Toyota Prius Plug in

toyota-prius-plug-in lr

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By Tim Saunders

Forty per cent of AA call outs are for battery related issues.

So says the patrolman who attends the flat battery of the Toyota Prius Plug in I am testing.

This test has been fraught with complications.

The reason I try the Prius Plug in is because it’s one of the few cars to supposedly escape the London Congestion Charge. But it doesn’t. No matter what vehicle is driven the driver has to part with money it seems. Transport for London (TfL) charge £10 just to register a vehicle even if it’s a low pollution type like the Prius Plug in. They take a minimum of 10 days to inform the driver whether they need to pay the daily congestion charge. I wasn’t informed of this when I booked my trip earlier in the year and so with no time to inform TfL it was necessary to pay £11.50 a day to drive in London during the day, Monday to Friday. I could’ve been driving any other car because they are all charged this rate.

Then there is a flat battery, not the fault of the Prius but of my little button pushing daughters. Despite my checks I miss the fact that the internal rear light has been left on and so having left the car in the secure car park in Bloomsbury Square on the Friday night I try to access it on the following Monday only to find that the electronic keyfob does not work. Fortunately, there is a key inside the keyfob, which allows access to the vehicle in such situations. So at least I can put my luggage inside and then tackle the flat battery problem later in the day.

On my return the helpful Secure Parking attendant offers to phone the AA for me and an hour and 10 minutes later (it is Monday rush hour) a patrolman arrives. The car park has a height restriction so the AA van cannot access it but that doesn’t pose a problem because he brings his bag of tricks with him and somehow is able to charge the battery and get the car started. “A standard 10amp interior light will drain a car battery over the course of two days,” he informs me. It’s an easy mistake to make because the underground car park is lit and this distracts the motorist from any lights that are left on inside the vehicle. The Mercedes parked next to us also has its interior light on. Despite this the Secure Parking attendant tells me: “There’s only one breakdown every two months here.”

Of course, that problem could have happened in any car.

For the owner of the Prius Plug who lives in London and has registered their Prius for £10 and does not pay any further congestion charge, they are smiling because as Toyota claims it will travel over 15 miles on a fully charged battery which is adequate for most journeys across the capital. It is so silent that on our arrival in the city a professional looking woman who should know better simply walks straight out in front of it without looking. A few moments later a parcel delivery man walks up the centre of a side street seemingly oblivious to the fact that the Prius is behind him. We end up in this side street after the sat nav has recalculated the journey to Drury Lane from Southampton for the umpteenth time after I do not follow its instructions to take me down a one way street. There are certainly a lot of challenges to the motorist when driving in London. When there is a heavy downpour on the return journey visibility becomes increasingly poor in the dark of night and it is surprising how confusing the many traffic lights can become coupled with incredibly poor road signage. But overall the sat nav is an aid that does see us escape the capital along the A4. It is not long before we rejoin the M3 and within a few hours are all happily tucked up in our beds.

With regards comfort, the Prius scores highly and it is even equipped with heated front seats. There is ample room inside for all of us and although it is only a hatchback our cumbersome tandem pushchair fits, which is just as well because we do a lot of walking in London and our little daughters can only walk so far. It is frustrating that when we park in the Secure Parking underground car park that it is quite low so that on opening the boot, it actually touches the ceiling, marking the boot regardless of how careful you are.

In town it is economical and on the motorway it is surprisingly fast.

Facts at a glance

Price: £33,395

Top speed: 112mph

0-60mph: 11.4secs

Economy: up to 134.5mpg

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