2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in

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starting MSRP

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in
2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in

Key specs

Base trim shown


Body style

Combined MPGe Combined MPGe

Miles per gallon-equivalent is how the EPA provides efficiency ratings for battery-electric vehicles in a way that can be used in comparison with gasoline-powered vehicles. Actual mileage will vary depending on driving conditions, driving habits, elevation changes, weather, accessory usage (lights, climate control), vehicle condition and other factors.

Related: Top 10 Most Efficient Electric Cars
11 mi.
EPA-est. range EPA-est. range

EPA-estimated range is the distance, or predicted distance, a new plug-in vehicle will travel on electric power before its battery charge is exhausted. Actual range will vary depending on driving conditions, driving habits, elevation changes, weather, accessory usage (lights, climate control), vehicle condition and other factors.

Related: Electric Cars With The Longest Range
1 hrs.
Level 2 charging Level 2 charging

Charge time estimates are based on using a 240-volt charging circuit charging from empty to 100% battery capacity. Level 2 is the fastest way to charge at home, though charging times can vary and are dependent on factors such as the capabilities of the charging circuit, charging equipment and the vehicle’s onboard charger. Level 2 charging time provided by Chrome Data, a JD Power company.

4 kWh
Battery capacity Battery capacity

Battery capacity is measured in kilowatt-hours, which is a measure of how much energy is used over time. A 70-kWh battery has more energy capacity than a 50-kWh battery and would result in a longer driving range if all other factors were equal. But more battery capacity doesn’t always mean longer range because of differences in energy consumption from vehicle to vehicle. Battery capacity provided by Chrome Data, a JD Power company.


Seating capacity

176.4” x 58.7”


Front-wheel drive



The good:

  • Fuel efficiency matches regular Prius
  • Interior space of regular Prius retained
  • Long charging cord
  • 240-volt charging not needed
  • Remote air conditioning
  • Smartphone access of EV features

The bad:

  • Significant price premium compared with Prius
  • Relatively short EV range
  • Electric-only mode not sustained under full acceleration
  • No remote cabin heating (cooling only)

2 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in trim comparison will help you decide.

See also: Find the best Hatchbacks for 2023

Notable features

  • New plug-in version of Prius hybrid
  • EPA-est. electric range of 11 miles
  • Three-hour charging time on 120-volt service
  • 50 mpg combined when operating as a hybrid
  • Available in 15 states for 2012
  • Tax credit of up to $2,500

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in review: Our expert's take

By Joe Wiesenfelder

Toyota spent roughly 10 years marketing its Prius hybrid as a car that never needs to be plugged in, combatting an organic misperception to the contrary. Now the Prius — specifically a version called the Prius Plug-In — can indeed be plugged in. Currently available in 14 coastal states plus Hawaii, the Plug-In will be available across the U.S. by the end of 2013, Toyota says.

On the strength of the regular Prius and its zealous fans, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In will probably be a lasting hit — but for questionable reasons.

The Prius Plug-In comes in two trim levels: base and Advanced. See them compared side by side.

The Latest Plug-In Philosophy
The PPI, as I’ll call it, represents the third major technological philosophy among plug-in cars. The purest is the battery-electric car, like the Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, Mitsubishi i-MiEv and Tesla Model S — all electric, no gas, relatively limited range.

Then there are extended-range electrics like the Chevrolet Volt and Fisker Karma, which go a respectable distance fully electric and then rely on a gasoline-powered generator.

The Prius Plug-In splits the difference, with a battery pack larger than the one in the non-plug-in Prius (4.4 kilowatt-hours versus 1.3), but considerably smaller than what powers pure EV and extended-range competitors (16 kWh or more). It relies on the gas engine for full acceleration but has truly usable electric-only acceleration that the regular Prius lacks.

Because its battery is small, the PPI finishes charging quickly. On 120 volts of household power, it recharges in about three hours. A provided cord accomplishes this. Using 240 volts, which requires separate Level 2 charging hardware at added cost, I charged it in around 90 minutes. Toyota says Level 2 charging equipment and installation starts at $999. I don’t see a need.

Take Prius, Add Plug
The PPI is based on the Prius’ conventional series/parallel hybrid system, down to the same drivetrain hardware. As it does in philosophy and equipment, the PPI splits the difference between regular hybrids and extended-range electrics in its driving experience and potential for fuel savings.

The PPI has the same interior volume as the regular Prius, though the battery pack is large enough to displace the spare tire (sealant and a pump take its place). The Prius Plug-In also drives almost exactly the same as the regular hybrid. As I detailed in my review, the regular Prius isn’t the most compelling car to drive, but it has satisfied more than a million U.S. buyers. It’s hard to argue with that.

The battery pack is a space- and weight-efficient lithium-ion type rather than the regular hybrid’s nickel-metal-hydride formula. Regardless, it adds enough weight that some suspension tweaks were needed. (The whole car is 123 pounds heavier.) It feels firmer than the regular Prius, but it’s not the disaster we found a prototype PPI to be in 2011 (see the report).

