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.


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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Comments (16)
  1. Just wanted to mention that the 2013 volt electric efficiency is rated at 98 mpge which is slightly more than the 95 mpge of the Plugin Prius, although I imagine it is hard to notice such differences in real world driving.

  2. The 2012 Volt is 94 mpge, or slightly worse than the PiP. However...

    I still don't understand the 95 mpge (blended mode) rating of the PiP. I wonder if you could run the PiP on electricity alone what the mpge rating would be. But in any case, it shows the weakness of the "blended" mode used in the PiP.

  3. For my clarification, the blended mode is the mode it is supposed to be using only grid electricity for the first 11 miles or so, but there is a small amount of gas that is used also, correct? Does anyone know if the Ford cmax energi has that same limitation during its electric miles?

  4. Using the EPA numbers, there are
    0.0947gallons/11 miles (electrical equivalent gals.)
    0.0220gallons/11 miles (gasoline)
    0.1167gallons/11 miles (electric and gasoline).

    It is this last number that translates to 95 MPGe. So by these numbers, 19% of the energy (gallons if you must) comes from the gasoline. Not insignificant even during the first 11 miles.

    If you could exclude the gasoline (and you can't) PiP would be 116 MPGe. So I think if the Prius could avoid using the gasoline, the number would be somewhere between 95 and 116 MPGe.

  5. the math may need to be redone as the 2013 Volt has slightly better range on battery then the 2011/12 model.

  6. I tend the disagree with the assessment that PiP is more economical than the Volt at mileage less than 16 miles. As discussed above, there is some gas used in those miles. 19% of 11 miles is about 2 miles and you pay the price of gasoline for those 2 miles as opposed to electricity, whereas the Volt would only use electricity. That is besides the 98 mpge of the 2013 volt which on its face is more efficient. You also have to assume that you don't push the gas pedal too hard or go to highway speeds in those first few miles in the PiP and fire up the ICE, in which the PiP would definitely be less economical.

  7. I suspect you are right. We are still coming to grips with this whole "blended mode" system in the PiP. So it is important to know that the 11 mile range is NOT all electric.

  8. Well, I think those comparison are "best case" situation. Can Pip stay in electric? Yes. But it requires special attention.

    Yesterday I was driving home in my Volt. Cruising on the hwy at about 76mph with very littel traffic on any lanes.. Coming up to a light blue Prius Plugin cruising in the Middel Lane (out of the 3 lanes) with no traffic around it. I got curious and slowed down to behind that car and see how fast it was going. Guess what? EXACT 62mph!!!

  9. Well, what we are getting at is that the PiP CANNOT stay electric even in the best of circumstances, and even if you are careful. It burns a little gas in the blended mode in those first 11 miles. That and the other limitations were a bit of a disappointment to me when I was looking at possible plugins to buy.

    Additionally, in the above scenario where the PiP is more economical than the Volt in mileage above some number of miles in the 70's, at that mileage, the PiP is hardly better than a regular Prius.

    The one benefit I see is in very short trips, like to the store, where maybe you keep the ICE from coming on. I always hated that in my Prius because those short trips give you the worst mileage.

  10. Personally I see the PiP as a vehicle that someone that has already decided to buy a Prius might consider. If you know that you are going to buy a Prius, the plug-in Prius is slightly greener and a good choice if the purchase price is not a significant concern.

    Other than that, I don't really get the PiP.

  11. It does depend very much on the conditions. I can imagine it being more difficult in the U.S, but in 11-12 miles of driving here in the U.K. the only two times the engine kicked in where when I deliberately booted the gas away from the lights.

    Had I pulled away marginally more gently, I've no doubt that the engine wouldn't have kicked in at all in the city/rural mix on the test.

    Naturally, it's one of those "your mileage may vary" situations.

  12. Whoops, grammar error. Obviously I meant "were when I", not "where when I".

  13. For me the 0-60mph with 11 seconds is NOT acceptable.

  14. We know. You've mentioned. Multiple times. Duly noted.

  15. Well, if you want "plug-in" cars to go "mainstream", then they got to do better than that...

    The "old and slow" image of Prius will NOT help the cause.

  16. Done, 2011 Prius 9.7 seconds 0-60.

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