The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Plus was one of those cars we hated to let go. Why? Because it was practical, functional and incredibly fuel-efficient. Sixty miles per gallon was well within reach, if we’d taken full advantage of our opportunities to plug into the many recharging stations we encountered in our travels.
The Prius long has been the gold standard for high fuel economy and its chief asset has improved with the current model. We drove a plug-in Prius a few years ago and were unimpressed; it went perhaps 12 miles on a charge, and the gasoline engine kicked in at highway speeds even with a full charge on the battery. This year’s model goes upward of 25 miles without requiring a charge or a boost from the gasoline engine. Thanks to the car’s overall efficiency and our use of the plug-in system, we averaged better than 57 mpg.
The Prius Prime Plus is a gasoline-electric hybrid with an electric-vehicle setting. Its major competitor is the Chevrolet Volt, which can’t match the Prius’ fuel-economy numbers when its gasoline engine is engaged, but it goes farther on a charge — 38 miles. Also in the game are all-electric models like the Chevrolet Bolt, Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric.
Our test car had a sticker price of $27,965. Connecticut and federal tax credits knock about $5,000 off the purchase price, according to the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate (CHEAPR). So a well-equipped, fuel-efficient, reliable Prius Prime Plus starts at about $23,000.
The base Prius, without the plug-in option, has a sticker price of $23,475, but is not eligible for the rebates plug-in Prius buyers receive. In addition to lacking the EV feature and rebates, it’s not as well-equipped as the Prius Prime.
Our test car’s standard features included automatic climate control; 7-inch high-resolution display with premium audio and navigation; Entune app suite; satellite radio; backup camera; heated front seats; split fold-down rear seats with center console; push-button start; and power locks and windows. The driver’s seat had sufficient legroom for a 6-foot driver and the cargo compartment, with the back seat lowered, proved itself capable of transporting a dismantled crib.
Two downsides: The car can carry just four passengers. And, with the rear seat lowered, the cargo deck is far from flat as a result of the battery placement.
We also weren’t thrilled with the handling of our Prius Prime Plus. The 15-inch tires are designed for low rolling resistance, not grippy performance on sharp corners. They’re fairly loud, and they contribute to the car’s tendency to drift side to side. We figured a set of conventional all-season tires would improve the handling, but reduce the car’s fuel economy and all-electric range.
The Prius is fairly small, though substantially bigger than models like the Toyota Yaris. It has accumulated a good safety record, earning a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
2017 Toyota Prius Prime Plus
Engine: 1.8-liter inline Four, 95 horsepower, 105 lb.-ft. torque; 71-horsepower electric motor, 120 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: continuously variable automatic
Weight: 3,365 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 15×6.5 in. alloy
Tires: P195/65R15 all-season
Seating capacity: 4
Luggage capacity: 19.8 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 46.2 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 11.3 gal.
Fuel economy: 54 mpg combined
Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline
Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.