True Electric-Only Acceleration
The noticeable difference between the PPI and the regular Prius is its true electric-only acceleration and range. In the regular Prius, electric-only operation is little more than a creep (which also describes owners who use it in traffic). Once the PPI’s battery is charged, the car accelerates at a reasonable clip. In the Midwestern flatlands, this got me up to 65 mph without activating the gas engine. Throw in a hill or demand full acceleration, however, and the engine does turn on. This is where the PPI differs from the Volt, which uses an electric motor alone to accelerate — even when the initial charge is depleted and its gas generator has activated.

Kept in EV mode (if you can), the PPI has a claimed range of up to 15 miles, or an EPA-estimated 11 miles. Understandably, most people balk at this range as way too short. I’m of two minds on the topic.

In real use, sometimes the 2012 PPI ran electric-only as expected, and other times the engine turned on for no clear reason, even before I put the car in Drive. Once the engine starts for the first time, it tends to stay on for a couple minutes so the pollution controls can reach optimal temperature. Sometimes the ludicrously low-resolution display shows the engine running, and sometimes it doesn’t, even when it’s clearly audible.

As I’ve said about the regular Prius, focusing on the electric-only operation misses the point. No matter how satisfying electric-only driving might be, what matters are the long-term and long-range results. In this regard, the regular Prius is unmatched — EPA rated 51/48/50 mpg city/highway/combined.

How about the Plug-In? First off, ignore the EPA’s preposterous “miles per gallon equivalent” rating, which credits the PPI, Volt and Leaf with 95, 98 and 99 mpge, respectively. Based on an arbitrary distance, it inevitably under- or overestimates efficiency for any real trip — and assigns cost assumptions to the electricity and gasoline, where applicable. Forget about it.

Instead, to grasp the realities, consider the electric range of each, then separately the mileage rating when the engine is running, where applicable. Here the Volt’s gas-powered rating is 37 mpg in combined city/highway driving. Toyota originally cited a combined rating of 49 mpg for the Plug-In when in regular hybrid mode, but the EPA has settled on 50 mpg. If this proves accurate, it means there’s no mileage penalty for the Plug-In versus the regular Prius.

The Volt has an advantage for short to medium distances because of its longer electric range, but as the trip gets longer, the PPI’s superior gas-only mileage helps it surpass the Volt in consumption and cost savings. (The Volt also requires premium gas, which introduces another cost penalty.) Though it included a prototype Prius Plug-In, our test of three plug-ins still illustrates the cost differences well.

So What’s the Point Then?
All the electricity in a normal hybrid battery comes from the gas engine, either directly or through regeneration while braking. It’s the combination of regeneration and the teamwork between the electric motor and a specially designed gas engine that make a hybrid efficient. What the PPI type of plug-in hybrid adds is a full charge of cheap, potentially clean electricity before you even leave the house, and because of its greater capacity, the larger battery can capture more energy when coasting or braking downhill. (On a long stretch, a regular hybrid’s battery gets topped off sooner and can’t accommodate any more.)

Burning less gas, which typically costs about twice as much per mile as electricity, is always good. But shouldn’t it burn a lot less?

On one morning commute of 17 miles, the engine turned on occasionally, either under heavy acceleration or at high speeds. The rest of the time it ate away at the initial electric charge, and I arrived at the Cars.com office with 0.1 mile of electric range left. This is the perfect outcome. Yes, gas was burned, but depleting the full charge right before arrival means the battery pack was the perfect size for this drive. About 5 miles on gas — mainly at the car’s highway mileage of around 49 mpg — is still better than the whole 17 miles.

Even so, the cost difference isn’t dramatic compared with the non-plug-in. For that 5 miles, I burned one-tenth of a gallon and spent around $0.40 on gas alone (based on $4/gallon) plus another $0.38 in electricity for the electric-only distance (based on a measured 3.5 kWh the night before at $0.11/kWh). Total trip cost: $0.78.

In a regular Prius, it would have been just over a third of a gallon and $1.40 for all 17 miles.

Is it worth it? That’s a tough sell. At $32,795 with destination, the Plug-In costs $8,000 more than the base Prius Two. It’s not a perfect comparison, as the PPI has some added features, including a navigation system and heated front seats, but if the goal is cheap operation, the base Prius is the one to compare. (See the Plug-In and regular Prius compared.) While it isn’t eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit of other plug-ins to date, a qualified PPI buyer can get up to $2,500 back from the feds. Our test car was the higher, Advanced trim level, which starts at $40,320.

The Prius received top scores of Good in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s front-, side- and rear-impact crash tests. While the regular Prius also scored Good in roof-strength tests, a measure of rollover protection, the Plug-In’s additional weight requires follow-up calculations that haven’t been completed as of publication. The Prius also received the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s top score of five stars overall.

