2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in review updated
A full charge takes 90 minutes and gives the car a range of around 15.5 miles in electric-only mode, at speeds of up to 51mph.
By contrast, the regular Prius struggles to do two miles at crawling pace before it needs help from its petrol engine.
Toyota reckons each full charge should cost you 50 pence, and 769 miles is possible on a full fuel tank and battery.
Claimed fuel economy is up from the 72.4mpg managed by the regular Prius to 134.5mpg, and CO2 emissions are an impressive 49g/km – 43g/km less than the standard hybrid car.
What's the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in like to drive?
Performance is reasonably sprightly in all driving modes, because the electric motor's maximum torque is available from rest, and all you ever hear from it is a distant whir.
Electric motor provides instant torque
Sadly, things are less impressive when the 1.8-litre engine kicks in. The engine is always audible, particularly on the motorway where it becomes a nuisance.
However, the fact that the engine is running does mean electric power is preserved for town use, where it's of most benefit.
Even when the batteries have run down, they always retain enough of a charge to let you pull away smoothly on electric power.
The Plug-in weighs just 50kg more than the standard Prius, so in other respects it drives pretty much identically.
On the up side, that means there's decent grip, but the steering is vague and the regenerative brakes mean a stiff pedal which takes some getting used to.
The suspension set up has received only minor tweaks for the Plug-in model. Unfortunately, the Prius Plug-in has a harsh ride that unsettles the car on rough and uneven surfaces.
Shame about the harsh and unsettled ride
What's the 2012 Prius Plug-in like inside?
The cabin is almost identical to the regular Prius's, which means it feels solid, but features too many hard, grey plastics.
Excellent digital display
A huge digital display on the dashboard gives you masses of information – everything from how much fuel you've got to how the drivetrain is working – and is impressively clear for something so complex.
The hybrid mechanicals are well packaged, leaving space for five adults and a decent boot. In fact, only two litres of boot space have been lost in the conversion from the regular model leaving 443 litres. That's 123 litres more than a Chevrolet Volt.
The Plug-in is intended as a range-topping model and the list of standard equipment reflects that. The long list includes satellite-navigation, DAB radio, Bluetooth and a reversing camera (useful, because there's a spoiler across the rear screen).
Full charge should cost you 50p, estimates Toyota
Should I buy one?
The Prius Plug-in is going to be hard to justify as a private buy; even with the maximum £5000 Government grant, it costs almost £8000 more than our favourite version of the regular Prius.
However, if you're a company car driver who does a lot of short journeys, then it starts to make sense. It attracts a lowly 5% company car tax rating (the regular Prius is taxed at 10%) and could save you a fortune in fuel bills.
What Car? says…
Rory White and Steve Huntingford