Consumer Reports Begins Testing Prius Plug-in

Consumer Reports has gotten itself a Prius Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHV) for testing and review, and has offered a few first-blush observations.

The publication bought its own plug-in Prius for around $40,000 and said it was ripe for being made into a plug-in version, in fact, Consumer Reports had converted its own Prius in 2008.

Now with a factory example to evaluate, CR set into making comparisons to the Chevy Volt, observing the Toyota PHV only makes sense for people with extremely low mileage commutes – assuming they want to use electric-only power which is why they might have paid the $6,000 premium.

On a fully charged battery, the Volt can go anywhere from 25 miles on the low end to a little over 50, but Consumer Reports notes the PHV gets around 11 miles more or less, and depressing the pedal too hard will turn on the gasoline engine.

These observations essentially echo our own when we tested the PHV Prius, and said accelerating takes a gingerly touch that one can master in a day or two to stay out of the gas.

Consumer Reports also notes a driver can stay in the electric propulsion zone up to 60 mph “as long as we kept a light touch on the throttle pedal,” but added it would be perceived as a let-down to some consumers.

“We suspect some EV enthusiasts will be disappointed at the plug-in’s relative eagerness to turn its engine on, but Toyota’s conservative ways have resonated with many consumers in the past,” Consumer Reports wrote. “Clearly, the consumer will have an increasing number of choices as more electrified choices roll out.”

On the positive side, CR mentions this model has similar ride quality and comfort levels found in other Prius models. Further, the PHV does seat five, instead of four, CR notes, and it can qualify for solo HOV lane occupancy in California, and is eligible for tax credits.

The Volt seats four because of the large battery occupying space down the car’s spine, but CR notes the Volt qualifies for up to a $5,000 higher federal credit, and in California, is also eligible for solo HOV access.

But Consumer Reports’ jury is still out, and we expect the influential consumer information resource will have more to do in its extensive testing and analysis procedures before making outright conclusions.

So new is CR’s test unit that it states it hasn’t even developed a reliable pattern of charging to assess if Toyota’s claim of an hour and a half using a 240-volt supply and three hours on 110 volts for a charge up is accurate.

Consumer Reports’ ad-free format ostensibly is said to allows it objectivity when reviewing products and services, and it says it calls it like it sees it. Given CR’s guardian angel mantle, consumers often use CR reviews as definitive guides and resources for purchase decision-making duties.

Future updates may hold some frank commentary on the Prius plug-in hybrid. Or CR’s testing procedures might simply determine that Toyota’s PHV gets high ratings in its final review.

Consumer Reports

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  • Capt. Concernicus

    I have to say that as a Prius fan I’m disappointed at the 11 mile range. I understand the whole battery issue, but c’mon Toyota. You could have done a little bit better considering the price you’re asking for this PIP.

  • Van

    Yep, the battery seems too small, perhaps the second generation will double it (i.e. provide a 20 mile EV range).

  • EdS

    I also like Toyota, but they missed the target on this Prius iteration. Six thousand dollars more in cost for about 11 miles of electric only driving!

  • James Davis

    In any way you look at it…PATHETIC.

  • Roy_H

    The funny thing is that the PiP will outsell the Volt at least 2:1. Most people who will purchase a PiP will never even look at a Volt. They will never know about the Volt’s greater comfort, better handling, features, lower price (because of higher rebate) and economy due to much longer AER. Toyota has a very large, very loyal customer base. GM does not.

  • john1701a

    What difference does a “range” value mean when the true focus should be on GALLON and KWH consumption?

    114 MPG from 300 miles of driving with my current tank, recharging at home and at work. Isn’t that a better way of conveying results?

    Remember, the point of keeping the battery-pack small is to make PHV affordable, so large numbers of them will be purchased.

  • Max Reid

    READ THE ARTICLE AGAIN. Did they mention in any line that the Electric Drive will be more smoother than any other Luxury Vehicle.

    This group is pro-oil group who criticized Hybrids right from the beginning. Why did they buy the High end Prius PIP, obviously with all the goodies and more weight and it will have lesser range and cost more as well. Instead get the base model that costs $32K and drive gently and you will get 15 miles.

    Every day if some one drives 15 miles and for 300 days / year (5 days for office and 1 weekend day for shopping), you will drive 4,500 miles / year on Electric and this may be 30 – 35% of your overall driving. Now if there is a EV charger where you park, your return journey may also have Electric Drive and will double your EV driving.

    There are already 9,000 EV charging stations in US so far and this is expected to increase more rapidly, so will the Plugin cars.

    Also the battery cost has gone down 14% in the last 1 year.

