Test Drive 2012 Toyota Prius PHV Plugin Hybrid Autos ca Page 2

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Toyota Prius PHV Electric Cars

October 1, 2012

2012 Toyota Prius PHV Plug-in Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Plugging the cord into the car and into your outlet starts the charging process, which stops automatically when complete. You can partially charge the battery, and you don t have to fully discharge the battery before recharging. The cord is designed to remain flexible in the winter months and can be used outdoors.

It s also lockable.

Our test drive proceeded with an overnight charge using household current. When starting the vehicle it defaulted to EV mode and showed 19.2 km estimated range on the battery. In EV mode the Prius PHV does not use the gasoline engine at all, and should your daily requirements not exceed your maximum EV range, you could conceivably drive indefinitely without gasoline as long as you plug in to recharge the battery.

But most people will need more range, so when the power battery is depleted, the hybrid system takes over and the car switches to normal hybrid mode, giving it a range of about 550 km. Additionally, there s an ECO mode that may further improve fuel economy.

Conveniently, as long as you have sufficient charge in your battery, you can switch between hybrid and EV mode via buttons on the dashboard.

2012 Toyota Prius PHV Plug-in Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

On the road, the Prius PHV drives the same as a standard Prius, which means it s extremely quiet, has a smooth and somewhat soft ride, with sufficient power for normal use. Braking in our test Prius PHV was unpredictable, however. On the highway, a small amount of pedal input sometimes resulted in either too little or too much braking.

Likewise in the city, the brakes can either grab or seem disinterested in minor modulation.

The interior is very roomy for front and rear-seat passengers, with the option of folding the rear seats flat to expand the cargo area. Although it s a midsize car, the Prius has big car interior dimensions.

The controls are easy to master, although the touch tracer steering wheel controls seemed overkill, as did some of the complex displays tracking fuel consumption. The rear view camera is appreciated but without graphics to clearly delineate the safe zone behind the car, it s hard to estimate just how far you can go. Maybe there s an audible alarm? I was afraid it might be in the sound of a crunch.

There s a particularly useful storage area on the floor under the centre console (there s a tray…). There, women will hide their purses, and all manner of objects can be safely stowed out of sight. It s a thoughtful touch.

Fuel economy is a Prius strongpoint, although the Transport Canada official numbers are optimistic. What you ll see advertised is 3.7/4.0 L/100 km city/highway (includes the EV component), but the recently revised US EPA numbers are 4.6/4.8 L/100km, 4.7 L/100km combined. These latter numbers exactly reflect my experience, having driven extensively in the city and adding nearly 1,000 km of highway motoring.

I m sure you could hypermile to get better numbers, and the Prius Energy Monitor display does help with this, but I was driving with a light right foot, and would suggest that my results are representative at the conservative side of the spectrum. ECO mode didn t noticeably influence fuel consumption, in my experience. It would be interesting to drive the vehicle for a longer period to maximize the gains that can be made in EV mode.

Toyota Prius PHV Electric Cars

I expect better results could be achieved.

Don t forget, this is a not a small car, and these days anything under 6.0 L/100km combined is terrific fuel economy. Under 5.0 L/100km easily achieved in the Prius PHV during our test drive is pretty much state-of-the art at this point, and filling up with 29L of regular fuel after a 600 km drive is indeed satisfying.

Plug-in hybrids are important in that they are the next step in hybrid technology. We ll have to see whether they transition into full EVs like the Nissan Leaf (only with better range), or whether hydrogen moves from the back burner into the mainstream over the next few years.

The 2012 Toyota Prius PHV is available in limited quantities now.

Pricing: 2012 Toyota Prius PHV

2012 Toyota Prius PHV: $35,700

2012 Toyota Prius PHV with Technology Package: $40,935


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