Last year, for the first time, the Prius Liftback's combined EPA rating of 50 mpg was matched by another car. It, too, was a Prius, in this case the subcompact Prius C five-door hatchback.
So the 2013 Toyota Prius remains the highest-mileage gasoline car sold in the U.S. market without a plug. For those of us who aren't hypermilers--compete to see who can travel the furthest on the least amount of gasoline--it just delivers the best fuel economy we can buy. Specifically, the EPA rates the this year's Prius Liftback at 51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway--giving that combined rating of 50 mpg.
By concentrating on it, accelerating lightly in electric mode, and planning ahead, you can exceed 60 mpg at slower speeds on level surfaces--especially if you can take advantage of "EV" mode for the last mile of your trip. In more real-world mixed use, we expect 45 to 50 mpg will be the norm. You can drop that into the high 30s if you have a heavy right food, or are carrying heavy loads up long grades.
As in all Toyotas, the Hybrid Synergy Drive system is at its most effective in stop-and-go urban and suburban traffic, where it shuts off the engine frequently. If you do a lot of city driving, it's entirely possible to achieve a sustained 50 mpg or better. Just ask the taxi drivers all over the world who relish the low operating costs of their Prius cabs.
The Prius Plug-In Hybrid presents more of a conundrum for green-car fans. It has the lowest all-electric range (6 to 13 miles) of any plug-in on the market, significantly lower than the 20 miles or so of Ford's C-Max and Fusion Energi plug-in models--let alone the 38-mile electric range of the 2013 Chevy Volt.
The plug-in Prius does qualify for single-occupant use in California's carpool lanes, which may be spurring its early sales. And perhaps it offers an easy step into the world of plugging in for the 1 million-plus U.S. drivers who own Priuses. Still, as an electric car, it's a minimalist statement--betraying the company's core belief that electric cars aren't the way to go.