The Toyota Prius has become the archetypal hybrid car, and the obvious choice for anyone wanting to enjoy the benefits of low fuel consumption, but also avoid buying a second-hand diesel, and this Plug-in version adds the ability to charge up at home, for some useful (and super-cheap) electric-only mileage. What’s more, a practical interior and fast charging will make it an appealing option for many, and in some ways, the closest option to a regular petrol or diesel car.
However, in this test, the Prius’s electric-only range is a significant downside. It means you’ll need to burn more fuel if you’re planning on undertaking a longer trip, and even around town, you’ll be less able to get out and about on electric power alone – and as a result, the chances are you’ll have to burn more petrol, which will send its running costs up above those of the Volt. And even without this handicap, the crashy ride and cheap-feeling cabin make it an unappealing way to get around.
Neither is the Chevrolet Volt a perfect alternative to a diesel. If you’re doing lots of motorway miles, even its bigger battery and more powerful electric motor won’t be able to handle things without invoking the petrol engine for back-up. What’s more, the irritating dashboard and limited space in the back aren’t helpful, and it’s so rare you might struggle to find one.
However, with the right pattern of usage – i.e. a high proportion of shorter trips – the Volt makes fantastic sense. Its electric range is far more usable, and if charged up fully between journeys, the Volt represents a chance of making a significant saving compared with normal petrol, and even diesel cars. What’s more, the smooth ride and perky performance make it a very pleasant car to live with, and its cheaper price and lower running costs mean it’s preferrable by far to the Prius Plug-in.
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1st – Chevrolet Volt
For Impressive electric range; smoother ride; cheaper purchase price
Against Tight rear head and leg room; confusing dashboard
Verdict A great alternative to a diesel family car
2nd – Toyota Prius Plug-in
For More practical than the Volt; quick to charge
Against Limited electric range; crashy ride; cheap plastics
Verdict Small electric range limits the Plug-in’s appeal
Specifications: Chevrolet Volt
Engine size Electric motor & 1.4-litre petrol
List price when new £29,995
Price today £11,500
Peak Power 150bhp
Peak Torque 273lb ft
Top speed 100mph
Fuel economy 235.4mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions 27g/km
Specifications: Toyota Prius Plug-in
Engine size 1.8-litre petrol & electric motor
List price when new £27,895
Price today £12,500
Power 134bhp (combined)
Torque 105lb ft
Top speed 115mph
Fuel economy 134.5mpg (Official average)
CO2 emissions 49g/km
Price today is based on a 2012 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
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