  • The Drew

    I bought the Prius plugin, the reasonable base model for 32,000. Im avg 80 MPG. Chevy should be out of business. There cars suck at any price. The company needed a bailout. Then the volt takes another 7,500 bailout each, and they still are no where near target. The styling? Im sorry, the dash looks too square like an aftermarket pimped PC ride. The Opel Amp looks better, wish it was in the states. Toyota screwed up big time with this lack of EV range. Certainly will not appeal to EV purists. Urban driving 13 miles? Get real. In New York City you can’t plug either car in at the curb. That leaves suburban drivers, who will be going beyond the 13 mile range every day. Toyota, rather than a $8,000 option for more batteries down the middle like a Volt, they give us garbage radar cruise, fake leather, and a tinny radio that’ll cost $35 a month for the apps after the initial 3 yrs. both companies should have branded the 40k versions under their luxury lines – maybe a Buick Volt and a Lexus Plugin might be easier to stomach. I just don’t understand the whole J1772 on the Prius. Take a tip from Electrolux, and just have a cheap pull out retractable 40 foot cord that can reach any outdoor 120v GFI outlet, and no one would have incentive to steal. 3 hour charge is fine, no need for level 2 since there’s no range anxiety.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    Toyota invested a lot in regular hybrids. They are reluctantly being forced to have a plug-in. A memorable moment came at this years auto show in NY when the product person for the PIP supposedly never heard that the engine goes on at highway speeds or when the pedal is pressed hard….


  • anonymous

    Drew : Congrats on buying Prius PIP. More the Plugins & EVs, more the competition. Ford is coming up with C-Max Hybrid & Plugin and this may compete with all plugins and the cost will come down make it affordable for everyone.

  • Van

    Yes, I agree with Max, CR should have bought the cheapest, lightest PIP to draw a contrast with the Volt. The new Ford Fusion plug-in is rumored to sport a 20 mile range. I must wait until next March, but it looks to me, if they can market it for under $35,000, like a winner.

  • Modern Marvel Fan

    Toyota Plug In is a SCAM. I drove both the Volt and Prius Plugin, the performance can’t be compared. Volt wins it hands down. Sure the Volt only sits 4 vs 5 in the Prius. But if you are buying a car for 0.01% of the usage (5 people), then you should just save the money and buy a regular Prius. Volt drives FAR better and it can go full electric. Prius plug in is ONLY electric if you drive like a Grandma. Anytime you need to merge safely on the hwy, the engine will come on… It is a SCAM.

    It is also a SCAM for California and Federal Government to offer US tax payer money to fund a Japanese SCAM.

  • Modern Marvel Fan.

    Sorry to burst your bubble. Toyota received Japanese government bail out too. And part of the Prius’s research was funded by the Japanese government money.

    You are silly to think that Toyota is all innocent. Sorry that you bought a Prius. Welcome to the Grandma/Grandma driving club of America. Stay out of my way on the on ramps. Your car is a slow road hazard…

  • veek

    Has anyone seen the mileage figures for the Prius plug-in after the batteries are drained??

    My guess is Toyota elected to use lower-weight batteries than the ones in the Volt. This reduces the battery-only range, but when the batteries are drained, the Prius should get much better mileage than the Volt when its batteries are drained (the Volt gets poor mileage when that happens, although someone will probably claim their Volt can get 60 mpg on its gas engine).

    Higher depreciation for the Volt will probably far outweigh any small fuel cost saving from its higher range (do the calculations).

  • Modern Marvel

    If your daily commute is longer than the Volt’s range of 35miles, then you should NOT buy Plugin Prius either. You should stick with a regular Prius. 11 miles useless range will NEVER recover you the $6k in money.

  • blaine

    Wow,this car looks so good!

  • Mick P

    I bought a PIP base model 6 weeks ago. I have saved about $300.00 in fuel for the first 2,000miles over a 20mpg car of the same caliber and equipment. The reason prius owners are so loyal is truth. These cars will completely pay for themselves in 225,000 miles or about 7 years. That is about half their minimum lifespan if taken reasonable care of. My 2012 PIP sits in my driveway next to my 2005 Prius that has over 193,000 in town and highway miles on it. The total money spent on that car, other than oil changes and tires is less than $550.00 so far. I have no intention of getting rid of it even if I do have to put money into it. It has the origional brakes and drives no different than when new. It seems it is always those who have never owned these cars that do all the griping about them.

    Mick P

  • TM

    Yes, people who don’t own a Volt or a PiP should not make comments, because generally they do not know what they are talking about. I’m getting 14 miles on my charge. Most of my trips are less than 14 miles. When in HV mode, I’m getting more like 75 miles per gallon. My regular Prius gets 55 mpg averaged over a 10,000 mile history.

    This car is an evolution on the Prius family.
    The Gen II prius was very good, but the battery would totally drain on hilly terrain, leaving you with very little HP until the battery recharged. Gen III improved upon Gen II in that the battery never drains, leaving you with full HP all the time, plus my average mpg went from 50 to 55.

    now the PiP improves upon Gen III in that you can easily get 1000 miles+ per tank, or at least 65-75 mpg without putting it into EV mode.

    Toyota has been making steady progress. I’m sure Gen 2 of the PiP will offer more incremental improvements as well.

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