With several new variants of the Prius arriving for 2012, Toyota has been hard at work broadening its hybrid-only model lineup into a "Prius Family." The Prius v is a larger, wagon-like version with volume rivaling some SUVs. The "v" stands for "versatility." The Prius Plug-In gets household AC charging capability for lower cost operation and extended electric-only range. The new feature, along with the style and efficiency inherited from the standard Prius, earned the Prius Plug-In the Urban Green Vehicle of the Year Award.

Decisive magazine names winners in three categories, including car, truck and green vehicle. An independent panel of automotive journalists selects the winners based on style, practicality and attainability.

While style is arguably subjective, few can dispute the practicality or attainability of the Plug-In Prius. The Plug-In is certainly more expensive than the standard model. It starts at $32,000, an $8,480 premium over the base model third-generation Prius. But in consideration, it comes with a variety of standard equipment found in the base Prius's various options packages, so it is better equipped from the start.

The charging capability adds to the Prius Plug-In's practicality, too. Adding power from the grid gives the vehicle a high fuel efficiency equivalent of 87MPGe. Without home charging, hybrid mode mileage is expected to be 49mpg, very similar to the standard Prius's 48mpg city, 51mpg highway rating. Plug-in charging also allows the vehicle extended quiet, pollution-free, electric-only operation with a top speed of 62mph and range of 15 miles.

"This is the Prius everyone has been waiting for," said Lyndon Conrad Bell, editor-in-chief of Decisive magazine. "Endowing the world's favorite hybrid with the ability to run purely on electric power for significant distances and recharge itself from an AC outlet remade and exceptional urban green car into the ideal urban green car."

Next year may see three or four Prius models competing for the Urban Green Vehicle award. Another new Prius model expected in 2012 is the Prius c, a smaller, city-focused hybrid. Plug-in capability has not been announced for the c, meaning the larger Prius Plug-In could still be more ideally suited to city driving.

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Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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