Standard safety equipment includes antilock brakes and an electronic stability system with traction control, as is required of all new vehicles as of the 2012 model year. The Advanced trim level includes Safety Connect with Mayday, Toyota’s version of OnStar, which can contact authorities in the event of a collision or other emergency. It also includes a collision-warning system. Neither feature is offered on the base trim level.

To see all the standard safety features, click here.

Prius Plug-In in the Market
It’s great that the Prius Plug-In’s gas-only mileage equals the non-plug-in’s, but over short trips, the fuel and cash saved in the PPI is just this side of negligible. Just as one can justify driving a guzzler if the trips are short and infrequent, one can pass on an efficient car — if cost is the sole consideration. If you just feel good not burning gas, by all means, bust out that checkbook. I suspect many Prius fans will do so. As of September 2012, based on just 14 states, the PPI was the second-best-selling plug-in behind the Volt.

Arguably, this plug-in philosophy’s main advantage is one found behind the scenes — which helps explain why more are coming. Most will be from Ford, whose broader hybrid strategy has long mirrored Toyota’s: Using the same drivetrain hardware and small batteries makes them affordable to manufacture. In cars like the Leaf and Volt, the battery packs alone cost five digits. Even under substantial government subsidy (and enormous automaker investment), those cars aren’t flying out of dealerships. To succeed in the market, any vehicle with a plug needs to be profitable to manufacture as well as affordable to buy.

Send Joe an email  

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.3
  • Interior 4.2
  • Performance 4.4
  • Value 4.5
  • Exterior 4.4
  • Reliability 4.9

Most recent consumer reviews


Best car for Rideshare/Gig Work!

This is my 3rd Prius. For a couple years, we owned 2 Priuses (Prii?) at one time: a Green 2007 Base model with cloth seats and then added a Red 2009 Touring model with leather seats. I started driving for Uber/Lyft in the '09 Prius in Jan of 2015. The Chicago Uber/Lyft mileage rates were pretty low, so having a car that averaged 50 mpg was a plus. Then, after selling the '07, we traded in the '09 for the 2012 PPI. Bought it in Nov of 2018 at a Chicago Warehouse Dealer. It was in perfect shape and had tinted windows. Then in 2022 we moved from Chicago to Florida and bought a house with Solar Panels. I added Instacart to my Gig work and most of the time, my deliveries are on electric only miles. Even doing Gig work....I average only about $25 a week in Gas costs. In all 3 Prii....I've never needed any major repairs. I change the oil every 5k miles and have never needed new brakes yet on any of them since I do my best to use the coasting/regeneration method of braking.....which I believe extends the life of the brakes. Only regret is: the car has HEATED seats.....which was great in Chicago, but now here in Florida....wish they were Air Conditioned seats instead! I already have my eyes set on the new 2023 Prius Plug in (Prime?)....but will wait for them to come on the used car market. My current 2012 PPI will be too old for rideshare in 2027....so I have a good 3 more years to do research.


Best car I have ever owned

You know - every time I read a review about a PHEV there seems to be a comment something like "there was one car that only got 12 miles of range - why bother" - you have read it or heard it no doubt. They are referring to the Prius Plug-in. Well, I have owned my 2012 PHEV for almost 10 years - I purchased it in August 2012. I have 81,000 miles on it. The only thing I have done - besides normal maintenance - is replaced one set of tires and one 12V battery. The initial battery lasted almost 9 years. My lifetime MPG - measured at the pump - is 92MPG. I have measured every - single - fill-up. The car has only developed one rattle - it was on the "flying bridge" and I fixed it myself. NO OTHER RATTLES. The car has never left me stranded on the road. Every switch, button and knob works. The total maintenance expense (Toyota wants you to get it serviced every 5K - so I do) has been $3,098. If you divide that by 9.5 years it averages out to $326 a year. The body is pristine but it is kept in a garage. A normal prius hybrid has a battery of about 1 kWh. My PHEV has a 4.4 kWh battery. That humble additional 3.4 kWh has nearly doubled my MPG. It has been the best car I have ever owned and I am 69 years old.


Most reliable car I've ever owned.

Gets 50 mpg on highway, and have hit 62 mpg when driving 35mph. If charged it gets 110 mpge. The fuel economy, when combined with the plugin averages 75-99 mpge. This car can work in pure hybrid mode also if you do not want to charge the battery every night. The overall maintenance is extremely low cost. The thing I love the most about this car is it's super reliable. It never has problems. I rarely have to fill it up with gas and when I do it doesn't cost very much. I also love the hatchback. This car is great for road trips. It's amazing how much you can fit in the back. It's like having it an SUV space wise.

See all 31 consumer reviews


New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Toyota
New car program benefits
36 months/36,000 miles
60 months/unlimited distance
60 months/60,000 miles
Hybrid electric
96 months/100,000 miles
Roadside assistance
24 months/25,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
7 years/less than 85,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
12 months/12, 000 miles
7 years/100,000 miles
Dealer certification required
160- or 174-point inspections
Roadside assistance
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

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