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Price, fuel economy and range, finance and depreciation

The pragmatic reason to buy a Toyota Prius is to save money, through free road tax and a lack of London congestion charge, as well as its fuel economy potential. It makes good sense as a company car, too, with low benefit-in-kind tax and a 100 percent capital allowance write-down in the first year.

Running costs are a mixed bag, though. Yes, you’ll make substantial tax savings each year and strong demand for used cars means impressive resale values.

We found the Prius more economical at a steady 80mph than 60mph

But although real-world economy is impressive in its own right, with 56.4mpg over our touring route and 47.5mpg overall, you’ll do well to match the ‘official’ average – forums are rife with tales of owners unable to get anywhere near those figures.

The Prius Plug-In should address these concerns to some extent. With an EV range of 15.5 miles, it is entirely possible a low-mileage user could go days without using any petrol, recharging the batteries only. With no electric range remaining, Toyota claims 78.5mpg and 84g/km as the petrol engine is used. Our experience suggests more than 60mpg should be achievable on long runs.

However, the Plug-In is also the most expensive Prius to buy outright, and it's hardly an affordable car to begin with. It carries a near £8000 premium over the T-Spirit at £32,895. Regardless of its improved range and efficiency, that makes the Plug-In an expensive car.

With the 17in wheels comes a marginally higher CO2 score, but that currently has no bearing on the tax or congestion charge issue and a microscopic effect to fuel economy. 

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Maintenance costs are low, with no drive belts to replace thanks to an electric water pump, built-in generator and chain-driven camshafts. Toyota says the hybrid components, which have their own five-year/60,000-mile guarantee, have so far accounted for just 1.3 per cent of the Prius line’s warranty costs, and the battery pack should last for at least 10 years. 

The Prius is also a consistent high performer in customer satisfaction surveys. That’s due as much to dealers’ professionalism as the reliability of the car itself.

The only significant black mark is against the Prius's high purchase price relative to its mainstream hatchback rivals. However, those strong residual values go some way to offsetting this.