Latest Toyota Prius goes Plug-in (and gets the fastest facelift in history)

Published: 23 March 2016

► Plug-in version of the new Prius
► With an apparent styling rethink
► Claimed 202mpg(!), on sale October

Say hello to the new Toyota Prius Plug-in, officially revealed at the 2016 New York motor show.

Eh? Isn’t there already a brand-new Toyota Prius?

Well, yes. We first drove the fourth-gen Toyota game-changer at the tail end of last year in cable-less form and, once aboard, we were mildly impressed: vastly superior cockpit, better seats, improved refinement and a much more satisfying drive thanks to a stiffer bodyshell and cute double-wishbone rear suspension.

Happily, increased EV oomph also made the CVT’s whining almost bearable. So it was unlikely to set your pants on fire but a perfectly agreeable thing in which to trundle about achieving nearly 100mpg… At least until you got out and looked at the front, at which point it was easy to think someone had crashed into it since you last saw it, so chaotic and apparently random were the creases and slashes.

Thankfully now there’s the new Prius Plug-in: same next-gen TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform, yet more efficiency thanks to the ability to pre-charge the battery and, perhaps more crucially, a new, less ugly face.

Inspiration, for the lights at least, appears to have been drawn from the least Prius car on the planet, Bugatti’s new near-1500bhp, 261mph Chiron. A new face seems like a lot of work for a new version of a new car, but if the non-Plug-in’s bizarre visage was putting buyers off, we wouldn’t have been surprised.   

202mpg? 84mph on electric power? I’m all ears

Toyota knows what it’s doing with this stuff, and the new Plug-in’s vital statistics are pretty compelling: 202mpg may need taking with a pinch of salt but the Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain’s bigger 8.8kW/h lithium-ion battery has unlocked some impressive numbers. The increased cell capacity means reduced emissions – a quoted 32g/km CO2 – that headline mpg figure and an EV-only range of nearly 35 miles, at speeds of up to 85mph. Follow the on-screen prompts, fold the mirrors, never smile and keep the air-con turned off and the thing will make petrol. Possibly.

Still ugly, still effective

While easier on the eye than the standard car, the Prius Plug-in’s styling is still odd but at least effective, with a slippery 0.24 drag coefficient.

There’s some clever stuff going on inside too, with lightweight construction (aluminium bonnet and carbonfibre bootlid), ultra-efficient air-con that doesn’t bother cooling empty seats, solar roof charging and a heating system that can keep the cabin warm without firing up the 1.8-litre VVT-i four-cylinder petrol engine.

As befits a tech-powerhouse, the Prius Plug-in should prove almost uncrashable too, with a head-up display, blindspot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian detection systems.

The Prius Plug-in goes on sale in October, by which time there’ll no doubt be another facelift. 

Read more of CAR’s 2016 New York motor show coverage here

Click here for CAR’s A-Z guide to the 2016 New York motor show

Click here for our latest 2016 Toyota Prius review

By Ben Miller

The editor of CAR magazine, story-teller, average wheel count of three

Comments