With sales of its Prius Plug-in lagging, Toyota has dropped the price of its electrified car to $29,999 (before destination charges) for the base model. That represents a $2,010 price drop. Buyers who want more bells and whistles–dynamic cruise control, a power driver's seat, leather, head-up display, and application connections–can save $4,620 over last year's price.
The price-leading Prius is a minimalist plug-in car, with only 10-miles worth of battery power and no real electric-only range, because the gas engine starts every time you ask for "too much" power, which is pretty much always. But the Prius Plug-in price hasn't been minimal: Its small batteries (for a plug-in car) only qualified it for a $2,500 federal tax credit, compared with the $7,500 credit that most plug-ins get. And the modest battery pack renders it ineligible for some state electric-car incentives, as well, such as the common plug-in benefit of a $2,500 rebate and access to carpool lanes in California. (Learn more about plug-in hybrids in our alternative fuel hub.)
All that means it would have cost a typical buyer about $27,500 to drive home in a Chevrolet Volt with more electric range and additional incentives, and $30,300 to drive home in a Prius Plug-in. So Toyota has closed that gap.
That's not the whole picture, though. The basic Prius has long been our gas mileage champ, at 44 mpg overall. On the highway, we got an impressive 55 mpg. And it's a pretty good car, with a roomy cabin, handy hatchback, and a nice ride. The Plug-in maintains those virtues, although we didn't think it was worth the previous premium of almost $7,000 over the basic Prius.
Even so, it doesn't require some of the sacrifices that the Volt does, such as a tight back seat, constrained visibility, and convoluted controls. And while the Volt can go 35 miles on electricity without burning gas, once it switches to gasoline, it could only muster 32 mpg in our tests, and 41 on the highway. Perhaps the biggest downfall is its appetite for premium fuel.
Overall, on a typical 50-mile drive, the Volt's extra electric range more than offsets its worse fuel economy and more expensive fuel requirements. It depends heavily on how the car would be used. If you often need the more comfortable back seat and travel more than 50 miles a day, the Prius could be a better fit.
Even after a $2,000 price drop, choosing the Prius Plug-in isn't a slam dunk. But price adjustment does make it more compelling.
See our hybrid car buying advice.