I want to love the Toyota Prius Plug-In, I really do. The regular Prius is a genius car that I can’t hate as a great all-’round car. But the plug-in model just seems too pricey.
The Toyota Prius, for most of the auto enthusiast world, is the definition of beige. They’re the cars that are either blowing your doors off on the highway, or keeping you from riding comfortably five over the limit around town. Worse yet, when you’re in a sports car at a stop sign, excited to plant your feet to the floor shifting wildly through the gears and enjoying your day off the grid, a Prius pulls out in front of you to ruin it all.
- That being said, the Prius isn’t a bad car. Far from it, in fact. It’s comfortable, easy to drive, gets great gas mileage, and you can argue that it’s the car that has single handedly changed the way we think about fuel mileage in a bad economy.
- The Prius Plug-In is new, however. It’s, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, a plug-in version of the famous and popular standard hybrid. When you plug the Prius into a standard 120v socket, you charge up in about three hours, which is great, or only 1.5 hours with a 240v setup. Once you turn the Prius on you see that you only have 11 miles of pure battery mileage, though. But as you get used to the car, you’re able to get a few extra miles. At one point I’d gotten 13 miles to a charge. The battery drives the front wheels at all times until it’s depleted, needs to be helped along by the gas motor, or when you manually take it out of EV mode.
- With its 98-horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque 1.8-liter four, you really need the extra thrust coming from the battery. That battery pack is good for 80-horses and 153 pound-feet. This is all why I was slightly eager to drive the 2014 Prius Plug-In that Toyota dropped off for me. I say slightly because I wanted something with a manual. But I add eager because I think it’s actually a great car for people. Not people like me, however.
- I’m always in a hurry. There’s hardly a day where I’m not late for something. I over-schedule myself and am constantly in a rush to make up every last second. Ask my friends the hysterical excuses; I’ve even used the school bus full of children going into the water routine. Oh, and there was a time when I said that I saved nuns from a burning building. You’ll know when I’m telling the truth if I offer a photo as evidence. Ninety-four percent of the time, though, I’m lying my tush off.
- Driving down the highway I come to appreciate the easy going nature that is the Prius. There are tons of cubby areas, it’s easy to sync my phone, the sound system is just okay, but there really isn’t much to complain about. Some say the seating position is a little awkward for taller drivers, but overall it’s comfortable and drives with a featherlight feeling. Full-sized adults can fit in the car no issues, too.
- Where I can complain, though, is with the interior quality at the price. For the $31,189 as-tested price, the Prius Plug-In has lots of plastic and cloth… Why cloth? For less than that you can get a Corolla with SofTex (a leatherette). So for more than 30 grand, why am I going to get cloth in a car that’s supposed to keep me comfortable and stylin’?
- The Prius Plug-In starts a whole $5,720 above the standard Prius model that gets similar fuel mileage, just without the pleasure(?) of a plug-in feature.
- The Prius overall is still the ugliest, most functional car in the world. It’s unique, like what racing fans love, because of functionality before form. So as a car guy, I can’t hate Toyota for that, because it’s what we shout about as sports car obsessed heathens.
- Fuel mileage overall was excellent, achieving the average 50 mpg mark with relative ease, except when I was trying to see if I could make the Prius Plug-In act like its Scion FR-S cousin, which it wouldn’t do. However, it would hold a line, just not when pushed too hard. When driven by a goofball, gas mileage suffers terribly but is quickly redeemed once you start driving sensibly again.
- Cargo space all the way in the rear is also very good. I was able to carry anything I wanted. I put the rear seats down and carried some random stools and lots of camera gear and luggage. It all fit brilliantly.
So as an experiment the Toyota Prius Plug-In needs some work. In order to make the regular Prius look like less of a deal, you can’t expect people to pay nearly $6,000 more and just get 11 miles of electric range. You will get a $2,500 federal tax credit, and a $1,500 credit if you live in California. I’d still buy a regular Prius over the Plug-In model, or I’d just get a Chevy Volt for this amount of money. Remember, it applies for a $7,500 credit.