Toyota Prius Plug-in Review

Toyota Prius Plug-in Review

The Toyota Prius Plug-In is a modified version of the mainstream Prius that splits the difference between its familiar gasoline-electric hybrid sibling and all-electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf. Fitted with the same powertrain as the regular Prius but with a more efficient, higher-capacity lithium-ion battery pack that can be externally recharged, the Prius Plug-In Hybrid can travel 10-15 miles and up to speeds of about 62 mph on battery power alone. Both of those numbers go well beyond the capabilities of the regular Prius. After that electric-only range is used up, the car reverts to standard hybrid operation and as with the standard Prius, rates an impressive 50 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

In most other respects, the Prius Plug-In variant is pretty much the same as the regular Toyota Prius, meaning you get the same strengths and weaknesses. A higher initial cost could also be a concern, but for hybrid shoppers looking for ultimate fuel efficiency during short commutes or quick errands, the Prius Plug-In is an excellent choice.

Current Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid
The Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid is a four-door hatchback that's offered in two different trim levels: Base and Advanced. Both feature the same gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain, made up of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a pair of electric motors with a total output of 134 horsepower. Power is sent to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. The Prius Plug-In's lithium-ion battery pack, located underneath the rear seats, can be recharged in about 3 hours using the supplied 120-volt power cable or in about half that time when using a 240-volt home charger.

Standard feature highlights for the base model include keyless ignition/entry, automatic climate control, heated front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a rearview camera, a navigation system, Toyota's Entune smartphone integration and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio and an iPod/USB interface. The Advanced trim level adds upgraded upholstery, a power driver seat, a head-up display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, additional Entune features, a larger display for the navigation system and an upgraded sound system. An optional Technology package for the Advanced adds automatic LED headlights, foglights, adaptive cruise control and a forward collision warning system.

On the road, the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid feels remarkably similar to the regular Prius. The suspension's balance of ride comfort and handling ability should suit most buyers just fine. Acceleration is likewise adequate for everyday driving, regardless of which of the three powertrain modes (Eco, normal or Power) you happen to be in. For very short commutes around town, it's possible not to use the gasoline engine at all.

The Prius Plug-In does have some downsides, however. For starters, it carries a significantly higher sticker price than a regular Prius, and that will likely wipe out any potential savings at the gas pump. There's also significantly less all-electric range than competitors like the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid or all-electric Nissan Leaf. And just like the regular Prius, the Plug-In suffers from excessive road noise, disappointing interior materials and an awkward driving position for some taller drivers.

Overall, though, the Toyota Prius Plug-in should be a good choice for those who want to drive a very environmentally friendly car without giving up the peace of mind that comes from having a gasoline engine under the hood.

Used Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid Models
Since its debut in 2012, the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid has had no significant changes.

Toyota Prius Plug-in years