Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid [XW50] (2017 - 2022) used car review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

These days, Toyota is ramping up its full-EV offensive but very first plug-in Toyota was a hybrid, the Prius Plug-in, initially launched in 2012, then introduced in this second generation XW50 form in 2016 with an update three years later. It proved to be a very credible contender in the growing market for plug-in hybrid models and can in this form run up to 34 miles on pure electric power (more than twice as far as the first generation model), with EV power up by 83% over that original car thanks to a more sophisticated Dual Motor Drive System. It's the faintly unbelievable WLTP-rated figures though, that could sell you on this car: fancy up to 235.4mpg on the combined cycle and up to 28g/km of CO2? Thought so. Let's check this car out as a used buy.

Models

5-door hot hatch [2.0 VTEC petrol turbo]

History

A little forgotten today is the fact that it was Toyota who were first to develop the whole concept of Plug-in hybrid motoring. And between 2017 and 2022, the brand offered a sophisticated family option in this segment, this car, the MK2 Prius Plug-in.

Perhaps the reason we don't necessarily associate Toyota with PHEVs is that the company's initial contender in this class, the first generation 'XW30'-series version of this Prius Plug-in launched back in 2012, was so relatively uncompetitive. Not only was it prohibitively expensive but it would only at best travel around 15 miles on all-electric power. Not good enough. So Toyota went away and in 2016, came up with something better in the form of this far more competitive second generation XW50 version.

This MK2 model immediately matched the class standard for all-electric driving range, doubling its potential EV distance to 34 miles and developing far more power from its larger lithium-ion battery thanks to technological improvements in three key areas: battery development, maximised EV driving performance and increased battery recharging speed. The car also handled better and looked far smarter with its second generation Prius styling. Toyota gave it a few more upgrades in 2019 to make it safer and better connected. It sold in form until late-2022.

What You Get

Toyota decided to make this MK2 Plug-in Prius look a little different to its self-charging showroom stablemate. At the front, changes to this PHEV variant included prominent acrylic grille treatment flanked by thin, ultra-compact four-LED adaptive headlamp units. The vertical corner daytime running light strips that flank the fog lamps are unique to this Plug-in variant too.

The rear's also a little different, the cross-sectional shape of the “double-bubble” rear screen carried into the curve of the rear spoiler. LED rear light clusters are integrated in the extremities of that spoiler, with strips that flow towards the central Toyota badge. And, as at the front, unique vertical light strips feature at each corner.

In profile the changes are less easy to spot, the Prius Plug-in distinguished by its longer rear overhang, lower cowl and rear spoiler heights and model-specific, two-tone 15-inch alloy wheels, designed to provide extra brake cooling.

Inside, there are fewer changes over the standard hybrid model, though the dual 4.2-inch TFT meter in the revised instrument panel features PHEV-specific graphics. Otherwise, the dash is very similar, with copious amounts of shiny piano black plastic trim on the lower centre console, the centre stack, the steering wheel and the doors. As usual with a Prius, there's a clear structural arrangement of layered information which places the driver's meters at a distance and the displays closer at hand.

Lots that you'll need to know to maximise energy returns can be found in the 'Information' section of this upper screen, offering read-outs you flip between using buttons on the steering wheel. All the more conventional infotainment functions can be found on the eight-inch infotainment display that dominates the centre of the fascia and incorporates navigation, a reversing camera and a useful Energy Monitor so you can see what's being powered by what.

In the rear there's seating for three - which we only make a point of saying because earlier versions of this second generation model inconveniently only gave you two seats separated by a centre console. A third seated person in the back would have to be on friendly terms with the other two but at least there's a relatively low central transmission tunnel, just above which is a 12volt socket (though in this day and age, a USB port would be more useful). Small bottle holders reside in the doors and a centre armrest retracts to reveal the usual couple of cup holders.

