Full 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid is unchanged apart from a price drop. The base trim level's price gets chopped by about $2,000 without losing any standard features, while the Advanced trim's discount is more than twice that. However, the latter's effective adjustment is actually the same two grand, given that some formerly standard features have moved over to an option package.
Have you ever driven a Toyota Prius slowly in a parking lot, marveled at the quiet, all-electric operation and thought to yourself: "Gosh, wouldn't it be great if the Prius was like this all the time?" Well, if that's you, your wish has been granted with the 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in -- sort of.
The Prius Plug-in hybrid bridges the gap between a traditional hybrid and a fully electric vehicle. Unlike the regular Prius, the Plug-in allows you to travel a fair distance solely on electric power. Yet unlike an all-electric car, this Toyota still has a gas engine, so you needn't worry about running out of battery power before you've made it to a recharging station.
Essentially, the Prius Plug-in is a standard Prius with a more powerful battery pack and the ability to recharge from an outside source. With it, the Plug-in can make it about 10-15 miles on electric power alone. After that, the standard hybrid powertrain takes over. Although that's not much electric-only range, the Prius Plug-in's battery pack only takes about three hours to recharge on a standard 120-volt home outlet, or half that time on a larger 240-volt outlet.
Since it's a Prius, the Plug-in comes with all the perks of driving Toyota's ultra-popular green machine. There's plenty of space for passengers and cargo inside, and the 2014 Prius Plug-in offers the same smooth driving experience. It also comes with plenty of standard features, such as keyless ignition and entry, a navigation system and a rearview camera. However, the Plug-in costs thousands of dollars more than the regular Prius even with this year's price adjustments. Additionally, the Plug-in has the same faults as the regular Prius, including disappointing interior materials, slow acceleration and, for taller people, an awkward driving position.
If you're shopping for a plug-in hybrid, there are a few rivals you should check out. The 2014 Chevrolet Volt travels much farther on pure electric power (EPA rated at 38 miles) than the Prius, though its gas-based hybrid fuel economy isn't as good, and it has a smaller backseat. The 2014 Ford C-Max Energi is pretty comparable to the Prius, and it also goes farther on all-electric (21 miles). If you want a sedan, both the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi and Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid could work out nicely. All of these cars benefit from larger federal tax credits than the Prius as well. Still, the regular Prius is justifiably a huge success, and the Plug-in effectively layers on plug-in recharging functionality for those who want it.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in is a five-passenger, four-door hatchback. It's available in Base and Advanced body styles.
Standard equipment on the base model includes 15-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights, keyless entry and ignition, cruise control, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, automatic climate control, heated front seats and a 60/40-split fold-down rear seat. Electronic features include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, a rearview camera, a navigation system, voice recognition and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod/USB interface and satellite and HD radio. Toyota's Entune smartphone and Web integration system is also standard.
The Prius Plug-in Advanced adds unique exterior styling tweaks, automatic headlights, upgraded seat upholstery (simulated leather), an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a head-up display, more Entune capabilities, Safety Connect, a premium eight-speaker JBL sound system and a higher-quality navigation display. An optional Technology package for the Advanced adds automatic LED headlights, foglights, adaptive cruise control and a forward collision warning system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine combined with a pair of electric motors/generators. Together they send 134 horsepower to the front wheels through a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT). The battery pack features lithium-ion technology and has more capacity (4.4 kWh) than the regular Prius' pack (though total capacity is still less than other plug-in hybrids like the C-Max Energi and Volt).
In Edmunds testing, a Prius Plug-in accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.9 seconds, about the same time as the regular Prius but slower than its plug-in rivals. In normal driving, this Prius can go an EPA-estimated 11 miles on battery power alone. After the all-electric range is used up, the EPA says the Prius Plug-in is good for 50 mpg combined (51 city/49 highway).
The 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid's standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, a driver knee airbag, full-length side curtain airbags, a rearview camera and hill start assist. The Advanced trim level also has Toyota's Safety Connect service, which includes emergency assistance, stolen vehicle locating and automatic collision notification. A frontal collision warning system is optional on the Advanced model.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Prius Plug-in stopped from 60 mph in 127 feet. That's an average result for this segment, but 9 feet longer than the conventional (and lighter) Prius hybrid.
The Prius Plug-in hybrid received an overall rating of four out of five stars in government crash testing, with four stars for total frontal impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in features straightforward controls that jut out toward the driver in a "floating console" that provides a storage tray underneath. It's stylish and also helps maximize cabin space. The digital instrument panel features a floating layer that displays audio, temperature and trip computer information when the driver touches those controls on the steering wheel, minimizing eye movement. Some drivers might find the overall design a bit too busy-looking, however.
The standard touchscreen operates many of the Prius' high-tech features and is, for the most part, smartly designed. The Entune system can be a hassle, though, since you have to install an app on your phone and register for an account; plus, you always need an active data connection to use Entune.
Materials quality in the Prius is also disappointing, with harder and cheaper plastics than other cars in its price range. The corduroy-like texturing on the climate and audio controls seems nice at first, but collects oil from the skin and causes circular dark spots on most buttons.
Like the standard Prius, the plug-in is a segment leader in versatility. The hatchback body style provides 21.6 cubic feet of cargo volume with the rear seats up, and the rear seats offer plenty of space for passengers. Up front, taller drivers still have to contend with a steering wheel that's placed too far away. Despite a telescoping column, it doesn't extend nearly far enough to enable a comfortable driving position.
The 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in drives much like the regular Prius. This means smooth performance whether it's in pure electric or standard hybrid mode, as well as a supple ride around town and while cruising on the freeways. Acceleration is typical for a hybrid: far from quick, but perfectly fine for most drivers and situations.
Handling is also similar to the regular Prius. Although the car feels competent enough in normal driving, its low-rolling-resistance all-season tires (which help optimize fuel economy) and conservatively calibrated stability control system quickly pull the reins on any attempt to take turns at a spirited pace. In fairness, this will be a non-issue for most shoppers, who will appreciate the Plug-in Prius' easy driving nature, all-around comfort and amazing fuel economy.