Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid review 2012
By Ian Lynas, 25th September 2012
The Toyota Prius family continues to expand with the addition of the Plug-in, which also becomes the flagship of the range. On the eve of its UK introduction, I had the opportunity to get behind the wheel and mainly driving in urban conditions with some fast dual carriageway driving, the new car did not disappoint.
The latest addition offers all the familiar virtues of Prius and power is courtesy of a smooth, refined and very efficient full hybrid powertrain plus new rechargeable lithium-ion battery technology. It can travel much longer and reach higher speeds on electric power alone, cutting tailpipe emissions to zero.
Unlike all-electric vehicles, once the charge in the battery is used up, the car switches to its hybrid system, banishing range anxiety in the process.
It achieves a new low benchmark in its class for official CO2 emissions, 49g/km, well below the 100g/km threshold for UK road tax. With Prius+ rated from 96g/km and Prius from 89g/km, the model range delivers unprecedented environmental credentials. As a result of feedback from its five-year long global PHEV trial project, Toyota has given the new model a 15.5-mile EV range.
This offers the best compromise between the distance the car can be driven on electric power, performance, packaging, vehicle weight and price. Toyota has found that this range is sufficient to meet the daily commuting requirements of 80 per cent of Europeans.
Recharging the battery is simple and speedy, using a power point linked to a standard domestic or workplace supply, or an on-street charging point. Prius Plug-in comes with a charging cable set as standard, including five metres of cabling, that can be stored neatly in a dedicated area beneath the boot floor.
The on-the-road price is £32,895 but this falls to £27,895 with the benefit of the £5,000 Government grant available on new plug-in vehicle purchases, provided through the Office for Low Emission Vehicles.
Kerb weight is 1,450kg, just 50kg more than its standard sister model and the weight of its lithium-ion battery has been kept down to just 80kg. This is half the weight of the battery used in the prototype plug-in model and only 38kg more than the nickel metal-hydride battery in the standard Prius, in spite of the fact it enables a greater EV driving range.
The exterior focuses on the highest aerodynamic efficiency to improve fuel economy, handling stability and quietness, supporting the benefits gained from the car’s lightweight, high-tensile steel and aluminium construction and its Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain, thus delivering a Cd 0.25 drag coefficient, the same as that of the regular model. The front features an upper grille aperture that has been kept as small as possible to maintain a smooth airflow over the upper body.
The extended section of the upper headlamp has a blue smoke paint finish, which further distinguishes this model from the rest of the Prius family. It looks like the standard hatchback, except for the battery charger lid on the right hand rear wing, decorated with a silver plug symbol. There are silver accents on the door handles, model-specific five-spoke 15-inch alloy wheels and a Plug-in Hybrid logo on the front wing.
At the rear, the LED lamp clusters have clear lenses and the trim above the licence plate has a silver finish. The Hybrid Synergy Drive badges incorporate a plug-in symbol and you can choose from five exterior colours.
The compact packaging of the lithium-ion battery pack means that there is no compromise in the space available for rear seat passengers or in the load carrying area. It can accommodate five people and has a 443-litre luggage capacity with the rear seats in place, just two litres less than the standard model and with the 60:40 rear seats folded down there is a flat loadspace floor and a load volume of 1,120 litres.
The dual-zone dashboard is the same as that in the regular model, designed to minimise the time that the driver has to look away from the road ahead to view information. The upper display zone features both a head-up display and a central meter cluster, positioned at an ideal distance for at-a-glance reading of vehicle status information. The LED meter incorporates a display which can be changed using a Touch Tracer control, and an Eco Drive Support Monitor, with expanded content in line with Prius Plug-in‘s specific system functions.
The Northern Ireland market is slower perhaps than any other area in the UK to adopt such vehicles and it could be because our cities and towns are much smaller than those on the mainland. The truth of the matter as more and more taxes are related to emission levels we will have to consider vehicles such as the new Prius Plug-in.