Prius joins plug-in set and 78mpg after hard drive beats the diesels
First Drive in Barcelona: Toyota Prius Plug-In
For 20 years the Toyota Prius has been synonymous with eco-friendly motoring.
That has been thanks to a clever hybrid system that combines a petrol engine with an electric motor to deliver standard-setting fuel consumption and emission figures.
Now it adds another string to its bow, with the arrival in June of a plug-in version of the fourth-generation Prius that went on sale last year.
It's the first Prius of this type to be offered here.
A plug-in version of the previous generation wasn't considered to have sufficient benefits over the regular series hybrid to make sense for Irish motorists.
This second-generation plug-in hybrid offers a rather impressive official CO2 emissions figure of just 22g/km.
And a claimed fuel consumption figure of 1litre per 100km.
That's equivalent to a mind-boggling 283mpg - though you have to take that figure with a pinch of salt, as you do with nearly every plug-in.
In comparison, the regular Prius (on 17ins rims - the plug-in car comes with 15ins only) returns official figures of 76g/km CO2 and 3.3l/100 km (85.6mpg) fuel consumption.
It's a bit more conventional looking than the more striking series hybrid Prius.
The front boasts LED adaptive headlights and different grille and bumper, while the signature vertical tail lights of the regular car are replaced with a more conventional horizontal design.
To save weight, it is also the first production car to boast a carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) tailgate.
Using the same 1.8-litre petrol engine, power output - at 122PS - is unchanged, while a similarly-sized 43-litre tank means that longer journeys can be completed without a hint of range anxiety.
Instead of the relatively compact 1.31kWh nickel-metal-hydride battery in the regular Prius, the plug-in has a lithium-ion version with a capacity of 8.8kWh.
The vehicle offers, Toyota claim, a driving range in excess of 50km on pure electric power.
It's also faster to charge - two hours with a fast charge connector, or 3 hours 10 minutes using a standard plug socket.
There's some clever technology involved.
A Dual Motor Drive System allows the hybrid system generator to act as a second electric motor, while the Battery Warming System which minimises the impact of cold weather, and air-conditioning powered by a gas-injection heat pump, all improve the electric vehicle (EV) driving range.
You can also have your Plug-In Prius with an optional solar panel roof.
That is probably not designed with Irish weather in mind, but it is part of Toyota's long-term dream to have an electric car that charges itself.
In sunny climes they say you could get up to 1,000km of all-electric driving each year from it.
There are downsides compared to the series hybrid Prius, largely because of the need to accommodate the bigger battery.
There's only room for two in the back, while boot capacity drops significantly from 501 litres to 360 litres.
It's also heavier by some 130kg, with much of that extra weight concentrated in the back of the car.
It's natural environment is around town where the extended EV range made it a silent and easy-to-drive companion.
But what of real-world fuel consumption over longer distances?
At the European launch we drove more than 180km in a most deliberately non-eco friendly manner.
And we did so across a selection of city and country roads, as well as covering a decent selection of motorways.
Despite regularly flooring the throttle we nonetheless returned a respectable average consumption of 3.6l/100km (78.5mpg). Not too many diesels could match that sort of return.
Toyota here in Ireland have yet to finalise prices and specifications, but you can three grade levels and a starting price in the region of €37,000.
That is around €3,500 more than the regular Prius in Luxury trim.
The new Prius plug-in is not a game-changer - there are an increasing number of plug-in hybrids appearing that offer similar performance.
But it is certainly a useful addition to the Prius family.
And for drivers with daily commutes under the 50km mark, it is one that might just make the initial purchase cost worthwhile.