Toyota Prius plug-in for 2012 launch

  • Electric hybrid emits 49g/km of CO2, returns 134mpg
  • Priced at £31,000, but subject to £5k grant
  • Free to tax, £52 a month for company car drivers

Toyota will be launching its new petrol/electric plug-in Prius hybrid in 2012 at a price of around £31,000.

Although at first glance the Plug-in is rather expensive, official CO2 emissions are 49g/km, which means the new Prius will qualify for all sorts of money-saving tax breaks.

The biggest is the Government’s Plug-in Car Grant, which lops £5,000 from the list price. Then you’ll get free congestion charging in London; worth up to £2,500 in some cases. VED will be free too, and thanks to the ultra-low emitting vehicle discount company car drivers won’t pay more than £52 per month (unless they’re paid over £150,000 per year, in which case they’ll pay just £65).

Fleet managers will also be pleased; companies will be able to write down 100% of the cost of a Plug-in Prius, also making lower national insurance contributions at the same time.

For those worried about the fairly rotund list price, Toyota has announced it will be working with a firm called LeasePlan to provide a deal similar to those currently offered for electric vehicles from Nissan and Peugeot. There’s no word at this time about the specifics, but since there are no reliability issues surrounding the batteries or powertrain residual values should be fairly strong and so a lease deal should be competitive.

The major development with this design is the ability to charge the batteries up by plugging the car in rather than having to run the car to generate electricity. This means up to 14 miles travel on electric power alone, and a staggering 134.5mpg on the combined cycle if you combine the 1.8-litre petrol engine with the electric powertrain.

Thus this new Prius is big news. Since its introduction in 1997 the ‘original hybrid’ has become the archetypal car for those wanting to show off their green credentials. It was adopted by several of the biggest stars in Hollywood and gained ‘cult’ status among many future-facing motorists. There’s even an Owners’ Club; presumably for people to discuss how many miles they get from a tank of fuel or how many trees they’ve saved this year.

However, recent developments both in the ultra-efficient diesel market and the hybrid car sector have left Toyota lagging behind in the eco race. A new super-clean, super-frugal car was required, and what better platform to build upon than the demi-iconic Prius?