Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid & Toyota Prius Plug-in

One delivers economical fun, the other underdelivers

Consumer Reports magazine: August 2013

If you’re eyeing a hybrid as a way to stretch your fuel dollars, your choice has gotten a lot more complicated in recent years. Roughly 25 conventional hybrids are now on the market, with more showing up regularly. They include the new 2013 Jetta Hybrid, one of the most engaging hybrids we’ve driven.

In addition, a new wave of plug-in hybrids can further cut your driving costs if they fit your driving habits. But even these models vary significantly. For example, the Chevrolet Volt, the first plug-in hybrid, runs entirely on electricity until the battery becomes depleted and a small gas engine kicks in. We averaged about 35 miles in electric mode, which would let many people commute gas-free by charging every night.

The Toyota Prius Plug-in operates differently. With a full charge it runs on electric power for a limited number of miles under most driving conditions, but it isn’t gas-free. Heavier acceleration, hills, and hot or cold ambient temperatures typically cause the gas engine to kick in even when the car is in electric mode. We got about 12 miles in the electric mode, during which we measured the equivalent of 67 mpg. But in normal hybrid mode, fuel economy dropped to 43 mpg, one less than the regular Prius.

The Plug-In starts around $32,000, about $5,000 more than a similarly equipped Prius, before a $2,500 federal tax rebate. The Advanced trim we bought was $40,510, prompting one tester to sum it up as “too little, too late, and for too much money.”

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