We’ve had the latest Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid in for review and test, with Business Edition Plus Spec. Is the Plug-in worth the premium over the regular Prius Hybrid?
The Toyota Prius – Toyota’s Hybrid Trailblazer – has been with us for two decades already, and with the arrival of the fourth generation model it’s become even better at offering green zealots a decent car to go with the halo they get to polish by driving a Prius.
But despite the rest of the car world starting to catch up with the Toyota’s hybrid obsession – especially in light of diesel’s rapidly diminishing reputation – Toyota is still delivering a car in the Prius which shouts its green credentials loud and proud in its design, despite offering more regular hybrid version of its core range.
Arguably – with a car designed to appeal mostly to those wanting to shout about their caring, fluffy-bunny love of the planet – the Toyota Prius Plug-in – reviewed here in entry-level Business Edition Plus trim – should be a big seller.
But it seems Prius lovers aren’t yet convinced the Plug-in take on their favourite car is the way to go, with probably less than one in ten Prius buyers opting for the plug-in version so far.
But does this new plug-in version of the 4th generation Prius tip the scales in its favour?
Toyota Prius Plug-in Inside and Out
In terms of how it looks – inside and out – the Prius Plug-in doesn’t stray too far from its non-Plug-in sibling, apart from tweaks to the nose, headlights and tail lights and a slightly bigger arse. Which is no bad thing, and unless you’re a Prius anorak – or they’re side-by-side – you’d be hard-pushed to tell them apart.
It’s no bad thing because the latest Prius is a very well thought out car, appealing to the green evangelists with a stand-out style – certainly the exterior – but one which is far less jarring than it was for those who don’t want to shout about their ‘green-ness’.
What’s probably helped the Prius look less mad is the fact we’re becoming used to cars that manage to take what looks like mad angles, odd surface treatments, incongruous lights and an odd profile and turn them in to a cohesive whole. Like the Toyota C-HR.
So there’s not too much differentiate the Plug-in Prius from the regular hybrid on the outside, but there are sacrifices to be made inside.
The bigger battery does mean you’ll get a much shallower boot that the normal Prius, and it also means the back seats are only good for two passengers, with the central spot taken up by cupholders and a cubby hole.
But even in this entry-level Business Edition Plus spec, the Prius offers a decent spec including safety stuff like Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection, Adaptive Cruise, Lane Departure Warning. Road Sign Assist, Adaptive Headlights and Hill Start.
Goodies in the spec include Climate, Heated Front Seats, Auto Lights, Keyless, Wireless Phone Charging (if you have the right phone) and Toyota Touch 2 with Go including 8″ touchscreen, DAB, CD (really?), Sat Nav, Bluetooth and Rear-View Camera.
Toyota has also added a solar panel roof to this review car, which is said to add up to three miles a day to its EV range (but not in the UK). The sacrifice is the loss of rear-traffic alert and Blind Spot monitoring.
It’s a decent spec, the seats are comfortable around town (although a bit ‘flat’ on a long run), scratchy plastics are well hidden, there’s enough room for anyone other than Greg Davies front or back, and it’s an all round decent package.
2017 Toyota Prius Plug-in Performance on the Road
No one will buy a Toyota Prius – Plug-in or Hybrid – for its startling performance and cutting edge dynamics, so Toyota aren’t going to waste time and effort trying to deliver a Prius honed at the Nurburgring.
But despite that, the latest Prius is quite chuckable – in an old school, slightly roly-poly kind of way – and despite a bit of a tendency to push on in bends – it does manage to get round effectively even if you’re being a bit daft.
What you do get with the Plug-in of course is the ability to run it as an EV – Toyota say for 39 miles, but don’t bank on much more than 20 or so – which does add a new dimension to the Prius offerings.
Even at a real world 20 miles or so, the Prius Plug-in does mean that many will be able to use it as a commuter car in the week simply by plugging it in every night (and at work if you can and your commute is longer) and use it at the weekend as a normal hybrid.
And it does work as an EV; the acceleration is brisk and it can get up to motorway speeds even just on the electric motor.
Use it like that any you probably could see the claimed 200 and odd mpg the official figures declare. But if you use it as most probably will, with just the odd blat with a plug when you get round to it, then around 70mpg is a sensible. Which is really not half bad.
If that’s the sort of life you lead, then the Plug-in Prius is a very good way to get around, but it’s hard to argue the economics of buying the Plug-in instead of the regular hybrid. Which is a shame.
Toyota Prius Plug-in (2017) Verdict
The Toyota Prius is a car which attracts polar opinions, but although it’s a long way from being a driver’s car it’s now a really competent family hatch.
But we are struggling to choose the Plug-in over the regular hybrid.
Cost is an issue, and although Toyota dropped the price by £2k within days of launching the Plug-in earlier this year, it’s still a thumping £7,000 more than the equivalent Prius Hybrid, and even after taxpayer bribe it’s still £4,500 more.
You’re going to have to keep the Plug-in a very long time to see that money back on the relatively small improvement in economy (in the real world), and even if you’re liable for BIK it’s still not quite the no-brainer it was – and likely to become less appealing as the Chancellor continues to react to ever more frugal plug-ins.
And yet we found the Prius Plug-in quite appealing in its own way; it is so easy and fuss-free to drive, the CVT ‘box is far less irritating than it used to be, the transition of power is seamless and it’s hard to ignore a car which almost single-handedly has changed motorists’ perceptions.
The spec is pretty decent too (although the Solar Roof option seems more gimmicky than serious) and it’s a far from poor car. And if you can use it as an EV in the week for commuting it could just suit you.
But on balance, if we wanted a green statement car, it’d be the regular hybrid Prius.
Toyota Prius Plug-in Review Tech Specs (2017)
- Engine: 1798cc plus Electric Motor: 121bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 11.1 seconds / Top Speed 101mph
- Economy: 283mpg – Official / 68.6mpg – Test
- Emissions: 22g/km
- Price: £33,195 / Price as tested £34,240
- Test car supplied by Toyota UK