The Toyota Prius is the undisputed king of all hybrids, with no competitor able to come even close. With its number one status cemented, a loyal following of faithful buyers, there is huge equity in the Prius name, so it almost comes as a surprise Toyota has waited this long to cash in and expand the Prius family. That expansion has now seen its day, and The Garage was able sample the first addition to the family, the Prius V, the V standing for versatility.
Whether you consider the Prius V a mini-minivan or a wagon is irrelevant. At first appearance the V is just as it looks-a Prius, but bigger in every dimension. The instant recognition of the car being a Prius was key, and Toyota has succeeded in creating a car with added utility but unmistakably a Prius. With a shape that puts aerodynamics and utility as top priorities, the Prius V comes off as appliance-like, with little character or emotion. Part of this is likely due to the fact the Prius has been around, and sold so well its appearance is not as science fiction as it was years ago.
Inside, Prius owners will feel instantly at home. I am not a fan of the centrally mounted instrument panel. Other controls are easy to find and use, so in spite of its unusual appearance at first, the Prius is easy to use. While the two-tone interior offered some contrast, the overall feel of the cabin felt drab and uninteresting. The graining on the plastic steering wheel did not feel right to me, and I disliked touching the most critical part of the interior I keep my hands on. It felt like the automotive equivalent to a cubicle in the movie ‘Office Space’. That said, the Prius V delivers on its promise. The cabin is large, with plenty of room for all. Storage, from a two-tier glove box, generous center console storage and other nooks should more than satisfy the Prius V buyer. Up front, the adequate but flat front seats are familiar Prius fare, but the rear seat offers legroom on par with a limo, thanks to a sliding and reclining rear seat.
The drivetrain is standard Prius fare, with no alterations made for the Prius V, which means a gas hybrid system getting the bulk of its motivation from a 1.8L four, with total gas/electric output equaling 134hp, paired to a CVT. Before getting behind the wheel, I feared how a larger, heavier Prius would get itself around, as the standard Prius is no scorcher. My conclusion is the cars are very close. Fuel economy does take a hit from the standard Prius, but EPA figures of 44/40 MPG city/highway are impressive, and these figures keep the Prius V true to its mission. Is it fun to drive? No. The Prius V driver’s fun is in the fuel economy, as it always has been.
The Prius V is available in three trim levels, One, Three, and Five. Our test car was a Level Three, and will likely be the most popular Prius V. Standard equipment includes a 6.1″ touch screen display, Navigation, back-up camera, six-speaker audio with XM Radio, Entune multi-media interface, power driver’s seat, and automatic climate control. With a sole option of carpeted floor mats, our test car rings in at $28,150USD, including destination.
The Prius V was a logical step for Toyota, and should serve it well. As young families of Prius owners grow, or baby boomers simply want more, um, versatility, the Prius V should meet their needs and keep them in the family instead of abandoning the Prius and getting a crossover. Speaking of crossovers, it is worth mentioning the Prius V offers cargo capacity on par or exceeding contemporary CUV’s, with the hybrid trade-off a high load floor. In sum, the success of the Prius V will be keeping the Prius and hybrid faithful graduating to the V as opposed to buying a crossover than it will be in converting the traditional minivan/crossover buyer.