Toyota remains the hybrid leader thanks to both regular and plug-in versions of its iconic Prius, but nothing really changed for 2014.
The 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine along with a 27-kilowatt electric motor produces a combined output of 134 horsepower; a continuously variable transmission (CVT) routes the power to the front wheels; plug-in version uses larger lithium-ion battery pack.
Despite an impressive display of all-new range-extending electric vehicles and hybrids in response to both consumer and government (fuel-economy) demands, few automakers have been able to deliver an answer any better than the Toyota Prius. Back in the 2012 model year, the Prius family expanded with a plug-in hybrid and a Prius v wagon aimed at growing “green” families (a completely separate and much smaller Prius c with its own powertrain constitutes a separate model). All three use the same gasoline/electric-motor duo comprising a 98-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine teamed with a 27-kilowatt electric motor to produce 134 horsepower. The plug-in uses a larger and more powerful pack of lithium-ion batteries to drive an estimated 15 miles on juice alone, with a top speed of 62 mph. That’s not a huge amount compared to the much longer ranges claimed by the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle (about 100 miles) and Chevrolet Volt range-extended hybrid (38 miles in electric mode), but the smaller pack allows a full charge in only three hours using a household plug or half that with a 240-volt outlet. The really neat part is that once the battery is drained, the car still acts like a regular Prius, meaning a fuel-economy rating of 51 mpg in the city and 48 highway. Unfortunately, the plug-in model gains about 125 pounds in the conversion, and it costs a fair chunk more, starting at $32,800 versus the plain Prius’s $24,800 price tag. Meanwhile the Prius v sits in between at $27,450. The wagon features more rear legroom, shoulder room and a healthier amount of cargo space behind the rear seats. The Prius v comes with some extra-clever storage in the center console and door pockets, plus new standard daytime running lights for 2014. Prius has optional-content menus that are full of technology and gadgets to make driving a hybrid easier, including a unique power moonroof/solar panel that runs an electric fan to cool interior temperature on hot days. Also available is remote air conditioning activation that pre-cools the vehicle for up to three minutes before entering.
Base price (incl. destination): $24,800; $27,450 (Prius v); $32,800 (plug-in)
Type: Four-door mid-sized hatchback/wagon
Engine (hp): 1.8-liter DOHC I4 combined with 27-kilowatt electric motor (134 net)
Layout: Front engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmission: Continuously variable
MPG (city/hwy): 51/48 (hatchback)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; driver’s knee airbag; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control
Weight (lb.): 3,040