Review: Toyota Prius+ (2012)
Hybrid only seven-seater. Low emissions of 96g/km for Icon trim. Easy to drive. Spacious interior and seven seats as standard.
Expensive compared to other MPVs. CVT gearbox not pleasant to accelerate hard, so you don't. A bigger battery would have taken it further.
Toyota Prius+ (2012): At A Glance
- New prices start from £27,830, brokers can source from £24,605
- Contract hire deals from £246.08 per month
- Insurance Groups are between 11–16
- On average it achieves 85% of the official MPG figure
Ask someone to name a hybrid MPV and you’ll be met with blank looks... unless that person is a green car evangelist. And this, in a nutshell, is the problem with the Toyota Prius Plus – the one and only seven-seater hybrid MPVs and the answer to the question that nobody asked. Hybrids are at home in town. But put seven seats in one and ask it to provide family transport is asking for trouble. This is a car that’s a long way from its comfort zone.
Why? Well, kids and saving energy just don’t go together. Kids leave the lights on, the fridge door open, turn the TV up really loud in one room with the radio on in another… you get the idea. A simple task like the school run places a spectacular drain on the world’s resources – especially those of a hybrid family MPV. Toyota knows this and so has revised the Prius Plus with a new nose, some clever seats, an extra top end trim level and a few other tweaks.
But it's not enough. With the radio blaring, the heating cranked, the fan on full to demist the front screen, the rear heater on to demist the back screen, the electric motor doesn’t get a look in – even in ten minutes of stop-start traffic all the work is done by the underpowered 99PS 1.8-litre.
The car's design isn’t exactly family friendly. Sure the revised front-end styling brings it into line with other Toyota models, but those steeply raked A-pillars are the perfect hit for a seven-year-old to hit her head on as she’s climbing in the front seat. There’s no electric tailgate either – a principle directly opposed to the hands full/in a rush DNA of family life. Front visibility is ok thanks to thinner A-pillars, the view out the rear is restricted, making you thankful for the standard-fit reversing camera.
A motorway commute allows you to enjoy the Prius Plus at high speeds, an experience which can be summed in one word: noisy. This was one of the main areas the facelift tried to address, but to little success. The automatic CVT gearbox doesn’t help as you have to rev the engine hard to change down. You’ll need a good run up to join 70mph traffic, too, as the 0-62mph blast takes 11.8 seconds.
Such ‘real world’ driving makes it unlikely you’ll ever see the official 64.2mpg figure. We managed around 40-44mpg. If you’re going to pay £26,995 for a family MPV and need a working car to clock up the miles, the Prius Plus might not be the one for you.
Positives? There’s plenty of space inside for everyone. The facelifted models have middle section of seats slide, split and fold. But don’t get any ideas about the back row of seats - booster seats just roll off and a tall teenager would be and cramped. Still, at least there’s now a 4.2in colour touchscreen so you can enjoy the menu layout, which has all the user-friendly ness of a 1990s Japanese remote control – lots of small buttons and the one you use most hidden in the least obvious place.
Load space is mixed bag. Just 232 litres with all the seats up, and 784 with them down – hardly room for a family of five and their luggage. A fully laden Prius Plus on a trip run is the stuff of nightmares, which is why most of these find favour with taxi firms. Plenty of space to take passengers and luggage on short trips. Perfect for leaving the engine running on the train station while you listen to Five Live with the heating on.
What does a Toyota Prius+ (2012) cost?
Toyota Prius+ (2012): What's It Like Inside?
- Boot space is 200–768 litres
The Prius+ has a seven seat layout, with two seats that fold out of the boot floor – more or less the standard across all seven-seat MPVs. It works well, with space in the middle row for adults. Children out of booster seats or young teenagers, will fit in the rearmost row and there’s a good degree of flexibility, because the three middle seats can be adjusted individually (they also slide and split).
This is especially handy if you’ve got a bulky item to carry around but you still need to carry two passengers in the back. With the rearmost row folded flat there is a useful 505 litres of storage and there’s a big under-floor storage space because the batteries for the hybrid are further forward.
This does affect the space up front a little though. There’s a huge lump dividing the front seat passenger and driver that looks like a vast storage bin – but it’s actually where the battery for the electric motor lives. There is a neat little compartment above it for storing mobile phones though, plus plenty more cubbyholes dotted around.
From the driver’s seat you’re greeted with a fairly cheap looking dashboard, topped with a centrally mounted instrument binnacle packed with electronic readouts. These look somewhat dated already, especially compared to rival cars, but they’re easy enough to read.
Durable materials have been selected to trim the dashboard, centre stack and doors, but it doesn't have the premium feel you'd expect of a car at this price. That said the layout is neat and reasonably user-friendly (infotainment menus aside). Equipment is decent though – there are electric windows, air conditioning, cruise control, keyless entry and start, a reversing camera, rear privacy glass and alloy wheels all as standard. The Excel trim adds larger wheels, automatic wipers, navigation and leather seats, but it tips emissions just over 100g/km.
Facelifted models get a 4.2in colour touchscreen that's a bit fiddly to use. There's also a new trim level called Excel Plus, which adds full leather interior and rear seat DVD players.
Child seats that fit a Toyota Prius+ (2012)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Toyota Prius+ (2012) like to drive?
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 40–60 mpg
All versions of the Prius+ come with a 1.8-litre petrol hybrid engine, which is the same system you’ll find in the Lexus CT 200h, the Auris Hybrid and the five-seat Prius. It comes with the same advantages and disadvantages as in those cars too – it’s reliable, generally fairly frugal and relaxed, but it can be loud and coarse. It’s much better suited to town driving than twisting rural roads.
In town it is very good indeed. The standard CVT automatic transmission is very easy to get to grips with in slow, stop start traffic. It will run silently as a pure EV at low speeds over short distances and even when the engine does kick in, it will do so fairly quietly at town speeds. It takes the drudgery out of a string of red lights or a long tailback.
It’s not all good news, though. The CVT transmission is designed to find the optimum engine speed and stay there, in order to deliver smooth acceleration. Unfortunately that means the engine makes a coarse and unpleasant noise if you accelerate hard. If you live in a rural area where you are on and off the throttle all of the time it will grow tiresome quickly. It's not much better on the motorway, where the engine drones and wind and tyre noise is noticeable.
Those who buy a seven-seat MPV, particularly one with a hybrid powertrain, will probably see keen handling as a secondary concern – which is good news because the Prius+ is competent but unremarkable. The steering is light and reasonably accurate, but quite artificial but on the plus side the suspension offers generally good ride quality and keeps body roll to acceptable levels. Sadly it's not enough to imbue the Prius+ with particularly enjoyable handling, particularly compared to something like a Ford S-MAX.
The Prius+ is designed to be relaxing and easy to drive. The CVT gearbox encourages you to be a bit more gentle with your right foot, which should help you achieve better fuel economy. The official figure is 68.9mpg for the slightly more frugal Icon trim grade and you should see more than 50mpg in real world driving.
If you’re an environmentalist you’ll probably appreciate the cleanliness of the hybrid system - it emits just 96g/km of CO2 in Icon trim, which is very low for any MPV. Furthermore, as it’s a petrol it makes far less NOX and particulates – the emissions which are harmful to humans if they’re breathed in – and it’s cheaper for business users thanks to a lower Benefit in Kind rate.
|Plug-In Hybrid||48–69 mpg||11.3–11.8 s||96–101 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Toyota Prius+ (2012)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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Are there any seven seat hybrids?
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