feel of a premium car, but the Toyota is far from bargain-basement as well. As you might expect from a Toyota, everything feels well screwed together, and the quality of materials used are good rather than top drawer.
Controls can look fiddly, but tend to work well and are placed sensibly. The touchscreen system doesn’t look the most advanced, but again, it works well in practice. Toyota certainly hasn’t prioritised design over substance here, and the Prius Plug-In is an easy car to get used to.
TOYOTA PRIUS PLUG-IN: RANGE & RUNNING COSTS
The Prius Plug-In’s key reason for existence is its excellent fuel economy figures. As always with PHEVs, these can either be missed by a mile or exceeded comfortably; it all depends on how often you can recharge it. The fuel economy figure here is particularly strong, with an official score of up to 235.4 MPG available. Even the least economical specification sees 188.3 MPG available. Aiding this is an electric-only range of up to 34 miles on a charge, which is one of the best around for PHEVs.
This specification has a fuel economy figure of 217 MPG, and in real-world conditions, after 200 miles and a single charge, the trip computer showed 72 MPG, which is about as bad as most people will find it. The electric-only range will comfortably cover 26-28 miles on a charge if sticking in and around built up areas, and driven how the Toyota is intended, a fuel economy of more than 200 MPG is a doddle.
Toyota’s Prius PHEV has an 8.8 kWh battery for the EV range, which can be recharged via a Type 2 inlet at up to 3.3 kW for a top-up in two hours. It helps contribute to official CO2 emissions of 28 g/km (29 g/km in this specification). Toyota has a range of driving modes available, including EV City, EV, Battery Charge, or HV (Hybrid Vehicle) in terms of operating modes, or Normal, Power, and Eco for set-up.
A range of other features help efficiency, including an ultra-slippery shape, carbon-fibre tailgate to help reduce weight, heat pump for the air conditioning, and battery warming system.
There are two trim levels available for buyers, Business Edition Plus, and Excel. All models get items such as an 8-inch Toyota Touch 2 with Go touchscreen infotainment system, including navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, wireless phone charger, dual-zone air conditioning, leather steering wheel, heated front seats, LED headlights, colour head-up display, rear camera, Toyota Safety Sense package, keyless entry and start, and 15-inch alloys.
Excel trim adds parking sensors front and rear, park assist, 10-speaker JBL audio system, voice control, leather upholstery, and electric driver’s seat.
TOYOTA PRIUS PLUG-IN: MODEL SUMMARY
The Toyota Prius Plug-In is often overlooked by those that want an efficient car, and unfairly so. There are an increasing number of family-friendly PHEVs on the market and, although the Toyota isn't particularly exciting to drive, few can match the efficiency of the Prius Plug-In. It’s better driven as an EV, so keep the Prius Plug-In charged for all but occasional long trips and it will prove a useful car for buyers.
Model tested: Toyota Prius Plug-In Business Edition Plus
Body-style: Family hatchback
Engine / CO2: 1.8 litre petrol engine and twin electric motors / 29 g/km
Trim grades: Business Edition Plus and Excel
On-road price: From £32,125
Warranty: Five years / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.0 Stars