2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In: Quick Drive Report

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In the spectrum of alternative fuel vehicles, there's something on sale to suit almost every taste.

Whether you're buying an all-electric vehicle or simply want a mild hybrid to save a little on gas, there's a lot of choice in between.

The 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In sits virtually in the center of these choices, with range-extended electric cars and battery electric vehicles above, with full hybrids and mild hybrids below. With the car now on sale in the U.K, we took the opportunity to get behind the wheel once more.

Familiar

Behind that wheel, and indeed before you even clamber inside the car, the Prius Plug-In is all very familiar.

For many, this will be a good thing--including Toyota. With so many Prius models roaming the streets, a car that drivers clearly feel comfortable with is the ideal platform from which to improve hybrid technology. It's clearly doing something right, so why change things too much?

On the outside, that means bodywork that's near-identical to the regular Prius, with only detail changes and an extra 'filler cap' hiding the charge port to give the game away. If you already like the way the Prius looks then you'll like the Plug-In too, though some of the extra silver details--door handles, front bumper trim--look a little out of place.

Inside, it's pretty much all standard Prius--a swooping, futuristic dashboard, comfortable seats, plenty of space and a tiny drive selector protruding from the raised center console.

Trunk space hasn't suffered despite the larger battery. Compact Lithium-ion cells replace the usual nickel pack, and Toyota quotes a negligible reduction in space, thanks to the slightly raised trunk floor.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid

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On the move

It's much like a regular Prius to operate, too. Starting the car results in very little sound, as the car defaults to EV mode. The main difference is that it isn't as keen to leave EV mode as a regular Prius, and the sensation of accelerating with reasonable zeal without the engine kicking in is a pleasant one.

The new 'EV City' mode extends this ability further, designed for city-going buyers who don't want to hold everyone up as they crawl away from every stop light trying desperately to keep the car in EV mode. It does still have limits--boot the gas pedal and the standard Prius 1.8-liter engine will still fire up to assist your progress--but it's now possible to drive normally without the engine kicking in at all.

That includes driving up to higher speeds. Toyota quotes a maximum of 51 mph in EV mode, around double that of a standard Prius--though we'd not be surprised if it could do more still, when backing off the gas at higher speeds.

Performance is as you'd expect--in other words, it's no rocketship, but there's enough to make progress. Toyota quotes a 0-60mph time of around 11 seconds, and you'd have to put up with the CVT-induced drone on the way there. But in most scenarios, the engine is either off, or quiet enough so as to barely intrude at all.


 
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