Introduced in Japan in May 2011 and six months later in the United States, the 2012 Toyota Prius v joins carmaker's four-member hybrid family. The "v" in Prius v stands for versatility. It's an apt description since the Prius v is a family sized, modern-looking hybrid wagon with 50 percent more cargo area than the original Prius.
The Prius v is also six inches longer, three inches taller and one inch wider than its globally popular older relative. There are 34.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the seats and 38 inches of leg room. There's also a new rounded exterior design and an extended roofline that allows the Prius to emerge from its staid previous appearance.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
Like driving other hybrids, the quiet nature of the Toyota Prius v requires driving enlightenment or at least good ears and eyes. When is the engine on and off? Is the car in gear? Is it in electric or gas mode?
There are a lot of gadgets, charts and bars to help decipher battery use, mpg, driving efficiency, etc. Some of the gadgetry is logical. Some of it is seemingly made for engineers and arguably not of much use or interest to "average" drivers.
The Prius v has numbered trims, 2, 3 and 5. The bigger the number, the more standard equipment. The Prius v 3 I test drove for a week included a navigation system with voice controls as well as a rearview camera, satellite radio and HD radio. And there's also Toyota's multimedia interface, Entune, with text-to-voice functionality and various applications.
The Prius v also includes many of the same standard features as the Prius: four driving modes: Normal, Power, Eco and EV, smart key with push button start, an electronic shift lever, Hill Start Assist Control (HAC), and a back-up camera.
My week with the Prius included grocery shopping trips and other local urban excursions. But it also included a 200-mile round-trip trek to San Francisco. Bruce Aldrich, the videographer for TheWeeklyDriver.com and the editor and publisher of tahoetrucketuotdoor.com, and I figured out the navigation system. But it took us awhile, and we defined the technical components of the Prius v as “mildly intuitive.” He also synced my iPhone to the Entune system and it worked just fine.
The Prius v is a remarkable example of design engineering. From its exterior appearance, the car doesn't seem like it could possibly have as much interior space as it offers. There's plenty of room for four adults, plus groceries or golf clubs or supplies.
Toyota didn't make its hybrid lineup for drag racing or to acquire any related performance awards. As such, the Prius drives smoothly and accelerates adequately, nothing more, nothing less. On a few occasions, however, on long, gradual inclines, the Prius v strained to join the flow of highway speed traffic.
Lots of cargo space.
Great fuel economy for size.
Rear view unobstructed.
Struggles on some inclines.
Navigation system has substantial learning curve.
Small shift knob. Is there any way it could have been smaller?
Facts & Figures, 2012 Toyota Prius v
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 10.4 seconds.
Airbags (7): Driver and front passenger front and side, driver knee and front and rear side curtain.
Antilock brakes: Yes.
First aid kit: No.
Fuel economy: 44 mpg (city), 40 mpg (highway) 42 mpg (combined).
Government Safety Ratings: Not yet rated.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $27,165.00
Manufacturer's Web site: www.toyotausa.com
Price As tested: $28,287.00
Warranty: Bumper-to-bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles; Hybrid-related components, 8 years/100,000 miles.
What Others Say:
"Its small fuel economy sacrifices are more than made up for by increased versatility and backseat comfort. We even think the taller roofline makes the model more becoming. For the first time, the Prius name stands for fuel economy and functionality." —- Autoblog.
"The 2012 Toyota Prius v is a larger and even more practical package than the ‘regular’ Prius hatchback. Hard to categorize, Prius v is much like a station wagon with better cargo room than some small SUVs in a car-like package. Though Prius v gives up some fuel economy compared to the original Prius, the family friendly packaging makes it an attractive option for families and active folks looking for better gas mileage than most SUVs can deliver." —- Consumer Guide.
"The 2012 Toyota Prius V is a perfect fit for those with small families who want a vehicle that's big enough to accommodate passengers in comfort, but frugal enough to do minimum damage at the pump. It's also a solid pick for those fuel-conscious drivers whose cargo needs call for a roomy wagon or crossover." —- Edmunds.
What The Wife Says:
"I like this car a lot. It has good cargo space and drives nicely, although it's a little sluggish at times."
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
"The Prius v is the ideal solution as a smaller family wagon with vast cargo space and substantial gas mileage averages. And, finally, there's Prius without an obstructed rear view."