Last year, we reviewed the 2010 Toyota Prius, and to our surprise it wasn’t an awful car. Sure the Prius is expensive for what you get out of the interior and quality of drive, but that’s not really the point of the Prius. The point is displaying Toyota’s hybrid technology in one of the worlds most fuel efficient cars. At the time of our review last year, there wasn’t much that could compete with the Prius in terms of overall fuel economy and technology. Today though, we have cars like the all-electric Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt. Both these cars are aimed directly toward taking sales away from Toyota and the Prius, and both cars have more advanced systems powering the car. So what is Toyota doing to combat these cars? In comes the Prius Plug-In Hybrid.
This car is still considered a prototype, and thus, we have no official numbers on things like price point. What we can tell you is what’s different about this car over the normal hybrid Prius.
Notice it’s not called the plug-in electric; it’s the Plug-in Hybrid, which means this is still a hybrid vehicle. You don’t really ever need to plug this car in, and if you don’t, it will drive just like a regular Prius. When you do plug it in, and it fits up to any 110w outlet, you charge a special battery pack. Two hours of charging will completely charge this battery and is good for a little over 13 miles on electricity only. It’s a pretty good setup and helped us average just about 60mpg. Last year our best mpg ranked in at 52.
In my opinion, the biggest fault of the Prius is the interior. To keep costs down, Toyota has skimped on quality of materials. The overall layout isn’t bad, but its just not a great place to be. On the flipside, we sit in the Chevrolet Volt and feel right at home.
The Volt is considered an electric car. You do get a gas engine that charges the battery pack for extended range, but its wheels are powered by electricity. We’ve had a few opportunities now to drive the Volt and have been impressed every time. You still get that eerily quietness as you power on the car and begin to move. Speaking of moving, this Volt can move along at a quick pace. The acceleration of electric power and direct, on-tap torque is always a fun experience. Going around corners can be a fun exercise as well, as the weight distribution and placement of the battery pack was one of the Volt’s main focuses.
What I think really sets these two apart, though, is the interior. In the Prius, you constantly feel like you’ve sacrificed quality in the name of price-point. Not so in the Volt. The latest test drive we took in a Volt revealed nice leather covered interior and soft touch-points. The center stack is reminiscent of an iPod like interface. It looks a bit much at first, but the younger, tech generation will feel right at home, as we did.
The Volt is more expensive than the Prius, but we’re still unsure as to what the plug-in Prius will cost. When you look at what you get for the price, though, the Volt just seems to make more sense.