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2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

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2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 7.8

Available in 15 states, the 2015 Prius Plug-in is the most efficient vehicle in Toyota's lineup of hybrid cars. Though it looks, drives and behaves much like the standard Prius, the Plug-in has a lithium-ion battery that grants up to 11 miles of electric-only driving. As its name suggests, this hatchback is recharged by plugging into an electrical outlet. The upside of the Prius Plug-in is that unlike a pure electric vehicle, it has a gasoline engine just like the standard Prius that gives it a range of over 500 miles. While its electric-only range is far shorter than that of the Chevrolet Volt, the Prius Plug-in still qualifies for carpool stickers. For traffic-weary commuters, that incentive alone makes the Plug-in the most desirable Prius.

You'll Like This Car If...

The Prius Plug-in Hybrid is even more efficient than the standard model, and in states such as California it qualifies for carpool access. Factor in its $2,500 tax incentive, and the Plug-in is only a few thousand more than a standard Prius. Make sure it's available in your state (see "What's New for 2015" below).

You May Not Like This Car If...

Unlike a pure electric vehicle (EV), you'll still have to put gasoline in the Prius Plug-in. And unlike the Chevy Volt, the electric-only range in the Toyota is limited. If you can't get past the Prius' looks, you might favor the mainstream design of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord hybrid sedans.

What's New for 2015

The 2015 Prius Plug-in Hybrid carries over with no changes. It remains available for sale in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Driving the Prius Plug-in Hybrid
Driving Impressions

The 2015 Prius Plug-in drives much like the regular Prius, with comfort and efficiency being its prime qualities. The Toyota Plug-in's ability to travel several miles on battery power alone...

... yields quiet operation, but to do so takes a light foot. Otherwise, the gasoline engine will switch on just like in the regular Prius. It also automatically fires up when the Plug-in's battery is out of juice. This certainly isn't a bad thing: The Prius' powertrain is among the smoothest of hybrids. The way it divvies power between its gasoline engine, lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor isn't jarring, and may not even be noticeable to some drivers. Despite what some may assume, the Prius is not absurdly slow. But there's no denying it requires a heavy foot for merging onto freeways or passing. In these situations the Power mode helps. Most perplexing/annoying is that when backing up, the potentially silent Prius beeps – but on the inside.

STEERING WHEEL CONTROLS
Most new cars have buttons for audio and cruise control built into the steering wheel, but few also have climate settings. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid, though, allows you to adjust the temperature and even the recirculation feature. It sounds small but is super useful and keeps your eyes on the road.

CARPOOL STICKERS
Among the incentives for buying a plug-in vehicle is a sticker that grants solo access to high-occupancy vehicle (HOV, aka carpool) lanes. In regions such as traffic-clogged Southern California, accessing these lanes to cut daily commute times can easily justify the Plug-in's price premium over the standard Prius.

2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid Details
Interior

The Prius Plug-in Hybrid shares the same futuristic and roomy 5-passenger cabin as the standard model. Thankfully, the Prius Plug-in's battery pack doesn't inhibit cargo space. In fact, the Plug-in model has the same 21.6 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the rear seats as the standard Prius. Fold down the seats and that room greatly expands. The front seats are comfortable, especially when dressed in the SofTex leather-like material. The multi-directional nub of a gear shifter takes getting used to (i.e., for neutral you must hold it left), and the buttons to heat the seats are awkwardly placed near the footwell. Initiate them before, not while, driving.

Exterior
2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid photo

The easiest way to distinguish a Prius Plug-in Hybrid from the standard model is to look at its right rear side. There you'll see what looks like a fuel door that hides the receptacle used to charge the battery. On the left side is another filler door, used for gasoline as on the regular Prius. Other subtle differences include blue-accent headlights, 10-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels and unique badges. As with the standard Prius, the Plug-in has a wide-opening rear hatch. Its glass structure provides good visibility except for the horizontal beam that spans its width.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

Available in just two trims, even a base Plug-in Hybrid is well-equipped with touch-screen audio and navigation, a backup camera, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, push-button start, and a charge cable for a 120-volt outlet. One particularly cool feature is the Toyota Prius Plug-in's Remote Climate system which allows you to turn on the air conditioning remotely from the key fob. And if the Prius is plugged-in, it draws power from the grid, not the car's battery. Like all new Toyotas, the Plug-in comes with free scheduled maintenance for two years/25,000 miles and an extra year of roadside maintenance for a total of three.

Optional Equipment

The higher-trim Prius Plug-in Hybrid Advanced adds SofTex-trimmed seats with 8-way power adjust for the driver, a head-up display, and a premium infotainment system with JBL audio, a 7-inch high-resolution touch screen and a more robust version of Toyota's Entune App Suite. That model can be further optioned with dynamic radar-based cruise control, LED headlights, fog lights and a pre-collision system that can apply the brakes if a frontal collision is deemed unavoidable.

Under the Hood

The Prius Plug-in Hybrid uses the combination of a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine, battery pack and an electric motor. Unlike the standard Prius' nickel metal hydride battery, the Plug-in has a lithium-ion version. Recharging the battery takes around three hours on a standard 120-volt line and about half that on a 220-volt outlet. Because the Prius Plug-in has a gasoline engine, it technically doesn't need to be plugged in. But doing so recharges the battery, allowing you to drive on electricity and ultimately save fuel and dollars. The Plug-in's maximum EV range is rated at 11 miles. The EPA puts its total range at 540 miles. Like the standard Prius, the Plug-in is front-wheel drive and uses an electronically controlled continuously variable automatic transmission.

1.8-liter inline-4 + electric motor
Engine:
98 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
105 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
Electric motor:
80 horsepower/153 lb-ft of torque
Net output: 134 horsepower
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 50 mpg combined / 95 mpg equivalent
Pure electric range on a full charge: 11 miles

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