We’ve now had four chances to put the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid through its paces, covering everything from fast-moving freeways and inner city streets through to mountain passes and trips to the local Costco. 

In the end we concluded that for some drivers, Toyota’s 13 mile-per-charge plug-in hybrid could represent a better buy than the 2012 Chevrolet Volt - but only if they make regular long-distance trips without access to a charging station

But we also discovered some things we really liked about the car: It’s familiarity, heated seats, great gas economy, easy-access charging door and instant-on EV mode. 


We’ve driven all three generations of Toyota’s Prius hybrid and love the way the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid makes use of more than 10 years of development to integrate its plug-in technology into a platform we know and love. 

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Drive - March 2011

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Drive - March 2011

In fact, sit behind the wheel and there’s nothing really to differentiate the standard and plug-in versions of the 2012 Prius. 

And that’s part of the charm. It’s like putting on a familiar sweater.

Heated seats, lumbar support

Sometimes its the little things which make all the difference. And in any car that you’re going to spend a lot of time in, heated seats and electronically adjustable lumbar support is a big bonus. 

We especially liked the way in which the heated front seats quickly warmed up, keeping both driver and front passenger warm without needing to turn on the car’s engine to warm the entire cabin. 

Great gas economy

As we said yesterday, if you’re looking at the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid you’re probably someone who does a fair bit of long-distance driving.  And for this kind of driving, we can’t think of a car which will give a better fuel economy. 

As we found, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid gave better gas mileage than the 2012 Chevrolet Volt with regular trips over 200 miles where plugging in wasn’t guaranteed. 

Easy-access charging door

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve jumped out of a 2011 Nissan Leaf, locked it and then remembered we didn’t pull the charge-door release. 

But like the 2011 and 2012 Chevrolet Volt and the up-coming 2012 Ford Focus, Toyota has  given the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid a simple push-to-open, push-to-close charge port door. 

Not only that, but the door is located right where you’ll see it - next to the driver’s door (or front passenger door in RHD markets)

Perfect for access to curbside charging equipment and wall-mounted garage equipment alike, we especially liked the way we could unload the car, lock it and then sort out charging. 

Instant-on EV mode

Unlike Plug-in Prius conversions, which normally require the driver to scramble for the EV mode button on startup to prevent the engine coming on to warm up the catalytic converter, lubricate the transmission and ultimately burn gasoline, we loved the way in which the factory-built 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid defaulted to electric-only operation on startup. 

Just like the 2012 Volt, this made it possible to make short trips at speeds of up to 60 mph without the gasoline engine ever turning on. But accelerate too harshly, and the Prius’ 1.8 liter gasoline engine roars to life.