In this day and age, everyone from Tesla to Hyundai is putting out electric vehicles. But for the purposes of this review, let’s narrow in and say the main competition for the Prius Prime is the Chevy Volt.
Let’s just break down the numbers:
On pure electricity -- The Prius Prime has a range of 25 miles. Say what? Yep, that’s it. More than the previous plug-in, but still about half of what the Volt can offer. It must be said that the Prius Prime’s starting price (about $27K for base model) is about $6K less than the Volt’s starting price. But the range number still stands out.
Here’s how I see it. If you can get to work and back in 25 miles (or one way, then charge it at the office), you can basically never have to buy gas unless you go on longer trips. But if your commute is longer, the plug-in doesn’t work for you, and a regular Prius will do just fine.
When in hybrid mode, you get over 50 mpg in the Prius Prime, which is awesome and the best thing about a Prius. The plug-in part is the tougher thing to sell, as the math has to work out for it to be the right call.
Another thing to consider when going plug-in; You’re going to have to plug in this thing every night -- so there is some electricity cost to it, plus that’s one more thing to remember each day. And if your commute is longer than a short distance, that math does not work.
Despite the numbers vs. the Volt on electric-only range, Toyota has one ace in the hole that it can play -- reliability. People who love Toyotas and have driven them for years without any issues are more likely than not willing to forgive the discrepancy in range numbers before bolting over to GM’s plug-in model.
The Prius’ design is wholly unique and something you have to see for yourself, and I’ve heard it described a hundred different ways. One thing is for sure, you will either think it’s ugly as sin or you appreciate its quirkiness.
I can live with the external design, though I know it’s not the prettiest. And inside I actually like the futuristic centered holodeck look of the display screen. But I have to say I was disappointed to see yet another vehicle with essentially a massive tablet placed front and center. I know this is trendy (thanks, Elon), but are we at the point where literally everything electronic we use anywhere has to resemble our phones and tablets? Combining everything onto that screen wasn’t a setup I liked. While it was large and easy to read, and responsive to touch, I find this setup odd and more importantly distracting.
The Interior quality is not luxurious but also not cheap. Seating material is comfy. Wireless charging for your phone is offered too.
Anyone who has driven a Prius knows it’s not about power. Quite the contrary. It’s about getting you where you need to go, stretching fuel and visiting the gas station as little as possible. Add in this plug-in option and with short trips you may never need gas -- provided you never drive very far. That’s the draw -- not power.
To put it bluntly, if you’re a driving enthusiast, you probably won’t want a hybrid, and with 0-to-60 times topping 10 seconds, this is definitely a slow go.
The question here is pretty simple: When is the Prius Prime a better option than a regular Prius hybrid. If you’re a city dweller with short commutes and rarely go on long drives, it might do the trick for you, especially if you can charge the vehicle at work. But if that’s not the case, a standard Prius (or other hybrid) is probably your best bet. These are definitely niche vehicles at this point, and I look forward to the day when a quick charge of an affordable vehicle can get you hundreds of miles and all of this will in hindsight look like child’s play.
Until then, these plug-in vehicles are aimed at the few for whom the math works out.
Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.