Auto review: Prius V - versatile, voluminous and very nice
Aug 10, 2012 (McClatchy Newspapers - McClatchy-Tribune News Service via COMTEX) --
If you go and check out this elongated, minivan-like Prius _ the "V" _ please don't ask to see the Prius "Five" (as in the Roman numeral V). That was my first thought, too. It's "V" as in versatile, voluminous and very nice.
But, wait a minute. It does come in three trim levels: the Two, Three and the Five. So one could, if so inclined, get a Prius V Five.
I'm sooooo confused.
Heh. Just remember V is for versatile because that's what this Prius, an all-new model for 2012, is all about.
It's for those who like the Prius, worry about our carbon footprint, but just need a bigger, more functional vehicle for the kids and all their stuff. No sweat there.
The V is based on the regular Prius hatchback, gets nearly the same mileage, but _ wait for it _ gets 60 percent more cargo space.
Toyota made this guy 6 inches longer, 3 inches taller and 1 inch wider. That translates to more head room and leg room for folks in the front and those in the rear seats, and 34 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rears seats.
And, speaking of versatile, those rear seats slide as much as 7 inches, recline and fold down. And when folded, cargo space opens up to 68 cubic feet. The front passenger seat also folds down to accommodate the daughter's long color-guard flag poles.
Loading for a long weekend was a breeze with all that space, even with my wife's habit of packing for any and every occasion that could come up. Part of that ease is because there is no third-row seat, something you can find in the similar looking Mazda5 mini-minivan if you need it.
There are also plenty of nooks and crannies for stuff inside, including a two-tiered glovebox.
From the driver's seat, visibility is excellent in all directions, despite rather thick A-pillars. Gauges and controls are easy to see and figure out. The quality of materials is on par with the price range: good, not exquisite.
And Toyota's Entune system is cool and functional _ connect your phone via Bluetooth and check out sports scores, movie tickets or traffic information.
Now let's talk mileage. (Did I bury the lead ) The EPA gives the Prius V a very generous 44 mpg around town, 40 on the highway. Remember, city driving derives some benefit from the battery. A combined figure of 42 doesn't quite match the regular Prius at 50, but it's good enough to lead the class.
My figures over the course of a week didn't quite stack up to the EPA estimates, which typically assume optimum driving conditions.
But they were still dang good: On the first tank I averaged 36 mph combined and that was with less-than-optimum conditions _ 75 mph on the open highway, the wife's clothes for every occasion and the AC spinning all the way up the interstate on a 200-mile trip. The second tank proved even better, closer to 40 mpg.
The V is powered by a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder gas engine coupled with a 60 kw electric motor. Together they send 134 hp of power to the front wheels, all managed by a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
It's the same powerplant as the Prius so, due to the difference in size and weight, the V is a little sluggish.
Thinking of passing Ah, better to wait till you have plenty of room. And don't do it on on an upgrade.
Still, overall driving performance is pleasant and satisfactory. Once on the highway, it offers a smooth, stable and comfortable ride. A power mode offers help uphill and an eco mode adds a couple of mpg when tooling around town.
Transitions from electric to gas-power are seamless _ you'll never know the magic is happening.
When it comes to safety, the V includes ABS, traction and stability control standard. Same with front side air bags,side curtain and driver knee bags.
And Toyota's Safety Connect system offers emergency assistance and a stolen-vehicle locator.
If you recall, the V comes in three trims; the Two, Three and Five. The Two's not bad, with standard alloy wheels keyless entry, telescoping steering wheel, six-speaker audio and iPod/USB/Bluetooth.
The Three gets a nav system, rear-view camera, satellite radio and the aforementioned Entune system. The Five gets bigger wheels (17-inch), fog lights, upgraded upholstery and automatic LED headlights.
Then there's a tech package that really sweetens the ride: giant sunroof, a parallel parking system, adaptive cruise control, a larger touchscreen and an upgraded eight-speaker sound system.
The Prius remains king of the road among hybrids_I've read it outsells some 30 other hybrids combined in the U.S. And, since introduced in 1997, most of them are still on the road. Not a bad statement on reliability.
Still, if you want sexy and more nimble handling, seek out some of the economical non-hybrids like Honda's CR-V or that Mazda5. But if you want bragging rights to the fuel-economy champion, V is for victory.
Price: $27,160 As Tested: $27,925 (Three trim level)
(c)2012 The Miami Herald
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