What's the used Toyota Prius Plug-in hatchback like?
Despite the fact it seemed a logical step up from the purely petrol-electric hybrid Toyota Prius, the first generation of the plug-in version never sold well in the UK. However, this second-generation model is more refined, better looking and has the benefit of a longer electric-only range, all of which have increased the variant’s popularity.
The formula is simple: take the petrol-electric hybrid technology, with its fairly limited electric-only range, and increase it by plugging it in to an external power source, whether an ordinary domestic socket or a wall charger. This increases the electric-only range to roughly 39 miles, a useful amount more than the standard car, and decreases the official CO2 emissions output to just 22g/km. However, the fly in the ointment has always been the price of the Prius Plug-in, which has always been higher than the regular Prius. Bought used, however, the differences aren’t so pronounced, which for any eco-conscious motorist makes it worth a look.
On the road, the Prius Plug-in is surprisingly refined and comfortable. The biggest difference between this Plug-in model and the normal Prius comes in EV (fully electric) mode. The Plug-in's extra battery capacity combines with a modified gearbox to allow the car to use its two electric motors to drive the car forwards, whereas the normal Prius can use only one. This means the Plug-in builds speed much more quickly, taking off the instant you flex your right foot. True, it’s not as easy as it could be to slow down smoothly due to grabby brakes that can be hard to modulate but, in the main, progress around town is agreeable. And the real-world range on battery power amounts to around 25 miles, farther than many rivals can manage.
The steering is accurate and responsive, and although there’s quite a bit of body roll in faster corners, there’s plenty of grip. The ride is reasonably relaxed, too, turning firmer over larger bumps and road imperfections but still compliant enough to make long journeys comfortable for occupants.
Inside is an unconventional dashboard layout, with the main instrument pod sitting in the middle of and high up on the centre console. There are two 4.2in colour screens providing the information, with a head-up display. Below this is the standard 7.0in infotainment touchscreen, which is mostly responsive, even if its graphics aren’t as sharp as that in some rivals.
The driving position is good, although it could do with more adjustment in the steering wheel, while rear visibility is a little compromised by the rear pillars. Overall build quality feels good, although there are plenty of harder plastics in evidence.
There’s lots of space, too, both front and rear. The hatchback opens to reveal a long, flat load area, and the rear seats drop in a 60/40 split, although there is a small step left when you do this.