The all-electric range provided by a plug-in hybrid is the biggest reason to buy one, but that did not stop Kelley Blue Book from naming a 25-mile range Toyota over a 53-mile range Chevrolet.
For the 2017 list of “5 Best Plug-in Hybrid Cars Under $40,000,” Toyota’s Prius Prime took top honors over the runner up Chevy Volt from the editors of the consumer automotive website.
Obviously weighing factors beyond all-electric range, KBB assessed the total value proposition perceived by the follow-up to Toyota’s Prius PHV.
“KBB’s Electric/Hybrid Car Best Buy for 2017, the Toyota Prius Prime brings together the time-tested reliability of Toyota technology, a pleasantly rewarding drive, and easy-to-use efficiency,” said the publication.
The new “Prime” saw its price tag seriously marked down from the $30-40,000 2012-2015 plug-in Prius while doubling the battery size from 4.4 kWh to 8.8, and though considered the Prius range topper, it’s stickered midway in the regular Prius Liftback hybrid’s range.
Both the $27,985 Prime and the $34,095 Volt are eligible for federal tax credits, though the Volt is actually eligible for $7,500 and the Prime is eligible for $4,500.
Additional bonus points for the Prime however include a substantial 54 mpg rating in hybrid drive mode – when the battery is not solely driving the wheels – versus the Volt’s 42 mpg, plus other factors put the Prime over the top.
Chevrolet actually admitted it saved money on the motor drive for the Volt and assumed its buyers would emphasize the EV drive potential and not place as high a premium on its hybrid mode.
As such, its sibling Malibu Hybrid – a larger car with larger engine and more power – that’s otherwise based on the Volt’s hybrid system architecture, is rated 46 mpg in hybrid mode, topping the Volt by 4 mpg.
That decision and Toyota’s decision in reverse to eke out slightly higher mpg from the Prime than the 52 mpg Liftback mean on longer drives when not in EV mode the Prime has a huge 12 mpg advantage.
Couple that with Toyota’s reputation for quality, possibly resale value, and other subjective factors KBB did not outline in a brief write-up, and the Prime despite its lowly 25 miles EV range looks alright overall.
And the market seems to be agreeing. The Prime has only been roling out to all dealers across the country. Some reports have alleged its dealers were not stocking or promoting it, though Toyota denied that.
For the first quarter of this year, its sales are believed to be siphoning off some customers from its non-plug-in Prius stablemate and its 4,346 units delivered through March is OK next to the Volt’s 5,563.
This is not to downgrade the Volt overly much, however, and Kelley Blue Book nearly gushes praise for the Volt too, which made it a former Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Winner.
“…beyond efficiency, it’s just a better car, period. It’s fun to drive, with a nicely sorted suspension, good steering and decent power from its unique drivetrain,” wrote KBB in its prior review of the second-generation Volt compared to the first-generation Volt. “The interior is both more conventional and more high-tech than before, thanks to the use of real buttons combined with features like Apple CarPlay. It can even seat five people, at least for short drives, and it looks great. The price is also spot-on with the Toyota Prius, after you deduct for federal and state EV credits.”
As things stand, the Volt still has its 53 miles EV range versus the Prime’s 25, and for all the reputation Toyota brings, the Volt has been a relative standout on the reliability front.
Time will tell whether the Prime gaining speed this year in the sales race overtakes the Volt, and the market comes fully in line with KBB’s recommendation.
This article appears also at HybridCars.com
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