Hybrids have been around now for more than a decade. And despite a certain success for some vehicles, several manufacturers aren’t getting anything out of it. Buyers are few and far between, while at Lexus and Toyota, only the Prius has been successful. Recognizing this, Toyota has decided to expand the Prius family instead of continuing to create hybrid versions of its other models. The reason is simple: leverage the Prius name and reputation. It works at MINI, so why not at Toyota?
The Prius V – V like the letter and not like the Roman numeral – makes some compromises in terms of fuel consumption for the sake of roominess and versatility. Thanks to its increased size, it now better meets families’ day-to-day needs and is better suited for use as a primary vehicle. Stylistically, it is similar to the ordinary version and many people find it difficult to tell the difference. What are the tell-tale signs of a V? It’s longer, its tail end is wagon-inspired and it has a backward-plunging roof. As for the rest, its look is elegant but not at all sporty. On the other hand, no one buys a Prius for sportiness.
The same drivetrain
Under the hood, the Prius V houses the same mechanics as the regular version. Therefore, it features the third generation of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, made up of a 1.8-litre in-line four gasoline engine paired with a couple of electric motors that develop a total of 134 horses. Power is transmitted to the front wheels by a continuously variable transmission equipped with a planetary gearset instead of the traditional straps and pulleys. With the Prius V, you get the same power for a car that is a little more than 100 kg heavier and less aerodynamic than the ordinary Prius. The result is a slower 0-100 km/hr time and slightly higher fuel consumption – 0.8 and 0.6 L/100 km on the highway and in town.
On board, visibility is excellent thanks to the big windows. The windshield stretches far forward and the small windows at the base of the A-pillars increase front visibility. This is where the car’s more classic design bears fruit, particularly at the back, where visibility is just as good.
A unique dashboard
As for layout, there are several differences relative to the regular Prius. In both cases, the instrument panel is in the centre of the dash instead of in front of the driver, but that’s where the similarities end. On the standard Prius, the instrumentation is more discrete and all of the components are integrated in a single curvaceous panel that stretches all the way to the console between the driver’s and passenger seats. Meanwhile, on the Prius V, the central part of the dashboard is much larger. At the top, there’s the instrumentation and air vents, while the multifunction display screen is a little lower. Layout seems better in the Prius than in the Prius V, but we found the cupholder at the end of the central armrest very practical. However, don’t be surprised if you have to fight the passenger for it!
There’s more space in the backseats and especially more headroom, thanks to the fact that the roofline plunges less dramatically. Open the hatch to discover a much more generous cargo area – 60% larger according to the manufacturer’s numbers. You can lower the bench 60/40 for increased space, which is ideal for transporting longer items, but not taller ones, as the battery pack under the floor cuts into the height clearance.
Long live fuel economy
Fuel consumption is where the Prius V scores points and you’ll be all smiles at the pump. During our weeklong test drive, I had an average fuel consumption of 5.1 L/100 km – slightly more than promised, but I must admit that my daily itinerary is made up highways, where the Prius isn’t at its best since the electric mode kicks in much less often.
The Prius V offers four driving modes: Normal, Power, Eco and EV, which can be selected via a control on the central console. Of course, Power mode maximizes accelerations and accelerator response, while at the opposite end of the spectrum, Eco mode calms things down. It makes the accelerator feels something like a stick of butter! As for EV mode, it gets the best out of the electric mode at low speed.
You’ll have to make do with the available power, but with this car, performance is a distant second to fuel economy. You’ll naturally begin to drive in a much more energy efficient way to take full advantage of the car. For its proven reliability, economy and increased roominess, the Prius V is a logical choice for families looking to balance practical considerations and savings at the pump.
|Test model||2012 Toyota Prius|
|Trim level||Hybrid V|
|Price range||$20,950 - $33,350|
|Price as tested||$28,900|
|Warranty (basic)||3 years / 60,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||5 years / 100,000 km|
|Competitive models||Honda Insight|
|Value for price|