June 18, 2014
2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Jonathan Yarkony
The Toyota Prius is the car that brought hybrid motoring to the masses and into the spotlight. It even had its 15 seconds in the limelight as the shuttle for conscientious stars arriving at entertainment award shows and the transport of choice for certain outspoken green advocates in the movie industry. But under that green-tinged halo was a genuinely efficient vehicle and not just a style statement du jour that failed to live up to expectations. It remains one of the most practical efficient values on the market. Except perhaps the Prius C, which turns up the efficiency at the expense of practicality; or the Prius V that offers greater cargo and passenger space but increases fuel consumption.
And then there is the subject of this review, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, which arrives at a significantly greater cost in order to achieve maximum efficiency in the same practical package as the original liftback. To the naked eye, cargo space seems unaffected by the additional batteries, and in fact the 612 L cargo capacity matches that of the standard Prius. With the 60/40 seats down it is still a substantial space good for carrying a multitude of gear. I’ll get called out if I don’t mention that one of our devoted readers regularly packs a six-foot ladder in his standard Prius for his contractor duties, and we have previously verified this when bringing a ladder along for a photo shoot. Impressive.
Seating space is also the same as the Prius liftback and the cabin is the same funky, modern yet plasticky and slightly kitschy environment. The seats are neutral – wide, with just enough contouring and a touch of bolstering to gently hug you in place without being too aggressive or tight, which makes them easy to get into and out of. Our tester had the Softex simulated leather seats with eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat (part of the Technology Package) that proved comfortable in a week of commuting. I have no complaints about the seats and believe they will suit a wide variety of body types.
The steering wheel seems a bit retro with its large hub and four spokes, and the vertical metallic-effect plastic spars (which, to their credit, seem to mimic Frank Gehry architecture) house controls for the information cluster and other car functions.
Those car functions include the volume, audio and voice command on the left, temperature and trip info and display settings and cruise control is a stalk behind the wheel, while the gap setting for the adaptive cruise is a button on the right spoke.
2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid centre stack, energy monitor, fuel economy graph, consumption graph. Click image to enlarge
The high-tech aspect of the info screen is in the form of Touch Tracer Display, which brings up the temperature or audio action in a screen layer over top of the selected information. The information panels one can choose from are: EV to HV driving ratio; hybrid system indicator that can also help you keep the throttle in check to maintain electric mode; fuel consumption history; simple trip information; and energy monitor showing brake regen and electric or combustion motor use. The larger nav screen in the centre stack can also show consumption history and an energy monitor rendered in better graphics.
The stereo is a simple affair to operate using the main menu buttons flanking the screen, buttons on screen for presets and volume and tuning knobs, though sound quality is about what you’d expect from an economy car, not a $40K technological marvel. The map is clear and functional, yet nothing has the feel of cutting edge technology. Voice commands are also available to control any of the car’s major systems. It’s all quite functional, but the C-Max Energi (and other Ford hybrids and electrics) takes the prize for best graphics and most useful information displays.
2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid seating & cargo area. Click image to enlarge
However, the Prius Plug-in has the C-Max Energi beat in fuel consumption. Although I didn’t drive the C-Max Energi for a whole week, I had it long enough (300+ km) to be confident that the observed 4.7 L/100 km would be typical for my driving habits. The Prius finished at a stellar 4.0 L/100 km over 727 km, also using 17 kWh to power 100 of those km (13 percent of my weekly total) and using about 30 L for the 627 hybrid km. If I had charging at work, I probably could have knocked another 1.0 L/100 km off my overall consumption. Official EPA figures are 4.7 L/100 km combined in hybrid mode, and 2.5 Le/100 km in EV mode.
Toyota claims the 4.4-kWh lithium-ion battery can be charged in as little as 90 minutes on 240V (180 on standard household 120V) and deliver up to 25 km of range in city driving (where the regenerative braking will keep it charged for longer). The EPA estimates a more realistic 18 km in blended mode (combined electric and hybrid modes), though only about 10 km in pure EV mode. The best I managed was about 16 km in fairly ideal conditions, though highway driving may have kicked in the gas engine, so let’s call that blended. Factoring the 40 L gas tank, the Prius should be able to net you over 800 km if driven cautiously (just forget about Power mode).