► New Toyota Prius Plug-in tested
► A claimed 282mpg, 30-mile EV range
► Prices from £32,395 after plug-in grant
Uber users rejoice; your new chariot awaits. For there are several very good reasons why London-dwelling private hire drivers should be swayed into ditching their current plugless Priuses. Ignoring the prospect of greater zero-emission electric range – around 30 miles should be achievable in the real world according to Toyota – the company has tamed the Prius’s wild, manga-tastic styling, which should mean that fewer passengers will feel queasy and redecorate the upholstery when clambering in.
Prius Plug-in: what's new?
Only a maximum of three will be climbing aboard, however, as there are just two rear seats in the plug-in hybrid Prius. And frankly fitting more than a couple of suitcases for an airport run in the shallow boot – diminished due to the 160mm of batteries under the floor – is something of a challenge.
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But just think of the dent a fifth passenger would have on the potential 283mpg. Instead you get a bonus armrest with storage underneath. The standard Prius with space for five returns a mere 94.1mpg when kitted out with plug-in-matching 15-inch wheels.
How doew the plug-in Prius drive?
The new plug-in model adds £8295 to the starting price – with around £6000 separating like-for-like models – but in exchange you get three times the fuel economy. Stick to short urban journeys and you should be able to squeeze more than 30 miles from each charge, meaning minimal fuel bills and a silent, smooth drive.
For best results, serve in EV mode; press the respective button to put the Prius Plug-in’s petrol engine into lockdown and you almost get a BMW i3-matching feeling of responsiveness and a potential all-electric top speed of 84mph. It may not have the German car’s speed, but the Prius feels more than fast enough for urban settings, and it’s surprisingly agile around corners too – perfect for dodging London buses and maintaining momentum for maximum range.
And the hybrid mode?
Hybrid HV mode, meanwhile, juggles petrol power and electric energy for itself, while a super-pious EV City mode slashes the batteries power only calling on under-bonnet fossil fuel fireworks when you mash the throttle into the bulkhead. Handling is also impressively tidy with precise steering and no sense of the 120kg of batteries stuffed under the boot.
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Owners also get a choice of three drive modes: Normal, Eco and Power. Normal feels suitably conventional, with the muscle to match something like a small turbo petrol Golf, with the CVT-induced high-rev engine noise only becoming obvious in Power mode, with a correspondingly sharper throttle response. Eco, meanwhile, feels much less responsive but you quickly acclimatise after a few miles.
Can I really achieve 282mpg?
Yes. And no.
Regularly plug in at home or at the office and you should be able to stick two fingers up to messrs Shell and BP with zero petrol consumption over suburban journeys up to around 30 miles long. Travel further, however, and you’ll be chowing through fuel at much faster rate.
Starting with a full battery we chalked up 104.6mpg over more than 100 miles, hitting a high of 122.8mpg over the first 80-odd miles and covering 58 miles on electric power alone. This did require monk-like restraint, though, with something around 70mpg more likely with a heavy right foot. Toyota itself claims that 83mpg is likely with a depleted battery.
How much does it cost to run a hybrid car?
Whatever, company car drivers should still be able to send their fleet manager into fits of delirium with colleague-humiliatingly small fuel receipts. More money-saving goodness comes in the form of the free home charger provided courtesy of a government grant and a Toyota top-up.
Plus, there’s a range-extending solar roof available on the entry-level car. Spec this and you can steal around 400 miles per year from the weak British sun, with juice being added to the batteries when parked up. Charge up normally, however, and you’ll have to wait two hours to get 65% charge.
Toyota Prius Plug-in verdict
The Toyota Prius Plug-in won’t get most petrolheads’ juices flowing, but rest assured that if the future comes in plug-in form, this is a damn sight more engaging drive than the Nissan Leaf. Interestingly, this Prius feels happiest in all-electric mode and does a good job of dashing around town.
It’s expensive, though, especially compared with the standard Prius, and the 360-litre boot is shallow. Unless you really have to have the most economical Prius, the standard car would better serve most people’s needs.