2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-In was new.

Scorecard

Performance: 6.6

Test drivers say the 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in has lackluster acceleration and sloppy handling, but a generally smooth ride. When in electric-only mode, the Prius Plug-in is less efficient and has a shorter range than its plug-in hybrid rivals. However, it gets better fuel economy than competitors when it is being powered by its gasoline engine.

  • "The 2014 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." -- Edmunds
  • "Predictably, the downside of the powertrain's focus on mileage is leisurely acceleration; taken together with numb steering and ample body roll, that means that the car isn't likely to appeal to traditional enthusiasts." -- Left Lane News
  • "With varying degrees of pure-electric range plus the gas engine and regenerative braking charging a battery pack, the overall result is exceptional energy efficiency." -- Kelley Blue Book (2013)
  • "And so the parallel-hybrid powertrain design, the squishy suspension setup, and the puny 15-inch wheels remain, giving the PHV the same lackluster driving characteristics as its non-plug-in sibling." -- Car and Driver (2012)

Acceleration and Power

The 2014 Prius Plug-in is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor that produce a combined 134 horsepower. They are mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). According to the EPA, the 2014 Prius Plug-in gets 95 mpg-equivalent in combined city and highway driving using both electric and gas power, which is less than what most rival plug-in hybrids get. However, the Prius Plug-in can get 51/49 mpg city/highway using only gas, which is excellent for a plug-in hybrid. Toyota says the 2014 Prius Plug-in can go up to 62 mph on electric power alone and the EPA reports that it has a six-mile range using only electric power. Most plug-in hybrid rivals have higher electric-only top speeds and longer electric-only driving ranges.

It’s not especially fast, but reviewers say the Prius Plug-in should have enough power for most drivers. Some say the transition between electric and gas power can be a bit rough, but others think it is quite smooth. Reviewers note that it is difficult to accelerate onto the highway or up a hill without the gas engine kicking in.

  • "Acceleration is typical for a hybrid: far from quick, but perfectly fine for most drivers and situations." -- Edmunds
  • "Due to the seamless transition between electric motor and gasoline engine, driving the 2013 Toyota Prius hybrid is a surprisingly drama-free event." -- Kelley Blue Book (2013)
  • "The gas/electric transition is not the smoothest we've experienced, but it's not a deal breaker." -- Consumer Guide (2013)
  • "The PHV's threshold is slightly higher than the regular car's, but anything more than genteel pressure on the go pedal-say, as might be required to enter the freeway or accelerate up a slight hill-and the 98-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder stirs with a decidedly unsexy moan." -- Car and Driver (2012)

Alternative Fuels/Charging 

Unlike the regular Prius, the 2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in has a lithium ion battery pack that can be charged by plugging the car into a standard 120-volt electric outlet. A fully depleted battery takes about three hours to charge using a 120-volt outlet or about one and a half hours with a 240-volt outlet. Toyota provides owners with a charging cable that connects the car to a household outlet. Though reviewers are a bit disappointed with the Prius Plug-in’s electric range, they like that it charges quickly.

  • "It's like asking for the moon when you already have the sun, but we wish the Toyota Prius Plug-inplug-in range was longer than 15 miles. However, because of the smaller pack and shorter range, the good news is: Prius Plug-in charges in a quick 3 hours with a 120V charging station." -- Chicago Tribune (2013)
  • "You'll only get about 10-15 miles before the electrons run out, but the Plug-in charges quickly -- about three hours on a standard 120-volt home outlet, or half that time on a larger 240-volt outlet." -- Edmunds (2013)

Handling and Braking

Though they complain that it has clumsy handling and it isn’t very fun to drive, most reviewers admit that the Prius Plug-in is good enough for daily commuting. They say it has a smooth ride and light steering. Critics also note that the Prius Plug-in’s regenerative brakes may feel strange to those who aren’t used to hybrid braking systems.

  • "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." -- Edmunds
  • "The ride is smooth enough, but pavement seams sometimes send economy-grade quivers through the structure. As with all Prius models, the handling is numb and indifferent. Don't get us wrong, the Prius Plug-in drives just fine for normal commuting duties and the like. But if it seems we're being harsher here than in the regular Prius review, that's because the more expensive Plug-in competes on price with a lot of very capable and luxurious cars." -- AutoTrader
  • "Fluffy suspension tuning and skinny tires result in lots of body lean in even moderate-speed turns. The car's regenerative brakes, which are designed to help charge the battery a bit, take some getting used to in terms of pedal feel." -- Consumer Guide (2013)
  • "Whether operating on battery or gasoline, the plug-in Prius drives and handles almost exactly like a standard third-gen Prius, love it or loathe it. That means you get the same front-drive traction, the same constant velocity transmission, the same easy-breezy, feel-free electric power steering, and the same combined 134 horsepower from the engine and the pair of high-output electric motors." -- Autoblog (2012)

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