Toyota Prius Plug-In review
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||34 miles||188-217mpg||29g/km|
The Toyota Prius arguably made hybrid cars mainstream, and the Japanese brand was one of the first to latch onto the benefits plug-in cars can bring with its Prius Plug-In. The current model is actually the second generation of Plug-In, and so boasts many technical advances through lessons learned with the original. We’ll come to those in a moment.
However, despite the Toyota’s technology, rivals have caught up, and the main challenge comes in the form of the Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In. It’s cheaper than the Prius, but both claim an electric range of over 30 miles, while with CO2 emissions of 29g/km for the Toyota and 26g/km for the Hyundai.
Both also look similar – a function of trying to cut through the air as easily as possible – while they offer similar claimed performance and efficiency. They are two of the closest matched plug-in hybrid cars on sale today.
The MINI Countryman S E Hybrid is less efficient, partly due to the fact the plug-in hybrid system is packaged in a heavier and less aerodynamic SUV-style body. It’s also a pricier package than the Prius yet doesn’t return efficiency that can rival the Toyota.
Like with the regular Prius, the Prius Plug-In has some rivals from Kia, the first of which is the Niro PHEV. It’s an SUV with more conventional styling, so if the Prius’s eco-car look isn’t for you, this could prove a worthwhile alternative. It uses the same powertrain as the Ioniq Plug-In, but in a less aerodynamic body and carrying more weight, it’s not quite as efficient.
The Prius' technology consists of a 97bhp 1.8-litre petrol engine and what Toyota calls a Dual Motor Drive system to provide better acceleration and an electric-only cruising speed of 84mph. The total system output stands at 120bhp, which means 0-62mph in a claimed 11.1 seconds and a top speed of 101mph.
However, it’s not about outright performance. Efficiency and how easy it is to drive are more important. The latest Dual Motor Drive system boasts an 83% increase in electric power when compared with the Prius Plug-In’s predecessor, while it gives a better connection between car and driver, too.
This is helped by a Power mode, which makes the engine and motor setup even more responsive to accelerator inputs. This is just one of three modes, while there are four settings for the hybrid petrol-electric setup. You'll notice the benefits of the Dual Motor Drive system as the Prius Plug-In feels eager enough around town, accelerating off the line with plenty of power and making swift and near silent progress.
Sophisticated suspension means there’s ride quality to match, too. The setup takes bumps in its stride and feels soft and compliant most of the time, whether that’s in town or at higher speeds, yet it’s also surprisingly good to drive. The Prius delivers decent agility and relatively composed handling for an eco-friendly car, even if the steering has next to no feel.
The CVT automatic gearbox actually helps refinement as long as you don’t accelerate too hard. The assistance from the Dual Motor setup means the engine doesn’t have to rev too hard so long as you don’t press the accelerator flat to the floor – if you do things do get a bit noisy as the CVT gearbox holds the revs high for maximum acceleration.
The system recoups energy when braking, too, so you can top the battery up on the move. Of course, plug in overnight and you can fully charge the Toyota’s 8.8kWh battery pack in just under four hours using a domestic three-pin socket. This drops to around two-and-a-half hours with a wallbox charger that makes the most of the car’s 3.3kW charging capability.
It’s all fairly positive for the Prius Plug-In, then. However, there are some drawbacks when it comes to practicality, owing to that bigger battery pack over the regular Prius. This eats into boot space, so there’s only 191 litres with the rear seats in place. Those rear seats only take two passengers as well, as the Prius Plug-In is only a four-seater, unlike the Ioniq Plug-in, which takes five.
The infotainment is lacking, too, and some of the materials feel cheap, even if build quality is good – but focus on the car’s claimed fuel economy of 217mpg and you’ll be reminded that this is a very cheap car to run, yet there’s a good level of kit, even if, with only two trim levels to choose from, the range isn’t the most expansive.
It might not be quite as competitive as its Hyundai rival on price, while it lacks that car’s practicality too, but the Toyota Prius Plug-In isn’t without merit and it’s a worthy eco-friendly car that you should consider if you’re after an affordable plug-in hybrid.
For a more detailed look at the Toyota Prius Plug-In, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.