2013 Toyota Prius Plug-In 4-dr Hatchback (1.8L 4-cyl. Plug-in Hybrid CVT Automatic)
Driven On 8/13/2013
The regular Prius and its 50-mpg performance is a great value, but it's harder to be as enthusiastic about the $40,000 plug-in version. It depends entirely on how far you live from work and whether or not you can plug in at the office. If you live far, the regular Prius is a better deal.
PerformancePredictable and reassuring, but not exactly sporty. Still, there's more to like here than you'd expect for something that can get 50 mpg on gas and run 11 miles or more on batteries.
The Prius Plug-in won't win any speed contests, but it has sufficient power for safe freeway merges. It's 9.9-second run to 60 mph is a couple tenths quicker than a regular Prius.
Our 60-mph panic stop took 127 feet, a few feet longer than a standard Prius, perhaps due to the extra weight of the plug-in system. The pedal is reassuringly firm much of the time.
Steering effort is appropriate for this sort of family car and it responds smartly enough. But the feeling is somewhat muted and inauthentic. Tires like to follow seams and rain grooves.
The Prius Plug-in is just as maneuverable as a standard Prius, and both share the same fuel-saving low rolling resistance tires which don't have much ultimate grip.
Toyota's hybrids are built around a stepless continuously variable transmission that's butter smooth. The Plug-in adds 11 whisper-silent battery miles before the gas engine takes over.
ComfortThe Prius is comfortable is most situtations, but sometimes the reality of its light weight and fuel-saving tires comes through.
The Prius' seats are soft and supportive. Tall drivers might say the lowest seat setting isn't low enough realtive to the telescopic steering wheel, which doesn't pull back quite far enough.
Generally smooth in most situations, but the high-pressure tires make it feel like it's up on tiptoes sometimes.
At or slightly above the class average in terms of wind noise. Resonable road noise. Electric mode (EV) is largely silent. Engine noise in hybrid mode is similar to any other Prius.
InteriorAside from the odd shifter and gauges, the interior of the Prius Plug-in is functional and spacious enough that it could easily be your only car.
The shifter and park button are unnecessarily odd and the central gauges take getting used to. Other controls are easy and the steering buttons work well.
The front doors open wide and there are no obstructions. Exceedingly high roofline means no ducking. The story is much the same in the back.
Plenty of front seat headroom for tall folks, and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes. Rear-seat space is generous too, particularly legroom. It's clear why these make good eco-taxis.
Slender pillars and lots of glass add up to good forward and rear side visibility. The rear view is enhanced by the vertical glass panel in the hatch. The back-up camera is pure gravy.
The Prius Plug-in avoids the huge loss of cargo that plagues other plug-in hybrids because its modest rechargeable battery is under the floor. There's plenty of hatch space.
ValueThe Prius Plug-in is essentially a loaded Prius with a big battery good for 11 miles or so of battery running. You pay $40,000 for this (and possible carpool lane access), but to us a standard Prius and its 50 mpg is a better value.
Build Quality (vs. $)
You're into $40,000 territory once you go for the plug-in version. The interior materials and presentation that were okay in the 25k-30k Prius level start to feel substandard at this price.
The Prius Plug-in at least tries to offset its price by including adaptive cruise control and a heads-up display, things that are optional on the high-grade regular Prius Five.
It's hard to justify the cost of a Prius Plug-in over a regular Prius; $40,500 is a lot to pay for what is essentially a standard 50-mpg Prius after the first 11 battery miles.
Looked at separately, the Prius Plug-In is rated at 50 mpg combined (51 city/49 highway) on gasoline and can travel 11 miles on batteries.
The powertrain is covered for 5 yrs/60,000 miles and the hybrid components and battery are covered for 8 yrs/100,000 miles. But the basic warranty should be longer than 3 yrs/36,000 miles.
The battery is small enough that a standard 120V outlet is all you need to recharge a Prius Plug-in at home. Plug-ins may be eligible for carpool lane stickers in California and elsewhere.
Fun To DriveFun isn't really the right word unless you get jazzed about driving past gas pumps and running on electricity. The Plug-in Prius is good at both, and is most satisfying for those that live relatively close to work.
The plug-in feature is best for those with short commutes. Gasoline is king on long highway trips where the Prius Plug-in gets 49 mpg, but any Prius can do that.
Like it or not, the Prius has a clearly-defined and strong personality. It's pretty much a brand unto itself. It makes a statement, even if only half the electorate agrees with it.