The Truth About Cars » Prius V The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 19 Jul 2014 05:27:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Prius V Ford C-Max Kicks Honda Civic Hybrid From 3rd Place Tue, 07 Aug 2012 13:19:04 +0000

Ford is attacking Toyota’s miserly image. The blue oval announced today that its 2013 C-Max Hybrid crossover gets better mileage than Toyota’s Prius V, Reuters says.

Ford’s C-Max Hybrid, to go on sales this fall, delivers an EPA rating of 47 miles per gallon, city, Highway and combined. shows the 2012 Prius V with 44 mpg city, 40 highway and 42 combined. Once the C-Max goes on sale, it would topple the Prius V from its 4th place ranking, even take the 3rd ranked Honda Civic Hybrid down a notch.

The top spots in the hybrid ranking currently go to the Prius c with a 53/46/50 ranking, followed by the Toyota Prius (51/48/50) and the Honda Civic Hybrid (44/44/44), all for their 2012 models.

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Hedonist vs Frugalist: 2012 Nissan Quest LE Thu, 26 Jul 2012 15:45:15 +0000


Minivans are indeed fewer in number.

Supposedly they should to able to hold six or seven.

But the truth is the buyers of these vehicles rarely have room for three these days.

See, I have dealt with hundreds of minivan buyers over the years as a small town car dealer and a writer here at TTAC. Nearly everyone I deal with considers no more than three minivans. To be frank, the majority won’t even consider two which is why Chrysler, Toyota and Honda minivans now control more than 88% of the North American minivan market.

What chance does the Nissan Quest have? Even after 20 years in the public eye?

Jacque Hedonist: Minivan designs have always struck me as different forms of breadboxes. Honda Odysseys and Mazda 5′s have nice little waves in their side profiles. While the Chrysler minivans and Kia Sedonas are the traditional upright breadboxes.

The Quest is a combination of the two. The front fascia is upright and traditional with plenty of chrome staring right back at you as you get ready for parenting duties. However the entire side is one curvaceous swoop with a flattish roof that seems to compress and slim down the portly proportions of a minivan.

Stefan Frugalist:  Looks always take a back seat to function when it comes to minivans. A seven passenger people mover like the Quest is no exception. However today’s minivan buyers will be in for a pleasant surprise if they decide to ever consider a top of the line LE model.


The inside is just plain opulent.

The leather seats are thick and supremely comfortable in all three rows. The materials used are top notch; especially compared to the cost contained plastics that are widely used by the competition.  If you are willing to look beyond the names, you’ll find that the Quest in LE trim offers the most comfortable interior in the entire segment.

Hedonist: The luxury focus continues with dashboard features that seem to come straight out of a fully loaded Infiniti. You name the convenience, it’s there for your enjoyment. A Bose 13 speaker stereo system with exceptional sound quality. An 11 inch big screen for the second and third rows with headphones that offer the blissful quiet that rarely will come with rambunctious tikes. Dual sunroofs. Push button conveniences for nearly everything that needs to be folded or closed.  Even the 8 inch front screen offers front seat video pleasures when the vehicle is parked.

The Nissan Quest LE provides all of the comfort, safety and entertainment of a high end SUV, like an Infiniti QX56, for nearly half the price.

Minivan sales may have flagged over the last twelve years. But the value quotient is still as strong as ever if you compare them to similar sized SUV’s.

Frugalist: That value quotient to me depends entirely on the market segments you’re willing to consider. If you want space, plenty of power (260 hp. and 240 lb. of torque), smooth shifts with the CVT, and pure luxury for the family, then the Nissan Quest may be a good buy.

That is if all that mass is required for your commuting and travels.

But let us throw two nasty monkey wrenches into that equation.

Hedonist: The first is need. No, the two of us are not pondering the usual need vs. want equation. This Quest is far more competitive than most consumers will ever realize.

The issue I see is priorities. If you have three kids or fewer, a Toyota Prius V may represent a better alternative. The Quest only averaged 21 mpg with a fuel economy rating of 18 city and 24 highway.

The Prius V, rated at 44 city and 40 highway, averaged 49 mpg for us in mostly city driving. It essentially doubled the Quest in fuel economy while offering a surprisingly large seating space for three in the middle and plenty of room in the back. I showed both of the models to all of my wife’s friends. Even the ones who have already purchased minivans (who were the majority), said they would have opted for the Prius V had it been available at the time.

