2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid: Is It An Electric Car, Or Not? Page 3

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2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2012

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, Catskill Mountains, NY, Oct 2012

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Functionally, we noticed a few things in the cabin design that didn’t work quite as well as we’d like. The self-dimming rear-view mirror didn’t sufficiently mask the glare of following cars with their brights on, and several times we found ourselves reaching for a dimming lever that wasn’t there.

The overhead button for the interior light isn’t lit, and sits right next to the button to call Toyota’s Safety Connect response center—which we did, twice, while trying to turn on that light at night.

On the plus side, Toyota’s adaptive cruise control worked well in inconsistent freeway traffic. And driving at night, the LED headlights provided perhaps the best high beam we’ve ever seen in a car—illuminating the road ahead so well it almost seemed like daylight.

Visibility out of the Prius was fine to the rear, courtesy of neat folding rear-seat headrests (a feature we wish every car had). Rear three-quarter vision wasn’t great, but the view from the driver’s seat past the windshield pillar was far better than the Volt’s huge blind spot there, aided by a little triangular window at the base of the Prius pillar in front of the door.

We’ve never understood why Toyota sticks with pendant parking-brake levers rather than electric emergency brakes, and our left shin has the bruises to show why we don’t like them.

Batteries not mature

Toyota recently reiterated that it doesn’t believe that battery technology is mature enough to meet the needs of the market. And it canceled plans to produce its eQ, an electric version of the Scion iQ minicar. (It still offers the well-reviewed RAV4 EV, which is now on sale in California with a battery and electric drivetrain designed by Tesla Motors—but that’s another story).

The base plug-in model starts at $32,760 (including destination), but our test car was the Prius Plug-In Hybrid Advanced trim level--which adds a navigation system, JBL GreenEdge audio, a head-up display, dynamic radar cruise control, a Pre-Collision System, LED headlamps, a power driver's seat, Safety Connect, and smartphone integration.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

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Our 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid had a base price of $39,525. On top of that, it came with carpet mats for the floor and trunk ($225), a useful cargo net for the load deck ($49), and a rear bumper appliqué saying “Plug-In Hybrid,” for which Toyota charges a startling $69.

There was also the inevitable mandatory $760 delivery fee, which brought the total to $40,628.

The Prius Plug-In Hybrid qualifies for a $2,500 Federal income-tax credit for the purchase of an electric car, and a $1,500 purchase rebate from the state of California.

Importantly, it also qualifies for a “green sticker” that gives the car single-occupancy access to that state’s carpool lanes.


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