Out back, you've to make a few compromises for the PHEV tech. This was the first mass-production car to be fitted with a CFRP (carbon fibre reinforced plastic) tailgate and once you raise it, you'll find that the luggage deck has had to be raised by 160mm to accommodate the larger plug-in hybrid system. The result of course is that load space volume falls over an ordinary Prius - by 142-litres to a total of 360-litres. But that kind of compromise is par for the course with Plug-in hybrids.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

Toyota had sorted out most persistent Prius faults by the time this MK4 version was launched, so not much goes wrong; we certainly haven't come across any reported issues with the Plug-in set-up or the Hybrid Synergy Drive system. There have been reports that the windscreen cracks easily; that's about it. As usual with a family hatch, check for things like interior child damage and scratched alloy wheels. Rear dents and scratches may have been caused through this design's somewhat restricted rear vision. Check the paperwork to ensure that your Prius hasn't been used as a taxi - though this car can cope with large mileages. The hybrid system's batteries tend to be durable, easily lasting 10 years or so and going for 200,000 miles. Signs of a weak battery include the petrol engine running constantly or a car that struggles to get above 40mpg on the instant fuel economy readout. Look out for this on the test drive and, as usual, prioritise models featuring a fully stamped-up service record.

Replacement Parts

(approx - based on a 2018 Prius Plug-in ex VAT) An air filter is priced in the £7 bracket. An oil filter costs in the £4 to £5 bracket. On to brakes. A set of front brake pads tend to retail in the £22 to £32 bracket; think around £20 for rears. A front brake disc is around £68-£75; think in the £52-£93 bracket for rears. A set of wiper blades are about £39. Rear shock absorbers are in the £72 bracket - fronts are in the £75 bracket. A headlamp will cost in the £332-£415 bracket; and a front fog lamp in the £193 bracket.

On the Road

Though like an ordinary Prius, this Prius Plug-in pulls away silently on all-electric battery power, it does of course go miles further before the engine kicks in - around 34 miles to be exact, thanks to an 8.8kWh battery which can be recharged from the mains. That adds a bit of extra weight of course, but fortunately the bulk has been mounted very low down in the vehicle, which helps keep an admirably low centre of gravity and means that handling is more engaging than you might expect. Via buttons on the centre stack, you can switch between hybrid (HV) and all-electric (EV) drive modes. For 'HV' use, there's a further 'Battery Charge' setting, which uses the engine to generate electricity to charge the battery. And in 'EV', you can switch to a further 'EV City' setting that assists with urban frugality.

The Prius Plug-in also offers three more conventional drive settings, 'Normal', 'Power' and 'Eco', which you can flip between depending on whether you need to prioritise performance or economy. Prioritise economy and the official WLTP combined cycle fuel figure is up to 235.4mpg, with the top CO2 figure up to 28g/km. What about charging? Well, the car comes with two different types of charging cable: one with an ordinary three-pin plug and another Type 2 cable that's compatible with home wallboxes and public charging points. The car takes around four hours to charge its 8.8kWh PHEV battery from an ordinary domestic socket, while a wallbox cuts this to around two-and-a-half hours thanks to the Prius' 3.3kW charging capability.

Overall

Plug-in hybrid technology clearly isn't the future of motoring, but it's proved to be an important step along the way. Of course, if we had a better public charging infrastructure, there'd be no need for it - you'd step instead straight into a full-EV, like Toyota's own bZ4X. But right at present - and for a good few years to come - we don't really have a highway and city centre charging infrastructure that makes easy lengthier journeys in a full-electric vehicle. And all the time that's the case, there'll be a real market for PHEVs.

But would you buy this one? We can see why you might want to stretch to it if you're a committed Prius fan and were looking at an upper-spec model anyway. Conquest sales from other brands though have proved harder for Toyota with this car. But if you're in this market - maybe looking at one of the various Golf-sized VW Group plug-in hatches - it's well worth considering this Japanese design too. Ultimately, the Prius plug-in would have done a lot better if the original version hadn't been so ridiculously compromised. And if Toyota had offered this second generation XW50 design in more affordable levels of trim. For all that though, it's a very complete product. As you'd expect from the people who invented plug-in motoring.

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