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2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/6/2017

Con: Considerably more expensive than the regular Prius; disappointing interior materials; slow acceleration; awkward driving position for some.

Interior: Like the standard Toyota Prius, the plug-in is a segment leader in versatility. Thanks to the small capacity of the plug-in battery and its location under the floor, the hatchback body style provides 21.6 cubic feet of cargo volume with the rear seats up, and the rear seats offer plenty of space for passengers. Up front, though, taller drivers have to contend with a steering wheel that's placed too far away. Despite a telescoping column, it doesn't extend nearly far enough to enable a comfortable driving position.

Materials quality in the Prius Plug-in is a bit disappointing, with harder and cheaper plastics than other cars in its price range. The corduroy-like texturing on the climate and audio controls seems nice at first, but collects oil from the skin and causes circular dark spots on most buttons.

The dashboard layout features straightforward controls that jut out toward the driver in a "floating console" that provides a storage tray underneath. It's stylish and helps maximize cabin space. The digital instrument panel features a floating layer that displays audio, temperature and trip computer information when the driver touches those controls on the steering wheel, minimizing eye movement. Some drivers might find the overall design a bit too busy-looking, however.

The standard touchscreen operates many of the Prius' high-tech features and is, for the most part, smartly designed. The Entune system can be a hassle, though, since you have to install an app on your phone and register for an account; plus, you always need an active data connection to use Entune.

Body: The 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in is a five-passenger, four-door hatchback. It's available in Base and Advanced body styles.

Go with the base model and you'll get 15-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights, keyless entry and ignition, cruise control, full power accessories, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, automatic climate control, heated front seats and a 60/40-split fold-down rear seat. Electronic features include Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, a rearview camera, a navigation system, voice recognition and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod/USB interface and satellite and HD radio. Toyota's Entune smartphone and Web integration system is also standard.

The Prius Plug-in Advanced adds automatic headlights, upgraded seat upholstery (simulated leather), an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a head-up display, more Entune capabilities, Safety Connect (roadside assistance, stolen vehicle locator, automatic collision notification), a 7-inch touchscreen, a premium eight-speaker JBL sound system and a higher-quality navigation display. An optional Technology package for the Advanced adds automatic LED headlights, foglights, adaptive cruise control and a forward collision warning system.

Driving: The 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in drives much like the regular Prius. This means smooth performance whether it's in pure electric or standard hybrid mode, as well as a supple ride around town and while cruising on the freeways. While the Prius Plug-in is operating in electric-only mode, it's absolutely silent inside. Acceleration is typical for a hybrid: far from quick, but acceptable for most drivers and situations.

Handling is also similar to the regular Prius. Although the car feels competent enough in normal driving, its low-rolling-resistance all-season tires (which help optimize fuel economy) and conservatively calibrated stability control system quickly pull the reins on any attempt to take turns at a spirited pace. In fairness, this will be a non-issue for most shoppers, who will appreciate the plug-in Prius' easy driving nature, all-around comfort and amazing fuel economy.

What’s New: The 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in carries over unchanged.

The 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine combined with a pair of electric motors/generators. Together they send 134 horsepower to the front wheels through a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT). The battery pack features lithium-ion technology and has more capacity (4.4 kWh) than the regular Prius' pack (though total capacity is still less than other plug-in hybrids like the C-Max Energi and Volt). Toyota says recharging a depleted battery takes 3 hours using a 120-volt power source, or half that time using 240 volts.

In Edmunds testing, a Prius Plug-in accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.9 seconds, about the same time as the regular Prius but slower than its plug-in rivals. In normal driving, this Prius can go an EPA-estimated 11 miles on battery power alone. After the all-electric range is used up, the EPA says the Prius Plug-in is good for 50 mpg combined (51 city/49 highway).

Safety: Standard safety equipment on the 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, a driver knee airbag, full-length side curtain airbags, a rearview camera and hill start assist. The Advanced trim level also has Toyota's Safety Connect service, which includes emergency assistance, stolen vehicle locating and automatic collision notification. Adaptive cruise control and a frontal collision warning system are optional on the Advanced model.

In Edmunds brake testing, a Prius Plug-in stopped from 60 mph in 127 feet. That's an average result for this segment, but a few feet longer than the conventional (and lighter) Prius hybrid.

In government crash testing, the Prius Plug-in hybrid received an overall rating of four out of five stars, with four stars for total frontal impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection.

Pro: Plug-in capability on top of the Prius' already exceptional fuel economy; abundant backseat room; spacious cargo area; comfortable ride.

Edmunds Say: The 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in offers an advantage over the standard Prius with its ability to travel 11 miles on pure electric power alone. It costs more, though, and some rival plug-in hybrids might prove more appealing overall.

Introduction: There are a lot of fuel-efficient, gasoline-only cars that get excellent mileage, and more electric vehicles are becoming available every year. But what if you're looking for something in between? Plug-in hybrids offer a pretty appealing compromise by providing excellent combined mileage ratings plus a few miles of electric-powered travel, too. Based on the long-standing Prius, the 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in is one such option that's capable of gasoline-free commutes without the restriction of range anxiety.

What you get with the 2015 Toyota Prius Plug-in is basically a standard Prius with the bonus ability to plug in and recharge its larger battery, which can take you up to 11 miles without turning on the gasoline-powered engine at all. That's not a whole lot, but many errands and urban drives won't even take you that far. If you commute a short distance to work and possibly have access to a public charging station, this could conceivably mean hundreds of uninterrupted, electric-powered miles. Once you're operating on the combined power from the gasoline engine and the electric motor, the Prius Plug-in gets a whopping 50 mpg combined -- the same as the standard hybrid. Along with the excellent mileage, the Prius Plug-in shares the standard hybrid's versatility with lots of space for passengers and cargo, and a smooth, comfortable driving experience.

As you'd expect though, this added convenience comes with a bigger price tag. When new, the Prius Plug-in is several thousand dollars more than a standard Prius, even when comparably equipped. Depending on your driving habits, you may not see price savings right away. It could take quite some time to recoup the difference in cost. Considering the Prius Plug-in's hefty price tag, the interior could be better, too. Materials quality is a bit cheap and the dashboard layout, while interesting, isn't easy to get used to. Also troubling is the telescoping steering wheel that doesn't extend far enough to accommodate some taller drivers.

There aren't a lot of automakers currently producing plug-in hybrids, but the Prius Plug-in's rivals offer some significant value of their own. The 2015 Chevrolet Volt packs 38 miles of electric-only range, which greatly improves your ability to run solely on electric power. On the downside, though, the Volt has less passenger and cargo space than the Prius and a lower gasoline-electric hybrid mpg rating. The 2015 Ford C-Max Energi is a bit more entertaining to drive, plus it has about 19 miles of electric range, a few more cubic feet of storage and a lower price than the Prius Plug-in. Larger plug-in sedans such as the Ford Fusion Energi and the Honda Accord Plug-in hybrid are a bit more plush and comfortable on the road, but they cost more and lack the space provided by the Prius' hatchback design. Whatever you put it up against, though, the 2015 Prius Plug-in offers plenty of versatility for city drivers along with some great perks everywhere else. It's definitely worth a look.

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