Driving the Clearwater blue hybrid around Jacksonville was an event. The amount of strangers giving me two thumbs up and the number of folks approaching me with questions about Toyota’s plug-in charging system was unprecedented. No other car has stirred up so much attention on my social media outlets.
The unique, at times polarizing, styling of the Prius is an exercise in utility. The interior is sparse, comprised of an abundance of hard touch, but lightweight durable materials. The digital dashboard is easy to read and highly functional but is limited to displaying the car’s pertinent information, most directly related to the Plug-in’s fuel efficiency. The standard infotainment system is perfectly adequate and sounds nice. It isn’t that I would expect the interior to be on par with the $89,805 (as tested) LX570, but I do feel that Toyota could offer a bit more comfort for the compact’s starting price tag of $29,990.
The car’s slippery wedge shape affords the front and rear passengers with excellent headroom and provides a decent 21.6 cu. ft. of cargo space. Visibility is excellent, Toyota’s design allows everyone to sit up nice and high. As you would expect from the prudently designed Prius, the extra front windows and the additional glass in the hatch are highly functional.
The real celebrity is the 2014 Prius Plug-In’s power plant. The 134 horsepower hybrid powertrain is nearly identical to the standard Prius, consisting of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and two electric motor/generators and a continuously variable automatic transmission. The difference, and the reason the car can be plugged in, is the a higher capacity lithium-ion technology battery pack that when fully charged provides an EPA–estimated 11 miles of gasoline free driving. Once you have depleted the battery, the Prius Plug-in is good for an EPA estimated 50 mpg in combined driving. I opted to plug the car in once during my seven-day test drive, resulting in a real world 55 mpg for the week. Based on my driving, I am convinced that with daily plug-in charging I could easily see a tank of gas lasting a month.
The Prius is very solid on the highway, especially for a compact. The aerodynamic design and low-slung weight, in part from the batteries, make the car feel like a much bigger vehicle. Understandably, the Prius is not a car for people who are looking for race-car inspired performance, especially in the area of acceleration, but braking is strong and the car handles well. Prius is THE big name in the hybrid game and the 2014 Plug-In offers excellent value and a time tested platform.