Frugalist: We don’t necessarily think that hybrid wagons will do to minivans, what minivans did to the Prius V’s large and bulbous ancestors. But SUV’s and CUV’s have already taken a huge chunk out of the minivan market over the past decade.

There may be a minor period of market adjustment. Still, we can easily see many potential buyers of minivans who have memories of being shepherded around in vans and larger SUV’s, moving even further into the world of hybrids and wagons as the ‘family vehicle’; especially if buyers can save $10,000 in the purchase price and another $10,000 in operating costs.

Hedonist: The second issue for us is the purchase price. At $43,000, a loaded LE model represents a heavy duty debt load. This is also true for the higher end models of the competition, and Nissan is offering substantial rebates, incentives and financing at this point.  As we mentioned before, if you’re looking for a minivan, and especially if you haul six or seven people, the Quest is definitely worth your consideration.

However, the overall value equation of a minivan is simply not there anymore if you have three or fewer kids and don’t haul huge masses of items on a frequent basis. Wagons, lower end CUV’s and compact SUV’s can all be had, well equipped, at $35,000 or less.

Frugalist: There is a reason why vehicles like the Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V are outselling all their minivan brethren. If you add all the models mentioned and couple the Equinox with its GMC Terrain sibling, you’ll find that not even the once 500,000+ strong Chrysler minivans can match the modern day sales numbers of any of these models.

As for the 2012 Nissan Quest, it has less than half the sales in the first six months of this year than the Prius V.

The Quest remains at or near the top of its class if you are looking at a minivan as a pure luxury vehicle.

The question is, “What will the consumer be looking for?” The times they are a-changin’ folks.

Note: Nissan provided gas, insurance and a full week of driving time. 

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Commercial Week Day Five Review: 2012 Toyota Prius v – Take Two Fri, 20 Apr 2012 19:56:12 +0000

It’s the end of our commercial week and there’s a hybrid staring you down. No, the Prius v isn’t really a commercial vehicle, but there is a good reason it’s jammed in to this week of cargo haulers: 44 miles per gallon around town. Our own Michael Karesh snagged considerable seat time at a launch event last June, but pricing hadn’t been released at that time. So how much does it cost and what’s it like to live with for a week? And most importantly, is it any good at hauling cargo instead of kids?

Click here to view the embedded video.

When you think about it, using a station wagon as a cargo hauler isn’t that crazy of an idea. Although it is considerably shorter than a full-size van, exterior dimensions are actually in the Prius v’s favor. At 182 inches long, it is two inches longer than Ford’s Transit Connect, and the stubby hood means more interior room. Aesthetically the Prius v looks like a Prius that’s been eating too may doughnuts. Despite the broader proportions, the shape is undeniably Prius and even with a full-body vinyl wrap, the shape will lend some green-cred to your business venture.

The Prius v borrows from the Prius family parts bin and style wardrobe, but because of the increased size of the vehicle inside and out little is directly shared with the liftback save for the steering wheel and switch gear. The v ditches the Prius’ funky “bridge” center console for a more traditional shape and shares its infotainment options with both the Prius c and the Prius liftback. The differences are greater in the rear where the reclining rear seats also move fore/aft to increase the cargo area at the expense of rear seat leg room (a handy trick for IKEA runs.)

The Prius v is offered in three different trims, the base Prius v Two comes with standard bluetooth phone and USB/iPod integration, a backup camera, keyless entry on the driver’s door, keyless go and a 6.1-inch touchscreen radio. The “Three” model adds the basic voice command navigation system with the same 6.1-inch screen, and entune data services like traffic, weather, fuel prices etc for $765. The top end “Five” trim (no, I have no idea what happened to One and Four) adds pleather seating, keyless entry, LED headlamps, foglamps, and some snazzier 17-inch wheels with slightly wider rubber for $2,825 more than the “Three”.  The Five also allows you to option your ride up to the hilt with optional radar cruise control,  JBL sound system and the premium 7-inch navigation system which is shared with most large Toyota and Lexus products. It’s also the only way to get a moonroof in your Prius wagon. The only way to get the moonroof in the Five is to add the “Advanced Technology Package.” Ouch.

