If you like the Toyota Prius, but want more room than the standard model offers, meet the larger, roomier new 2012 Prius v wagon.
The four-door hatchback Prius v expands the Prius line. It’s longer, wider and taller than the standard Prius, although it doesn’t look as attractive. Its rear end seems to be grafted onto a standard Prius, which is no beauty contest winner, anyway.
List prices for the front-wheel-drive Prius v are $26,400 for the base “Two” version, $27,165 for the mid-range “Three” version and $29,990 for the top-line “Five” which I tested.
All are well-equipped. Even the Two has climate and cruise controls, AM/FM/CD stereo, back-up camera, keyless entry and power windows and mirrors. The Three’s items include a navigation system, and the Five adds larger wheels and heated front seats.
A $5,580 Advanced Technology Package contains dynamic radar cruise control, a pre-collision system, advanced parking guidance, enhanced sound system, touch/split screen, voice-activated navigation system and a power tilt/slide panorama moonroof with power sunshades.
The Prius v doesn’t quite deliver the sparkling estimated fuel economy of the standard Prius, although its rating of 44 miles per gallon in the city and 40 on highways is admirable. I averaged 39.3 miles per gallon, and that included an even mix of city/highway driving, with a fair amount of hard freeway acceleration.
But so what to all that? The new model’s main virtue is room. There’s a big cargo area with thick folding rear seatbacks that sit flat. Even the front passenger seatback folds flat for extra-long objects. The wide load floor is acceptably low, and the hatch has a handy indented area to help close it.
Rear seats slide fore and aft, and there’s plenty of legroom in back. Even the rear center seat area, if not occupied by a fold-down armrest, is reasonably comfortable for short trips.
It’s easy to get in or out of the neat-looking interior. The cabin is quiet except for some wind noise on freeways and tire noise on certain pavement. Occupants sit high, and the driver faces a large windshield. However, thick windshield posts somewhat hinder visibility. Rear windows lower almost all the way.
There’s a brief pause before you can get the Prius v moving after it’s been parked overnight. And the tricky shifter action takes getting used to. A separate dashboard button must be pushed to apply the “Park” mode.
The awkward foot-operated handbrake seemed to be positioned out of place and I thus found it a hard to find in the dark.
Rear vision from the driver’s seat is good, and outside mirrors are large. All doors have pockets and beverage holders, and there’s a deep covered center bin and extra-large dual-level glove compartment. The driver has a deep console cupholder, while the front passenger has a pop-out dashboard cupholder made of rather cheap-feeling plastic. Hopefully, it’s stronger than it looks.
The Prius v is a heavier than the regular Prius and uses the same hybrid gas/electric drivetrain with a combined 134 horsepower rating. But that hardly makes the larger, heavier Prius sluggish. It easily merges into fast freeway traffic and has a quick 65-75 passing time—at least with just me on board. The console has switches for maximum economy (“Eco”) and power (“Pwr”). The car felt a little quicker when the power switch was pressed.
The Prius v—as with all Prius models—is built for fuel economy, not fun. Still, the steering is quick and handling is decent despite some body sway on decreasing radius on- and off- freeway ramps. The large front seats provide good side support during such maneuvers
The ride of my test Prius v was supple on most roads, but a brick road caused the car to buck at low speeds. The brakes have a linear action.
Things look crowded and complicated under the hood, but most fluid-filler areas can be easily reached.
The Toyota Prius is the top-selling hybrid car in America, and the roomier new wagon version can’t help but enhance sales.
Pros: Roomy. Fuel-stingy. Decent acceleration. Supple ride.
Cons: Tricky shift control. Average handling. Thick windshield posts hinder vision.
Bottom Line: This larger, roomier model expands the Toyota Prius line.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.