In the past year, we’ve put the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid through an extensive set of test-drives, resulting in our first drive report, winter test-drive, financial analysis and even a family vacation.
With so many miles behind the wheel, our editorial team has already shared our five things we love about Toyota’s first plug-in hybrid.
But now it’s time to share the things we’re not so fond of - its limited EV range: the way the charger heats up the cabin; the lack of charge timer; lost luggage space; and lackluster performance.
Limited EV Range
We’ve said that for certain owners, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid could offer better fuel economy than a 2012 Chevrolet Volt - but we really did find its electric-only range extremely limited.
2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Drive - March 2011
Our best range during our test drives approached 20 miles when driving a mainly downhill route on a hot summer’s day. But as our own John Voelcker found out last Thanksgiving, the range in colder winter weather dropped to a meagre 9 miles.
With better battery technology, we’d like to see a second generation Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid with a range of at least 25 miles, perhaps more.
The charger heats up the cabin
Because the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is built upon the standard 2011 Toyota Prius, Toyota engineers have had to use every available space to fit the extra components the Plug-in Hybrid needs to make it work.
Consequentially, the charger is located under the front right-hand seat, venting warm air from its circuits into the cabin.
This may be fine for a cold, wintery day when a few extra degrees of warmth are welcome - but on a hot summers day when the car temperature is already approaching triple digits, the charger’s extra heat makes for an unpleasant few minutes until the cabin cools down significantly.
No charge timer, no pre-heating/cooling
After some serious time in other plug-in cars, we were hoping the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid prototypes we drove would have chargers to make the best of night-time electricity rates.
But although we looked, we couldn’t find any such feature.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that it won’t be present in the production model.
We hope for Toyota’s sake that it includes both charging timers and pre-heating and cooling - both essential in our opinion.
Lost luggage space
While we have to admit that Toyota’s engineers have done a particularly good job in keeping the load bay area of the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid as close to that of the 2012 Prius Hybrid, there is still a noticeable drop in luggage space.
Missing completely is the under-floor storage area normally found in the non plug-in Prius. Combined with a higher-load bay floor and non flat load-bay with the rear seats folded, and we think some consumers will miss the original load bay found in the Hybrid Prius.
2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid
Lackluster performance in electric-only mode
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that electric cars have great low-end torque, giving impressive performance off the line.
But the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, just like its hybrid sibling, isn’t all that sprightly.
Yes, it’ll accelerate just fine in city traffic - the exact situation the Plug-in system has been designed for - but put a fully-charged Prius Plug-in Hybrid on the freeway and it seems a little sluggish to 60 mph.
We’d like to see the same kind of acceleration found in the 2012 Chevrolet Volt from the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid, giving it a much better chance at staying in electric mode on faster roads.