With a hair more cargo capacity than a Ford Escape Hybrid, cargo is clearly the v’s raison d’être, providing 67.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded and 34.3 with them in place. Of course, those numbers pale in comparison to the 130 cubic widgets the Transit Connect will haul, however, Toyota tells us that removing the front and rear passenger seats is a cinch and will convert the v into a 105 cubic foot hauler. For long cargo that’s not too tall. The resulting oddly-sized space is about 25 cubes smaller than the Transit Connect, and payload only increases to around 1,100-1,200lbs with these modifications compared to the 1,600lb payload in the Transit Connect. Before you dismiss the exercise as frivolous, the pay off is quite literally twice the city fuel economy and a 50% increase in highway fuel economy. Based on our tests with 1,000lbs of “human cargo” in each vehicle, the Prius realistically delivers a 60% increase in economy vs the Transit Connect’s 25MPG actual highway numbers. (TTAC tested.)

The Prius v may not have the tall-cargo ability of the Connect, but it beats it handily when it comes to loading long items. We were able to easily load 10-foot items on the right side of the vehicle, and 11-foot items will fit from the front passenger footwell to the rear hatch at a slight angle. The Connect tops out at 10.5 feet with cargo propped up on the dash. As many have observed, the Prius v lacks a forward-folding front passenger seat, so people buying the v for family use won’t be able to utilize this extra space. Hopefully Toyota will correct that in future versions. Toyota’s fleet sales offices indicate there is considerable interest from commercial customers for the v, specifically as taxis or delivery vehicles. The commercial customer was tired of feeding 15MPG full-sized vans based on their “peak”  cargo capacity needs and after an evaluation of their “average” has decided to purchase a small test fleet of Prius v moels for pick-up and delivery duties.

Powering the v is the same 98HP, 105lb-ft 1.8L four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine found in the Prius liftback, sending power to the front wheels via a lightly revised Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system which bumps the power up to the same combined 134HP and around 150-160ft-lbs of torque as the Prius liftback. (Toyota does not list an official combined torque figure for their HSD systems.) While the majority of the HSD internals are shared with the liftback, Toyota added water cooling jackets to the motor/generator and shortened the final drive ratio from 3.26 to 3.7 to compensate for the added weight and improve  performance when loaded with cargo. Acceleration is as leisurely as you would expect when 134 horses are asked to move 3,274lbs of Prius and one 180lb driver, with the Prius v hitting 60 in 9.34 seconds. Compared to the Transit Connect however, the Prius v manages to be faster whether empty or loaded with 5 adult passengers, thanks mostly to the electric CVT.

The Prius v has a fairly soft suspension and a fairly long 109.4-inch wheelbase which give the v a smooth ride that is very similar to the Camry hybrid. When the going gets twisty the Prius v’s suspension does an admirable job of keeping the pregnant Prius planted, but the low rolling resistance tires ultimately limit adhesion. While the Prius v scores about as well as many entry-level mid-sized sedans on the skidpad it is much more stable than any of the cargo haulers we have looked into this week and provides more standard safety features to boot. While the NHTSA has yet to test the Prius v for a government star rating, Toyota expects it to receive 5 stars and they are likely right as it earned a Top Safety Pick award on the more stringent IIHS tests. The Transit Connect on the other hand, ranked a lowly two stars overall because of its poor performance in front and side impacts despite being equipped with standard side airbags.

With a starting price of $26,400, the Prius v is $2,400 more than the Prius liftback and $500 more than the 200HP Camry hybrid. Placed up against that competition, the v seems outmatched by the Camry’s performance and the Prius liftback’s 7/8MPG better fuel economy. The v then should appeal to shoppers who wish that really just want a hybrid Camry wagon since dimensionally, the v is about the same size.

On the cargo front the Prius v becomes a more attractive proposition. With a solid 42MPG combined EPA score and our 805 mile average of 43.1MPG, the Prius v literally uses half the gasoline in our testing cycle as the Transit Connect. Equipping the Connect with rear windows and a backup cam (standard on the Prius v) brings the price of the baby Ford to $24,800, just $,1600 less than the Prius v. Depending on your business type and your local gasoline prices, the Prius v would start saving you money compared to a Transit Connect after only 16 months. Downsizing further, the v is actually about $2,00 cheaper than a V6 cargo van from GM. Considering the v’s reliability reputation, fuel consumption, and the ever-increasing cost of gasoline out here on the “left coast,” maybe adding a some Prius love to your fleet isn’t such a crazy idea after all.


