Toyota Prius now

with PPI

Toyota Prius PHEV, 2017, front
Toyota Prius PHEV, 2017, front, action
Toyota Prius PHEV, 2017, nose
Toyota Prius PHEV, 2017, side
Toyota Prius PHEV, 2017, interior
Toyota Prius PHEV, 2017, back
Toyota Prius PHEV, 2017, rear
Toyota Prius PHEV, 2017, rear, action
Toyota Prius PHEV, 2017, boot

INTRODUCED in 2012 the Prius Plug-In was the first PHEV or plug-in hybrid vehicle on the market.

From March 1, the second generation Prius Plug-In - let's call it the PPI for short - will be available in the UK.

In its way, it's as ground-breaking as the first Prius hybrid was when it arrived in Europe 17 years ago.

Technological breakthroughs include a dual motor EV drive system and a battery warming system, plus two world firsts - a range-extending solar roof and gas-injection heat pump air conditioning.

It will cover more than 30 miles in electric EV mode, a class-leading distance and double the driving range of its predecessor. The clever-clever dual motor drive system increases EV power by around 83 per cent, giving better acceleration and a higher max electric speed of 84mph.

The new, larger lithium-ion hybrid battery has double the capacity and can be charged on a rapid domestic charger in two hours (just over three hours using a standard household socket) - 65 per cent quicker than before.

During charging, the new battery warming system will bring the cells up to an efficient working temperature, even if it's -20C outside. This means the battery is always ready to go, no matter the weather.

The gas-injection heat pump also heats the Prius' cabin without starting the engine, even when outside temperatures are at brass monkey levels, and helps keep the freezing cold from impacting on fuel consumption and electric driving range.

The equally clever solar panel roof - a £1,500 option - generates electricity to charge the hybrid battery. It doesn't do it direct but instead charges an intermediate battery which, when fully charged, pumps leccy into the main hybrid battery.

However, it's only available for the entry-level Business Edition Plus model because apparently it's not compatible with the leather seats in the Excel version. And, because of weight reasons, if you do specify it, you also lose the standard head-up display. So, clever but not that clever.

Toyota claim it can add up to five kilometres a day to electric driving range - almost 1,000km a year - though that figure will almost certainly be much less in Cardiff than on the Costa Brava.

The PPI's design is slightly different from that of the classic Prius so owners can show off their greener credentials (or deeper pockets). The daytime running lights and indicators, for instance, are set vertically at the extreme edge of the front wings. In profile, the PPI is distinguished by its longer rear overhang, rear spoiler heights and model-specific 15-inch alloy wheels.

The cabin is extremely spacious, especially up front but the larger battery means there's only room for two rear seats separated by a console in the back. Load space also takes a huge hit from the new batteries - down from 502 litres to just 360. With the rear seats folded, 1,204 is available.

The instrumentation includes a large, eight-inch infotainment screen with updated graphics and dual 4.2-inch TFT screens with PHEV-specific displays.

In the UK, the PPI is available in two grades - Business Edition Plus and Excel. The first is £34,895 on-the-road, the latter for £37,095. Both are eligible for the Government's £2,500 plug-in grant.

Toyota Safety Sense is standard on both, including the pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control and road sign assist. There's also dual-zone aircon, rear passenger footwell heating and keyless entry and start.

The Business Edition Plus spec includes the Toyota Touch 2 with Go touchscreen multimedia and navigation system, heated, auto-dimming door mirrors, rear view camera, dusk-sensing LED headlights, head-up display, Bluetooth, six-speaker audio with DAB radio and heated front seats.

Excel adds leather upholstery, rain-sensing wipers, park assist, front and rear park sensors, four more speakers and a posher JBL audio system.

The PPI can operate in one of four modes. HV manages the power delivery from petrol and electric motor, always choosing the most efficient. Battery charge allows you to use a little more fuel and top up the battery level, EV mode sticks to pure electric power, only using the petrol engine when the throttle is wide open. EV City, does what it says on the tin, reducing power for even greater range in low-speed urban areas.

On the motorway, the ride is very pleasant with little road and wind noise though, under even the gentlest acceleration, the lugubrious CVT gearbox shatters the peace by sending revs and engine noise up to 11.

Around town, it's an absolute peach, all that technology providing the right amount of petrol or electric power when required. And, should you find a nice twisty road and have plenty of sparky juice left, it can be an absolute joy to handle. At least for a short period.

By now, everyone knows the official economy figures of PHEVs are unattainable outside of a lab. But, driving more than 100 miles in a period of just over three hours, two of us - without trying - returned nearly 74mpg, which really isn't to be sniffed at.

Top speed is a claimed 101mph, 0 to 60 takes 11.1 seconds and theoretically the official fuel return is an incredible 282mpg with emissions of 22g/km.

So, what we have is a clever, comfortable, reasonably practical, well-specced and stylish family saloon with a very ‘green' twist. However, it is expensive - we're talking BMW 330e territory - and several thousand pound more than a normal hybrid Prius. So, even Toyota are only expecting to sell just over 400 this year. What colour is your money?

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