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PLUG-IN PROMISES (some text hidden)
By Jonathan Crouch
Introductionword count: 118
The Plug-in hybrid version of Toyota's third generation Prius was very clever indeed. Conventional Prius hybrids were always severely limited in the distance they could travel and the speed they could go on all-electric power, but this model, launched in 2012, was far less constrained. Buyers who only ever needed their cars for short trips and were prepared to undertake a frequent charging regime often found that they hardly ever needed to visit a filling station. Unlike full all-electric vehicles though, this car can undertake longer journeys too, seamlessly switching to normal petrol/electric hybrid power when the battery runs down. There are certainly cheaper routes to low cost eco-friendly motoring - but there aren't too many better ones.
Modelsword count: 7
5dr (1.8 VVT-i Hybrid [T-Spirit, T4, Plug-in])
Historyword count: 284
Complicated stuff, this eco-friendly motoring business. After all, every brand you talk to seems to have a different idea as to what it's all about. Should you be looking at an 'eco-friendly' diesel? Or perhaps a pure electric vehicle driven by batteries alone? Maybe a better approach is found by combining the two. Either with an electric vehicle that has a so-called 'range extender' engine for longer trips. Or with a proper petrol/electric or diesel/electric hybrid where the battery is constantly helping out the conventional engine. Decisions, decisions. You could wrestle with them all day. Or perhaps, simply buy one of these, Toyota's Prius Plug-in. The Prius, as you probably know, is a petrol/electric hybrid - the petrol/electric hybrid in fact, with millions sold worldwide since the car was launched at the turn of the century. For years, it had the automotive eco market to itself - but no longer. These days, potential buyers who use their cars over longer journeys point out that its fuel and CO2 returns can be all but matched by many much cheaper conventional diesels. While those favouring shorter distances wonder why it can only cover less than two miles on electric power alone when rival models with 'Range Extender' technology can manage nearly 50. Toyota's answer to these critics was found in the Plug-in hybrid variant we look at here, a car launched in 2012. This was one of the very first PHEV models on the market, one of those able to be charged not only its engine while driving but also from a household mains supply when stationary. It sold until the end of the third generation Prius model's production life late in 2015. What You Pay
What You Getword count: 465
You really will have to be a committed Prius person to notice the differences between this Plug-in version and a conventional model, assuming of course that you miss the 'Plug-in Hybrid' logo on the front wing and the battery charger lid on the righthand rear wing. Other than that, it really is down to fine detailing - a larger lower front grille section with various chromed and silver highlights, a blue smoke paint finish in the extended sections of the upper headlamps, silver accents on the door handles and clear LED lamp lenses complimenting silver licence plate trim at the back. Other than that, the changes made to this third generation Prius have been kept to a minimum. Including the major difference you might be expecting to find - that of bootspace. This Plug-in variant, after all, has a much larger battery than its conventional sibling and all those cells have to sit somewhere, taking up the cargo area as they did in early prototype versions of this car. But not in this final production version. True, the 4.4kWh Panasonic-developed lithium-ion unit raises the boot floor by a couple of inches, but that only takes two litres away from a luggage capacity that, at 443-litres - is very creditable indeed. That's 50% more than you'd get in a rival 'Extended Range Electric Vehicle' like a Vauxhall Ampera - or indeed something more conventional like a diesel-powered Ford Focus ECOnetic. If you need more space, pushing forward the split-folding rear bench frees up 1,120-litres. There's more good news when it comes to the question of rear passenger space. For a start, don't take for granted the fact that you can - at a pinch - seat three people here. That's not possible in a rival Vauxhall Ampera or Chevrolet Volt, even though these are apparently bigger cars. There's also more room here - especially for the legs - than you'd find in something conventional like a Focus or a Golf and headroom is also adequate, despite the sloping roofline. At the wheel, you're surrounded by Toyota's usual high standards of fit and finish, with the various switches and screens managing to easily impart an enormous amount of information very quickly. The dual-zone dashboard is exactly the same as that in the regular Prius, designed to minimise the time the driver has to spend looking away from the road. You get an 'upper display zone' with a head-up display and a central meter cluster that includes the 'Eco Drive Support Monitor' from which so much of this Plug-in model's driving information can be gleaned. Further down is the so-called 'lower command zone', dominated by the 'Toyota Touch' multimedia screen situated next to the short, stubby dash-mounted auto gearbox shift lever that's positioned to fall nicely to hand.
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Category: Hybrid or Electric Cars
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