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Toyota Prius Plug-in: Test Drive Review

Date: 20 August 2012   |   Author:

Category: Upper medium
P11D price: £32,840 (before £5k Govt. grant)
Key rival: Vaux

The new Toyota Prius Plug-in is effectively a new segment within the segment of plug-in hybrids, which run on electricity from a plug before switching to conventional petrol power.

In simple terms, the Prius is in the same ballpark as the Vauxhall Ampera and Chevrolet Volt, but Toyota has gone about similar technology in a very different way.

While the Ampera boasts a range of around 50 miles, the Prius covers just over 15. Toyota says it has conducted a five-year trial and feels the 15.5-mile range is the best for the compromise of performance versus weight and packaging as two-thirds of commutes are, in its experience, under that figure.

Casual observers will struggle to spot external differences between the Plug-in Prius and the standard one, while on the inside the difference are equally subtle. Apart from giving up just three litres of boot space, putting the Prius Plug-in at 443 litres against 300 for the Ampera, and the charging cable stored in a little boot-floor flap, the only significant difference is the extra couple of buttons on the dash. One allows you to switch to the regular Prius hybrid drivetrain, saving the full electric mode for later in the journey, which comes in handy for drivers that go from motorway to city, while the EV City mode decreases throttle response so the driver can push the throttle harder before the petrol engine cuts in to help.

The Plug-in Prius will charge in 90 minutes, and Toyota is recommending it's done from a dedicated circuit, rather than plugging in next to the kettle.

To drive, the Plug-in is just like a Prius, but one that runs on its EV mode for longer. The displays on the dashboard are a real help in maximising efficiencies, especially the one that shows how much throttle can be applied before the petrol engine joins in when on hybrid mode. It's not the most exciting car to drive, but that's not really the point of the Prius, let alone this new flagship version, and the cost of it, after the £5000 Government grant for low-emission vehicles, puts it within striking distance of - at around £1200 above - a top-end standard hybrid Prius fitted with satnav, as is standard on the Plug-in.

Like the other plug-in hybrids, how sensible a business decision the Prius Plug-in proves to be is dependent on the miles it can cover in electric mode. If the majority of journeys are less than 15 miles between recharges, then the cost case gets better by the mile. But for every turn of the wheel powered by petrol, the argument gets stronger for a regular Prius, or an efficient diesel car. For drivers averaging around 200 miles a week, or 10,000 per year, that can charge at home and work, the Prius Plug-in could be a very prudent option, offering electric propulsion without sacrificing the ability to occasionally cover longer distances. For people doing more than that, it could prove an effective way to cheaper taxation, thanks to the 49g/km emissions rating and 5% BIK until at least April 2015, but other options will prove more fuel-efficient over that period.

Toyota Prius Plug-in
P11D price£32,840
Model price range£21,600-£32,840
Fuel consumption134.5mpg
CO2 (tax) 49g/km (5%)
BIK 20/40% per month£27/£55
Service interval10,000miles
Insurance (1-50)group 16
Boot space 443 litres
Engine size/power1798cc/134hp
Top speed/0-62mph112mph/11.4secs
On sale July 2012
VerdictShort EV range
means selective benefit
depending on use


Short EV range means selective benefit depending on use