Review: Toyota Prius Plug-in

Review: Toyota Prius Plug-in
Review: Toyota Prius Plug-in

Mark two Prius Plug-in hybrid gets a bigger electric range and a still-big price

The standard Prius hybrid has been a huge success, but British fans of the Prius Plug-in have been less easy to find. With this second-gen car offering an augmented 39-mile electric range and plenty of changes to both tech and style, Toyota is hoping to boost its popularity.

Coincidentally or otherwise, following reports from the PHEV’s European press launch that included a fair bit of criticism of the proposed price, £3200 was knocked off. Even so, with the £2500 government grant you’ll still need £29,195 for the entry-level version of this four-seat hatchback – a challenging ask in a sales environment increasingly populated by fully-electric vehicles with more and more usable ranges. Not to mention even less welcome opposition from Toyota’s own £6k cheaper entry-level Prius hybrid.

Still, the Plug-In’s CO2 output of just 22g/km means there’s no shortage of financial appeal to company car buyers. In use, it needs to perform the dual function of providing comfortable transport not just in cities but also outside them, and this is a function it fulfils pretty well.

Toyota Prius Plug-in Business Edition Plus

Price: £29,195 (including £2500 gov’t grant)
Engine: 1.8-litre, four-cylinder, petrol, plus dual-motor hybrid assist
Power: 121bhp
Torque: 105lb ft
Gearbox: e-CVT
Kerb weight: 1550kg
0-62mph: 11.1sec
Top speed: 101mph
Economy: 283mpg (combined)
Claimed electric range: 39 miles
CO2/tax band: 22g/km, 9%

Town driving in electric-only mode is the usual EV experience of relaxing yet lively performance accompanied by a distant buzz from the motor and some road racket. Despite some additional insulation, however, the Toyota is still off class-leading pace when it comes to refinement.

In real-world use, the 8.8kWh lithium ion battery will deliver about 25 miles from a full charge. On longer trips, owners won’t notice much difference between the Prius Plug-in and the standard Prius. It’s reasonably comfortable but not especially quick. It’s hard to detect the switching of power from EV to the 1.8-litre petrol engine, but you won’t have any difficulty hearing the engine revving to the red line during hard acceleration. At least that settles down once your desired cruising speed has been reached.

The official economy figure is 283mpg, a notional number that’s a long way from the actuality of high 60s. That’s not a whole lot better than you’ll see in a normal hybrid Prius. Our test car had the optional £1500 solar roof package. When you tick that box on your Business Edition Plus spec sheet, up to three miles a day can theoretically be added to the battery range. Again, in real UK weather, the real-world change is unlikely to be anything other than marginal.

Toyota has tried to improve the ride by fitting new double wishbone rear suspension. The effects of a new, lower centre of gravity are evident during cornering, where body roll is well contained. Handling overall is safe but unexciting, with a degree of shudder across bad roads and some float over crests.

The new car’s larger battery impinges on rear space, both in the boot and the back seat which only takes two people. That apart, Prius owners will experience little culture shock thanks to a largely unchanged cabin layout. The 4.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system is feature-packed but rather confusing.

For your £29,195 the entry-level Business Edition Plus model supplies touchscreen sat-nav, Bluetooth, a DAB radio, a head-up display and automatic headlights. Moving up to the £31,395 Excel range-topper adds automatic wipers, self-parking, front and rear parking sensors, leather upholstery and an upgraded stereo.

By our guess, Prius Plug-in sales will amount to around one in ten of total UK Prius sales. Despite its improvements, this second-gen Plug-in is likely to remain a tough sell. There’s plenty of technology to admire here, but it can’t match the dynamic ability or the practicality of a Volkswagen Golf GTE, and the hugely impressive BMW 330e sits in the same tax bracket.

It’s worth a look if the electric range fits your lifestyle and you’re okay with the slightly oddball styling, but on a economy/cost basis it will take an awfully long time to get back the extra money you’ve forked out over and above the cost of a regular Prius.

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