26 October 2020

Used Car Review: Toyota Prius PHEV (2012)

For many Kiwi drivers, fuel efficiency is an important factor when shopping for their next vehicle. This is evident by the increase in sales of greener vehicles – like EVs and hybrids – over the past two years.

Image 1
Toyota Prius PHEV (2012)
Image 2
Toyota Prius PHEV (2012)
Image 3
Toyota Prius PHEV (2012)
Image 4
Toyota Prius PHEV (2012)
Image 5
Toyota Prius PHEV (2012)

With a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV), you get a modest electric range, and in the case of the Toyota Prius PHEV, this is 16-24km of pure electric range (according to the manufacturer). The ace up the sleeves of PHEVs is that they have the ability to operate the vehicle as a hybrid when your battery has been fully depleted.

The Prius PHEV model we reviewed was a well-appointed example from 2012, courtesy of Auckland-based dealership City Motor Group, and it also boasted future-conscious extras like adaptive cruise control and a heads-up display.

The concept for the Prius PHEV was first seen by the public in 2009 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and by Christmas Toyota had announced the production of the model in Japan. To gain interest in this new offering, 600 pre-production units were produced and sent around the globe.

Familiar Looks

The Prius PHEV has the same unmistakable silhouette across the Prius range, with a very fluid design, free from unnecessary frills. It’s only really up close that you see the minor differences, such as the added door concealing the charge port and the words ‘Plug-In Hybrid’ on the side. The rear also has large translucent tail light assemblies and a sweeping rear window with a compact spoiler.

Size-wise, the Prius PHEV is just 4480mm long and 1745mm wide, making the car fall nicely into the medium size segment.

The front of the Prius PHEV has a very sleek look which helps it achieve a drag coefficient rating (Cd) of just 0.25. It has a small upper grill, garnished with a chrome accent strip, and mounted in the center of the grille is a flush blue Toyota badge. The lights are sizable units which form an integral connection between the bonnet bumper and guards.

The lower section of the bumper has a deep scoop and two fog lights nestled neatly inside the shrouding. To tie the whole look together, there’s a second pop of color just in front of the lower valance.

Futuristic Interior

The inside of the Toyota Prius PHEV gives off a very clean look, with buttons that are flush to the interface and don’t protrude outwards. There are only a couple of minor giveaways to let you know that you’re in an electrified car – namely the stubby translucent blue drive selector, and the blue ‘power button’ (as opposed to a standard start/stop button).

The accent paneling on the exterior of the model we tested was an unusual copper color that looked much like fine fish scales, which was refreshing to see over the usual glossy paneling and faux carbon fibre that some manufactures enjoy fitting their interiors with. There was also a sizable two-part glovebox to help expand the car’s storage options.

The gauges have a sort of ‘retro space vibe’ to them, with an expansive central all-in-one dash assembly with information displayed in a warm green hue. The speedo and fuel gauge are housed to the right, with all economy and power information to the left.

The front seats of the Pruis PHEV are comfortable, and you have the option of heating them on a cooler day. The seats on the model we tested were finished in a dark leather. The seats in the rear are just as pleasant, aided by an unusually thick lower seat squab.

The model we tested was kitted out with a premium JBL infotainment system, but as it’s a Japanese import, many of the infotainment features were not able to be used easily. The Bluetooth function worked just fine, allowing easy connection to listen to your favourite tunes from your connected device.

Overall, the car is nice and roomy and has a loading capacity behind the back seat of 441 litres, which is great for taxi drivers. This increases to 609 litres with the rear seats folded flat.

Techy Performance

The 1.8L Atkinson Cycle engine develops 73kW at 5500rpm, however, the Prius PHEV is loaded with an additional two electric motors which offer a further 60kW of power. It still uses the Hybrid Synergy Drive system from the standard Prius model, but possesses a far more capable 4.4kWh lithium-ion battery, as opposed to the nickel metal hydride batteries found in the standard car.

The acceleration is reasonable – the Toyota Prius PHEV can hit 100km/h in 10.7 seconds, and the ride is smooth and soft.

Our model featured adaptive cruise control, making driving even easier. Add to that the aforementioned heads-up display, and it’s a very nice car to drive.

The Toyota Prius PHEV has three drive modes: all-electric (EV), and two hybrid modes - Eco and Power. The Eco mode is designed to maximise fuel savings for driving conditions, and softens the electronic throttle response by reducing its opening to a maximum of 11.6%.

The maximum speed in EV mode is limited to 100km/h, and Toyota estimate a range of 16 to 24km, however, it can be recharged quickly from a conventional NZ power socket in only 1.5 hours.

Economy-wise, the Prius PHEV’s fuel consumption is rated at 2.5L/100km according to the EPA. During testing, even with the battery depleted and running in hybrid mode we could achieve around 4L/100km via both motorway and urban driving.


If the range and price of used EV models are a stumbling block for you, but you’re still looking at cutting your fuel bill, the Toyota Prius PHEV could well be the perfect option for you.

The Toyota Prius PHEV has an incredible claimed range from new of 870km, meaning you can easily head away on an epic road trip and not have to worry about fuel until you get there.

At a glance

Model and year

Toyota Prius PHEV (2012)



Date Tested



$19,895 (+ORC)


1.8L petrol (73kW) plus 60kW electric motor



Fuel economy

2.5L/100km EPA

Towing capacity




Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

441 litres (all seats up)

Safety features include:

  • ABS brakes
  • Electronic Stability control (ESC)
  • Front/side/overhead/knee airbags

For more information on safety ratings visit rightcar.govt.nz

Choosing you next used car?

A good start is to find a vehicle that is stocked by an AA Appraised Dealer. AA Appraised used cars have received a 43-point mechanical check by the AA, which focuses on the mechanical and safety aspects of the car and gives an overall evaluation of the vehicle.

Click here to find an AA Appraised Used Vehicle Dealer

Get total peace of mind with an AA Pre Purchase Inspection

When you buy a used car, you may have a number of questions about its condition and safety. An independent AA Pre Purchase Vehicle Inspection will give you complete peace of mind with a comprehensive 100+ point vehicle check by an experienced mechanic.

Click here for more information on AA Pre Purchase Inspections

Thank you to City Motor Group for supplying us with the 2012 Toyota Prius PHEV for review.

CityMotorGroupFind out more on how the AA can help you when buying a car

Vehicle experts you can trust

Previous review
Next review
Mitsubishi Mirage 2020 Car Review
Read more
Hyundai IONIQ EV Series II 2020 Car Review
Read more