Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid Review | Ultimate Guide

Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid Review

Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid Changes

When you have multiple years of production for any vehicle, there’s changes the manufacturer does to improve the automobile in one way or another. Below I’ll describe the changes that occurred between each model year:

  • 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid (ALL NEW)
  • 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid (NO CHANGES FOR THIS YEAR COMPARED TO 2012)
  • 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid (PRICE DROPPED FROM $32,000 for Base trim to $29,990 and from $39,525 for Advanced trim to $34,905)
  • 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid (NO CHANGES FOR THIS YEAR COMPARED TO 2014)

Buying a Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid

When a regular Toyota Prius just won’t cut it, this 3rd generation Toyota Prius “Plug-In” is the answer for you. Brand new it was a rather pricey proposition, especially when considering how much a standard Prius cost. Lets take 2012 as the first model year Toyota made their Prius Plug-In with a price tag of nearly $40,000 for a fully loaded model. 

Now lets look at the same year Prius but as a fully loaded NON Plug-In, you’d be looking at just under $30,000 for the “Five” trim. Nearly $10,000 USD in price difference. 

Since then, things have changed quite a bit!

New Prius Plug-In Prices:

2012: $32,000 – $39,525

2013: $32,000 – $39,525

2014: $29,990 – $34,905

2015: $29,990 – $34,905

Used Prius Plug-In Prices:​

2012: $7,000 – $15,000

2013: $8,000 – $17,000

2014: $11,000 – $17,000

2015: $12,000 – $20,000

non plug-in prius
Standard Hybrid
plug-in prius
Plug-In Hybrid

Toyota Prius Plug-In Specs

  • Years in Production: 2012-2015
  • Trim Levels: Base and Advanced
  • Engine: 1.8L 4-cylinder
  • Battery Capacity: 4.4kW
  • 0-60 MPH (GAS): 11.8 seconds
  • 0-60 MPH (EV): 24 seconds
  • Fuel Type: Gasoline & Electric
  • Fuel Capacity: 10.6 gallons
  • Fuel Economy: 51 city & 48 highway
  • Electric Range: 11 miles (EPA)
  • Charge Times: 1.5 hrs @ 220volt and 3.5 hrs @ 110volt
  • Onboard Charger: 3.0kW

Why the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid?

In order to understand why a Plug-In Hybrid, you must first look at the regular Prius and see what differences there are.

In 2010, you finally got the 3rd generation Prius with a more aerodynamic look, better looking interior, and better fuel economy. On top of all that, you also got more horsepower and torque, making it a COMPLETE upgrade. In 2011 there were no real significant changes (if any), but when 2012 hit, not only were there some small visual changes to the exterior… but also the NEW and improved Plug-In Hybrid variant.

You have to know the differences between the regular and Plug-In Hybrid, so here they are.

The standard Toyota Prius had a 1.3kilowatt-hour battery pack which when driven carefully, would let you go up to 2 miles (under 25 miles per hour). While that car had an “EV” mode…. it was not meant for that purpose.

Now take the Plug-In Hybrid from 2012-2015 and you get a 4.4kilowatt-hour battery pack which could give you anywhere from 10-13 miles of electric range at up to 62 miles per hour (depending on your driver conditions).

With a battery pack that is over 3X bigger, you get a separate plug which is the standard J-1772 that utilizes 110/220 volts. It can take you anywhere between 3.5 to 1.5 hours to get a full charge.

On the exterior, you get multi-spoke aerodynamic wheels (different than ones found on all trim levels of the standard Prius). In addition to that, there’s badges all over the car telling you its a Plug-In Hybrid vehicle.

ultimate guide to the toyota prius plug-in hybrid

Things to LIKE about the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid

By now the first two year models of the Prius Plug-In Hybrid can be had for less than $10,000 (even in the Advanced Trim). Having spent a few weeks with a 2012 Advanced trim Plug-In Prius, I can say its a BIG improvement over the standard version. Especially today with no real price difference between the standard and bigger battery Prius. The following are things to LIKE:

  1. The Plug-In Prius is easy to drive just like another Prius. All the buttons are easy to press and have tactile feel (unlike some of todays modern buttonless touch screens).
  2. In the Advanced trim you get Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) which works white well at highway speeds. It can slow down and speed up when properly activated and driving in a straight line.
  3. Seating in the front drivers seat gives you great adjustability but in the front passenger seat falls back to manually adjustable levers.
  4. Just in the front, there’s plenty of storage space with deep and specious arm-rest cubby, dual glove-boxes and medium sized storage space beneath the transmission shifter.
  5. Backseat space provides great headroom and legroom (testing done as a 6′ foot individual). Two fairly large people can fit in the backseats, but three small to medium sizes people can also manage without much of an issue.
  6. Fold the back seats down and you have 2X more storage space.
  7. On a full charge, you can get a range projection of 10-12 miles, often times allowing you to exceed that number when you drive carefully. *I’ve done a test where the Prius said I have 9.9 miles to empty (in the winter) and with 25-40 mph, I managed to get 12.1 miles of total range before the battery was completely depleted.
  8. Very good DUAL LED headlamps. This is something special you can get with the Advanced trim which gives you two outputs of LED lights. At night, they both have wide and long coverage.
  9. Assuming the previous owners didn’t break the original charger cord the Prius Plug-In came with, you can charge your Prius at home using standard 110v outlets and have 11-13 miles to use in around 3.5 hours. Cut that time in 1/2 by using a 220v outlet. *For most, I think 110v would be sufficient.

