Based upon the Prius Liftback, the plug-in version of Toyota’s mid-sized hybrid hatchback remains the same for another year but one thing did make it more attractive – a price cut.
This year the Prius Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) sees significant decreases for both the “Base” and “Advanced” variants of the same subsidy eligible car.
The Base PHEV now starts at $29,995 excluding destination and handling fee – a $2,010 cut amounting to 6.3-percent less than the previous $32,000. The Advanced was reduced from a lofty $39,525 by $4,620 to a new price of $34,905, before DPH fee – an 11.7-percent cut.
Toyota’s plug-in Prius is still also available in only 15 states despite early talk of a broader roll-out for the car introduced in 2012. Prius fans are looking forward to a possible upgrade for this vehicle – including to its relatively low 11-15 mile electric range, as well as wireless charging, perhaps a more sporty appearance, and more.
The move to reduce MSRP followed similar cuts by other plug-in car makers including Nissan for the Leaf, Chevrolet for the Volt, Honda for the Fit EV lease price, Ford for the Focus EV, and Mitsubishi for the Leaf.
Toyota retains a lot of credibility having been in on the ground floor of the hybrid market, and underpinning the PHEV is the 800-pound gorilla of hybrids, the Prius. The PHEV’s sales do not hold a candle to the regular hybrid, but last year it finished fourth among plug-in electrified cars including all-electric and plug-in hybrids.
The base engine is the same 98 horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine the Liftback gets paired with two electric motors.
One motor is a 60-kw (80 horsepower) unit that mainly powers the transaxle, and another smaller motor works as the electric power source for battery regeneration and as an engine starter.
Combined system output is 134 horsepower, the same as the Liftback.
Distinguishing the PHEV over the regular Prius is a 4.4-kwh lithium-ion battery instead of the 1.3-kwh nickel-metal hydride pack.
A depleted battery can be recharged in around three hours via 120-volts. This time can be cut in half via 240-volt charging.
Three driver-selectable modes are offered: EV, Eco, and Sport.
EV mode operates as long as there is some battery charge available. Eco mode maximizes efficiency by modifying the electronic throttle control program and A/C energy draw. Sport mode increases throttle response in the middle range that gives a boost to acceleration.
As mentioned the Base and Advanced are essentially plug-in iterations of Prius Liftbacks of different trim levels.
A complete review of the Liftback can be seen here and we’ll link a comprehensive PHEV review below as well.
The Base PHEV is the same as a Prius Liftback III, plus, Toyota adds heated cloth front seats, Remote Climate allowing remote A/C control, 10-spoke wheels, and three years of Roadside Assistance through ToyotaCare.
The upgraded Advanced offers all the Base does, plus:
• Premium HDD Navigation with Entune® App Suite (including Plug-in Hybrid Applications) and JBL
• SofTex-trimmed heated front seats
• 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support
• Head-Up Display
• Safety Connect
On The Road
The Prius PHEV is maybe a second or two less zippy to 60 mph than a Chevy Volt and does not handle as sharply either. Nor is it as torquey as a Nissan Leaf, at least in the lower speed ranges to 40 mph or so.
It is a competent car however, that does everything the well-known Prius Liftback does plus we did see 13 miles of all-electric driving, which works assuming one does not press the accelerator too hard, at which point the gas engine does come on.
After the battery is depleted, it reverts to a regular Prius parallel hybrid, and – not needing more costly premium gas like the Volt needs – it also beats the 37 mpg the Volt gets when its battery runs out after an estimated 38 mile more or less EV drive.
Toyota has chosen to sell the plug-in Prius in 15 states. These are California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Hawaii.
The Japanese-made vehicle is well put together, a solid balance of attributes, but not a hands-down winner for all people.
Sales last month of 803 units was nothing like the 9,685 examples sold of the 50-state-available Liftback, and Liftback sales were down 25 percent compared to January last year whereas the PHEV was down around 8 percent.
Compared to other plug-in cars, considering the Prius PHEV is sold in only 15 states, it could be considered as leading the pack in a qualified sense. With just one month into 2014, the competitors are only separated by a few hundred units.
And the Prius PHEV’s value proposition improves a lot if one’s daily driving can keep the PHEV mostly or entirely in electric operation, which is perhaps one-quarter or one-third the price of gasoline.
Its electric range may be too low for some, but its fuel mileage is great. The price reductions and potential federal tax credit of up to $2,500 helps also in the cost-benefit analysis.
Drivers in California’ may also qualify for that state’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program (CVRP) which offers a $1,500 rebate.
And as mentioned, underlying the whole package is the best-selling, most-evolved hybrid, so this too plays into determining whether the PHEV is the right choice.
For a far-more detailed look at the car, please also consult our 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Review.