Toyota has enhanced the Prius Hybrid range in Ireland with the addition of a new Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid.

While the concept of using a petrol engine assisted by an electric motor to boost efficiency and lower CO2 emissions is the same, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid gives customers the option of driving their Prius on pure electric power for a range of up to 50km.

Buyers can charge their Prius like an electric vehicle, meaning that for drivers travelling short distances regularly and access to the facilities to charge the car, they could be dipping into that tank of fuel very little.

The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid uses the same 1.8-litre petrol as the regular Prius Hybrid with a lithium ion battery located under the rear load space. The two models can be distinguished by different light clusters front and rear, and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid is also slightly longer than a regular Prius. The car is futuristic looking but that rear can look ungainly from some angles.

Getting into the Prius can be a bit of a surprise as the dashboard layout is anything but conventional. The large digital screen to your left displays your speed and other information regarding the hybrid system. It also shows you ‘scores’ related to how eco-friendly your driving is and encourages you to do better!

While the Toyota Prius Hybrid starts from €31,450, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid is significantly more expensive at €37,125. Equipment from base includes four electric windows, auto lights and wipers, keyless entry and start, 15″ alloys, touchscreen, adaptive cruise control, heated front seats, Pre Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Road Sign Assist and rear view camera.

There is also a Solar grade (from €39,550) that includes a solar roof that helps to recharge the battery (!) and a Luxury grade (from €40,390) that includes front and rear parking sensors, JBL premium sound system and parking assist.

There are a few caveats to this car however aside from the steeper list price. The larger battery means that boot space has been reduced to a shallow 360 litres and there are only two seats in the back: the Prius Plug-in Hybrid is a strict four seater.

In terms of charging the car it’s very simple. There is an additional flap on the side of the car and a cable included to charge your car at a public charging point or at home using a wall mounted charger. Charging takes about 2 hours and you can drive the car as a pure electric vehicle for up to 50kms, especially useful if you are an urban driver with a short commute.

Elsewhere, the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is a large, comfortable car that is super smooth to drive. The car is heavier than the regular Prius so it doesn’t feel as nippy or agile in corners, but the car’s most redeeming features are its refinement and fuel sipping character. The Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid has extremely low emissions of 22g CO2 per kilometre, while fuel consumption is a claimed 1litre/100km. In real life terms when drawing power from both the petrol engine and the electric motor, it’s easy to achieve upwards of 70mpg from this car – no mean feat for a large car like this!

The Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is an impressively refined and relaxing hybrid to drive but it’s not without it’s drawbacks, namely the price premium over a regular Prius hybrid and the reduced boot space and rear seating. Yes this car has the potential to be cheaper to run – with the right lifestyle you could effectively run it cheaply as an electric vehicle with a petrol tank as back up on longer journeys. The Toyota Prius is a fine, economical car in its own right; the addition of a plug adds a new dimension to Prius.

Model tested: Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid PHV Luxury
Price: €40,390 (Starts at €37,125)
Engine: 1.8-litre petrol/electric hybrid
Power: 122hp
0-100km/h:  11.1 seconds
Top speed: 162km/h
Claimed Economy: 1/100km
CO2 emissions:  22g/km
Motor tax: €170 per year

Caroline Kidd