The new Prius Plug-in counters this with efficient lithium-ion
batteries and mains electricity for the first time, to increase the
all-electric range from 1.2 miles to around 15.5 miles. This means short
journeys can now be made emissions-free, but the tech has also pushed up
the asking price. So is this Prius a genuine challenger to the Ampera?
Toyota claims that, after an extensive trial period, it found most city
journeys are less than 12 miles long. Yet even driving that short
distance in these two cars is enough to convince you which one is better.
Although the Prius Plug-in is over £2,000 cheaper than the entry-level
Ampera, and has a more practical interior, overall it trails in this
test. It just doesn’t do enough to justify the premium over the normal
The extended electric range offered by the new battery technology means
it’s smoother and more efficient in town, but once the petrol engine
hums into life, the Plug-in drives like any other Prius. While the
Ampera can be driven like an EV at all times – with strong, near-silent,
virtually instant performance – when the Toyota’s battery runs flat it
feels just like a normal Prius, which means it lacks the refinement and
comfort you expect in a car costing nearly £28,000.
Toyota sees this kind of hybrid as a stop-gap until battery range
improves, but by choosing to sit in the middle, the Plug-in offers many
of the drawbacks of a range-extender with little – if any – of the
benefits. On that basis it finishes a distant second here.