2012 Toyota Prius V Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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Published on June 13, 2012

Larger overall dimensions and a squared-off tail end give the Prius v much more room inside than the regular Prius. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

The Prius v is a practical-looking machine that offers excellent fuel economy and versatility. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

Synthetic leather comes with the Luxury package and higher trim levels. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

The spacious back seat of the Prius v offers a slightly raised outlook and split-folding capability. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 13, 2012

An available Touring and Technology package includes premium audio, 7-inch colour display and voice-activated satellite navigation.(Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

The real advantage of the Prius v is significantly more cargo capacity. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

Under its hood the Prius v gets the same hybrid drivetrain as the regular Prius. (Photo: Simon Hill, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

Published on June 13, 2012

With Toyota's recent introduction of the smaller, city-sized Prius c and its earlier introduction of the bigger, versatile Prius v, the Japanese automaker is busy turning Prius into a whole family of cars suitable for most any family, couple or single.

For the regular Prius, this may prove to be somewhat of a problem, because not only has its new siblings left it without a distinctive name (perhaps Toyota should rename it the Prius m for medium?), but they are also likely to cannibalize its sales.

For hybrid buyers on the other hand, the expansion of the Prius lineup is great news, because certainly in the case of the bigger Prius v, what it takes from its older mid-size sibling it more than gives back to the customer.

Perhaps the biggest thing the Prius v takes from the regular Prius is its entire drivetrain - the two cars share the same Hybrid Synergy Drive system with its 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle gasoline engine and electric drive motors working together through an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT) to produce a total of 134 horsepower (the v does have some additional cooling capacity, but that's about the only change). Feeding the electrical side of the powertrain is a nickel metal hydride battery pack, and regenerative brakes charge the battery whenever the car decelerates.

With the same powertrain pushing a car with a larger frontal area and an extra 105 kg of weight, the Prius v is no hotrod performer, even in comparison to the somewhat leisurely regular Prius. Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h can be dispatched in about 12 seconds if you put your foot down, but the buzzing drone from under the hood when you do this serves to remind you that hard acceleration is not what the Prius was designed for. Back off into what the dashboard display shows as the "Eco" range of the powerband and the Prius v settles down to a gentle but adequate level of acceleration with remarkable quietness and phenomenal fuel mileage (the Prius v is rated at 4.3 / 4.8 L/100km city/hwy, compared to 3.7 / 4.0 for the regular Prius).

The biggest thing the Prius gives back to the buyer is, simply put, its bigness. With 971 litres of cargo volume behind the second row seats and 1,897 litres of space with those seats folded, the v has significantly more luggage space than the regular one. It also has more space in the back seats, which are split-folding and slightly raised to provide a rather nice theatre style viewpoint. The Prius is already popular in many cities as a taxicab, and thanks to the improved rear seating and luggage space it's easy to imagine that the Prius v will take over this market entirely from its smaller sibling.

If you compare the numbers, the Prius v is about on par with a Mazda5 in terms of size, so if it had a third row of seats it could almost qualify as a mini-minivan. (Fun fact: some markets will indeed get a Prius v with three-row seating for seven, but Toyota is marketing the v in North America as a compact five-seat CUV.) Of course all this increased luggage and seating space isn't easy to disguise: The streamlined, aerodynamic shape of the regular Prius has a certain functional charm, but is ultimately more iconic-looking than good-looking. The v shares a similar family trait, being more practical-looking than good-looking. It seems Fisker still has the market wrapped up when it comes to sexy hybrids.

On the road, the Prius v drives very much like the regular Prius, which is to say that the ride is comfortable and the car goes where you point it. There's not a whole lot of steering feedback, but the handling feels docile and safe, with no surprises near the limits of adhesion, just plenty of understeer.

During my week with the car I didn't really notice the slightly reduced performance compared to the regular mid-size Prius because the hybrid drivetrain encourages an easy-going driving style, and when driven in an easy-going manner the v really doesn't give anything up to the regular Prius. At least, it doesn't when it's being driven around in a lightly-loaded state: I never had the opportunity to put a capacity load of people and luggage into the Prius v, but I can imagine that when you do, you'll have to work the drivetrain fairly hard to move things along adequately in fast-moving traffic, onto highway on-ramps and up steep inclines. But the rest of the time, you'll have the usual Prius rewards of excellent fuel economy and drivetrain quietness in exchange for a typically unemotional Prius driving experience.

In terms of price and features the Prius v, like the regular Prius, offers a decent range of basic amenities, with a number of appealing packages that allow you to step up from well-equipped to loaded, to really rather luxe. The base v carries a suggested price of $27,200 and includes features such as automatic climate control, six-speaker audio with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, smart key entry with pushbutton ignition, tilt and telescoping steering, cruise control, a backup camera, power locks and windows, a cargo tonneau cover, 16-inch alloy wheels, heated power mirrors, automatic projector headlights and Toyota's always excellent array of airbags and Star Safety System equipment.

On top of this, buyers can add a luxury package (MSRP $31,500) that includes things like a panoramic sunroof (made of resin in order to save weight), display audio with XM radio and navigation, heated front seats, footwell mood lighting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather-wrapped steering wheel and synthetic leather upholstery (though personally I'd like to see real leather or perforated synthetic leather as an option).

An additional $1,800 gets you into the $33,500 Touring package, which adds some very nice-looking 17-inch alloys, fog lamps and auto-leveling LED headlights with headlight washers. Finally, there's my test car's top-range Touring and Technology package (MSRP $36,875), which includes pretty much all of the gear from the other packages and adds a premium eight-speaker JBL audio system, 7-inch display screen, dynamic radar cruise control, intelligent parking assist, voice-activated DVD navigation and a pre-collision system.

The Prius has always been an iconic car, valued for its environmental statement and its excellent fuel economy. It has also proven to be remarkably practical, as attested by its large take-up within the taxicab market. While the regular Prius's slightly lower price (it starts at $25,995) and slightly better fuel economy will likely continue to attract its share of environmentally conscious buyers, the Prius v's increased luggage and seating space make it the winner for those more impressed by the regular Prius's practicality.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Hybrid, HEV, Toyota, 2012, Prius v, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999,

Organizations: Toyota

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