Things NOT TO LIKE about the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid

While the Prius Plug-In Hybrid is a great value… it has its drawbacks. As stated earlier about spending time with it for a few weeks, there’s some things I think are worth mentioning as drawbacks (at least to me).

Here’s the list:

  1. I was a bit disappointed to learn there’s no way for the car to recharge its own battery. While the Chevy Volt can (from 2012), the Prius with its small battery won’t recharge its own battery as you drive.  *But if you use break regeneration enough, a fraction of battery storage will come back.
  2. Going up to 62 mph isn’t realistic in EV mode only. While the car can go that fast without turning ON the engine, it’s difficult to keep the car in the electric mode without pushing the gas pedal a little too much where the gas engine turns on.
  3. The Plug-In variant has fuel capacity enough for 10.6 gallons (according to Toyota). However with every fill-up, it doesn’t seem to get past 9 gallons of fuel. Even at 0 miles to empty, the car can only take 8.2-8.6 gallons. 
  4. Due to the 4.4kW battery pack (compared to the 1.3kW), trunk bottom storage compartment has shrunk to 1/2 the size. 

Prius Plug-In Hybrid's Closest Competitors

Lets go back to 2012-2015 and see the closest competing cars which were sold as “Plug-In Hybrids”. Check it out:

2012-2015 Chevrolet Volt

Plug-in hybrid: Volt

The most popular plug-in hybrid in America, see how the Chevrolet Volt stacks up:

  • Engine: 1.4L 4-Cylinder
  • Battery Capacity: 16kW – 16.5kW
  • Fuel Type: Gas & Electric
  • Fuel Economy: 40 highway/35 city
  • Electric Range: 35-38 miles 
  • Charge Times: 10 hrs @ 110-120v and 4 hrs @ 220-240v
  • Used Values: $7,000-$17,000

2014 Honda Accord Plug-In

Plug-in hybrid: Accord

One of Honda’s “one-off” vehicles was the Honda Accord PHEV. See how it stacks up:

  • Engine: 2.0L 4-cylinder
  • Battery Capacity: 6.7kW
  • Fuel Type: Gas & Electric
  • Fuel Economy: 46 highway/47 city
  • Electric Range: 13 miles
  • Charge Times: 2.5 hrs @ 220volt and 5 hrs @ 110volt
  • Used Values: $11,000-$17,000

2013-2015 Ford C-Max Energi

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The C-Max Energi is a compact hatchback that lets you go up to 21 miles per charge. See how it stacks up:

  • Engine: 2.0L 4-cylinder
  • Battery Capacity: 7.6kW
  • Fuel Type: Gas & Electric
  • Fuel Economy: 41 highway/44 city
  • Electric Range: 20 miles
  • Charge Times: 7 hrs @ 110-120v and 2.5 hrs @ 220-240v
  • Used Values: $7,000-$16,000

2013-2015 Ford Fusion Energi

Ford Fusion Energi

The most popular plug-in hybrid Ford makes, the Ford Fusion Energi is a true full sized family sedan. See how it stacks up:

  • Engine: 2.0L 4-cylinder
  • Battery Capacity: 7.6kW
  • Fuel Type: Gas & Electric
  • Fuel Economy: 41 highway/44 city
  • Electric Range: 20 miles
  • Charge Times: 7 hrs @ 110-120v and 2.5 hrs @ 220-240v
  • Used Values: $8,000-$18,000

To Sum It Up

We started from the beginning by giving you all important specifications of the 1st Generation of the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid (now being called the Prius Prime). It was the 3rd Generation of the body style since the first Prius made its way to the market in 2001. 

The Prius Plug-In was introduced at higher costs, but progressively over the 4 year production runs they managed to drop in price for both Base and Advanced trims. Those prices are NOTHING compared to how low you can get them today in the used market place (with higher mileage). You can find a great deal on a base model for $6,000-$9,000 USD.

While you it may NOT be the best plug-in hybrid on the market today due to its limited electric range, it does make up by being a very reliable vehicle (even with over 150K miles).

It gets AvtoWow’s “Seal of Approval”.

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