2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid: Five Things We Like
We’ve driven all three generations of Toyota’s Prius hybrid and love the way the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid makes use of more than 10 years of development to integrate its plug-in technology into a platform we know and love. In fact, sit behind the wheel and there’s nothing really to differentiate the standard and plug-in versions of the 2012 Prius.
And that’s part of the charm. It’s like putting on a familiar sweater.
Heated seats, lumbar support
Sometimes its the little things which make all the difference. And in any car that you’re going to spend a lot of time in, heated seats and electronically adjustable lumbar support is a big bonus.
We especially liked the way in which the heated front seats quickly warmed up, keeping both driver and front passenger warm without needing to turn on the car’s engine to warm the entire cabin.
Great gas economy
As we said yesterday, if you’re looking at the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid you’re probably someone who does a fair bit of long-distance driving. And for this kind of driving, we can’t think of a car which will give a better fuel economy.
As we found, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid gave better gas mileage than the 2012 Chevrolet Volt with regular trips over 200 miles where plugging in wasn’t guaranteed.
Easy-access charging door
We’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve jumped out of a 2011 Nissan Leaf, locked it and then remembered we didn’t pull the charge-door release.
But like the 2011 and 2012 Chevrolet Volt and the up-coming 2012 Ford Focus, Toyota has given the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid a simple push-to-open, push-to-close charge port door.
Not only that, but the door is located right where you’ll see it - next to the driver’s door (or front passenger door in RHD markets)
Perfect for access to curbside charging equipment and wall-mounted garage equipment alike, we especially liked the way we could unload the car, lock it and then sort out charging.
Instant-on EV mode
Unlike Plug-in Prius conversions, which normally require the driver to scramble for the EV mode button on startup to prevent the engine coming on to warm up the catalytic converter, lubricate the transmission and ultimately burn gasoline, we loved the way in which the factory-built 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid defaulted to electric-only operation on startup.
Just like the 2012 Volt, this made it possible to make short trips at speeds of up to 60 mph without the gasoline engine ever turning on. But accelerate too harshly, and the Prius’ 1.8 liter gasoline engine roars to life.
2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid: Five Things We Hate
Limited EV Range
We’ve said that for certain owners, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid could offer better fuel economy than a 2012 Chevrolet Volt - but we really did find its electric-only range extremely limited. Our best range during our test drives approached 20 miles when driving a mainly downhill route on a hot summer’s day. But as our own John Voelcker found out last Thanksgiving, the range in colder winter weather dropped to a meagre 9 miles.
With better battery technology, we’d like to see a second generation Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid with a range of at least 25 miles, perhaps more.
The charger heats up the cabin
Because the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid is built upon the standard 2011 Toyota Prius, Toyota engineers have had to use every available space to fit the extra components the Plug-in Hybrid needs to make it work.
Consequentially, the charger is located under the front right-hand seat, venting warm air from its circuits into the cabin.
This may be fine for a cold, wintery day when a few extra degrees of warmth are welcome - but on a hot summers day when the car temperature is already approaching triple digits, the charger’s extra heat makes for an unpleasant few minutes until the cabin cools down significantly.
No charge timer, no pre-heating/cooling
After some serious time in other plug-in cars, we were hoping the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid prototypes we drove would have chargers to make the best of night-time electricity rates.
But although we looked, we couldn’t find any such feature.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that it won’t be present in the production model.
We hope for Toyota’s sake that it includes both charging timers and pre-heating and cooling - both essential in our opinion.
Lost luggage space
While we have to admit that Toyota’s engineers have done a particularly good job in keeping the load bay area of the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid as close to that of the 2012 Prius Hybrid, there is still a noticeable drop in luggage space.
Missing completely is the under-floor storage area normally found in the non plug-in Prius. Combined with a higher-load bay floor and non flat load-bay with the rear seats folded, and we think some consumers will miss the original load bay found in the Hybrid Prius.
Lackluster performance in electric-only mode
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that electric cars have great low-end torque, giving impressive performance off the line.
But the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, just like its hybrid sibling, isn’t all that sprightly.
Yes, it’ll accelerate just fine in city traffic - the exact situation the Plug-in system has been designed for - but put a fully-charged Prius Plug-in Hybrid on the freeway and it seems a little sluggish to 60 mph.
We’d like to see the same kind of acceleration found in the 2012 Chevrolet Volt from the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid, giving it a much better chance at staying in electric mode on faster roads.