Toyota Prius Plug-in Review
The Toyota Prius Plug-in is a family car that can save you a lot of money on fuel provided you use it on short trips. It’s also pretty safe but alternatives are more enjoyable to drive.
What's not so good
Toyota Prius Plug-in: what would you like to read next?
If you’re looking to keep your ownership costs to a minimum, but you find the idea of an all-electric car off-putting, the Toyota Prius Plug-in makes for an ideal candidate.
On top of the normal Prius’ hybrid engine and low running costs, for an extra outlay, the Plug-in adds the ability to travel short distances of around 20-25 miles on silent electric power thanks to a much bigger battery.
You won’t notice any difference to a normal Prius from behind the steering wheel – you get the same futuristic dashboard with a central-mounted touchscreen which operates the sat-nav. There’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connectivity yet so you’re stuck with the Toyota sat-nav that can at times give you misleading arrow directions and the auto-zoom features is often too slow to react.
On the upside, build quality is very good and you can opt for a mostly white interior that really brightens it up inside. Tech fans will like the second screen above the infotainment which shows you driving data and scores you on how ‘green’ your driving is.
Despite this two-storey arrangement to the dashboard, you get a nice view out and there are plenty of levers to fine tune your driving position. As standard, you can change the seat height and you also get adjustable lower back support which makes long journeys more comfortable.
You get good space up front, but it’s not so spacious for rear seat passengers. There isn’t a whole lot of headroom for anyone over six-feet tall but a fairly bizarre thing is the two-seat arrangement in the back. A Rolls-Royce this isn’t, while the extra glossy plastic and cupholders in the middle won’t help your explanation as to why your fourth friend can’t join you along on the ride, like in any other car of similar size.
Due to the Prius Plug-in’s enlarged battery, the boot lip is at a considerable height making loading heavy suitcases a good exercise – don’t forget to lift with your legs and not your back. On the upside the space is pretty good for a family car, easily taking a trio of typical aeroplane suitcases.
The Prius Plug-in makes a lot of sense with its electric-only range, but the seating arrangement limits its uses somewhat.
You won’t be racing anyone with the Prius Plug-in, but the bigger battery correlates to a stronger shove from a stand-still than in a normal Prius. You can easily keep up with traffic on electric power alone, provided you keep to lower speeds of around 20-50mph.
At higher speeds, the help of the 1.8-litre petrol engine is frequently needed and when that is on, you most certainly know it – it’s very loud. The auto gearbox fitted to the Toyota Prius Plug-in also makes the engine revs soar when you go for an overtake making it even louder.
The Prius Plug-in has a body that slips easily through the air resulting in low wind noise at speed, but road noise easily makes its way into the cabin often forcing you to crank up the stereo to drown it out.
While a tad noisy, the Toyota Prius Plug-in is pretty relaxing to drive thanks to a fairly soft suspension that takes care of most potholes so you only hear a muted thud. Of course, the Prius Plug-in leans a lot in corners as a result of the soft set up so it’s far from the sporty VW Golf GTE when it comes to driver enjoyment.
The Prius Plug-in wins a lot of points for its standard equipment and, in particular, the driving assists that make it a very safe car. Highlights include emergency auto braking, adaptive cruise control and a lane keep assist which, when combined, give the Prius Plug-in an almost self-driving ability.
Weirdly, however, if you go for the solar sunroof – which is supposed to add a couple of miles to your range on a sunny day but also looks very cool – you lose the standard head-up display, blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.
So if you live up to 30 miles away from work (and you can charge there as well) and you keep to low-speed city streets, the Toyota Prius Plug-in makes for a very cheap-to-run commuter. However, if you live nowhere near a big city and do lots of miles, a diesel car will be just as cheap in the long run.