This is part five of a five-part series on commercial vehicles. Click the links below for the others in this series

2012 Nissan NV

2012 Chevrolet Express / GMC Savana

2012 Ford E-350

2012 Ford Transit Connect

 Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.09 Seconds

0-60: 9.32 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.13 Seconds @ 79.5MPH

Average fuel economy: 43.1MPG over 806 miles


2012 Toyota Prius v, Exteruior, side, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Exteruior, side, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Exteruior, wheel, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Exteruior, wheel, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Exteruior, front, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes9 2012 Toyota Prius v, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Exterior, rear, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Exterior, Prius v Logo, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, steering wheel controls, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, steering wheel controls, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, shifter, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, cupholder and ev mode buttons, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, driver's side, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, trunk, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, rear seats, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, dashboard, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, dashboard passenger side, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, glove boxes, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, rear seats folded, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, rear seats folded, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, cargo area storage, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, cargo area showing maximum 11 foot capacity, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Engine, 1.8L Hybrid Synergy Drive, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Engine, 1.8L Hybrid Synergy Drive, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Engine, 1.8L Hybrid Synergy Drive, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, gauges, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Exterior, grille, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Exterior, front bumper, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Exterior, side, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, rear seats, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, rear seats, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, driver's side, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Toyota Prius v, Interior, cargo area, Photography courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 45
Review: 2012 Toyota Prius v Mon, 27 Jun 2011 15:32:10 +0000

Brand extensions aren’t common in the auto industry, perhaps because they rarely (if ever) succeed. Chrysler and Oldsmobile hyperextended the LeBaron and Cutlass brands, respectively, into oblivion. But Toyota has struggled as much as anyone to sell hybrids that aren’t named Prius, so it will now attempt to sell additional models under that highly successful nameplate. First up: the Prius v (with the lowercase v for “versatile”). How far and how effectively does a second model extend the reach of the brand?

Brand extensions require finesse. If the additional model is too different than the original, then it becomes unclear what the brand stands for. But if it’s overly similar, people wonder what the point of it is, if they become aware of it at all. The naming system of the new models suggests that Toyota is more likely to err in the latter direction. The original Prius and the new Prius v will later be joined by the Prius PHV (for “Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle”) and the more compact Prius c. None of these names provides much basis for an independent identity. With a Taurus X in my driveway, I’m painfully aware of the confusion that ensues when people hear a familiar model name with a single character appended. Most alphanumerics give people two or three characters to latch onto.

Worse, many people already consider their Prius a Prius V, with the V (in this case a Roman numeral pronounced “five”) denoting the top trim level. To avoid the absurdity of a Prius v V, Prius trim levels are now spelled out. So the top trim will be the Prius v Five.

The exterior styling of the Prius v similarly errs on the side of anonymity. Every exterior panel is different, and the new model is larger in every dimension (three inches more wheelbase, six inches more overall length, three inches more height, and about an inch more width). Nevertheless, few people will mistake it for anything other than a Prius with a larger, squarer rear end. Which is essentially what it is.

It took three generations, but the Prius eventually evolved into a somewhat attractive car (at least when fitted with the Five’s 17-inch alloys). With the new Prius v, we’re back to the ungainly appearance of the first two Prii (the official plural, as decided by a public vote). Engineers likely dictated the basic shape of the car, and left its designers little latitude to pretty it up. The Prius v’s interior is similarly significantly less stylish than that of the current Prius, with none of its artful curves.

This styling (or lack thereof) suggests that the Prius v is first and foremost about function. The stylish “flying buttress” center console of the regular Prius is absent. Instead, there’s a much lower, much less intrusive center console with open compartments for iPhones, purses, and such. The hood over the centrally located instruments is narrow, so the view forward is more open. To the side, the base of the side windows is more horizontal, while to the rear a much boxier rear end enables a taller, single-piece rear window. With all of these changes the Prius v feels more open and roomier, but also less stylish and less sporty. This could very well be a response to second-generation Prius owners who dislike the more encapsulated, “starship pilot” driving position of the third-generation car. In both cars interior materials are the hard plastics typical of current Toyotas, but they appear cheaper inside the Prius v. The silver plastic trim on the doors appears dated.

Like that of the regular Prius, the Prius v’s front seat is comfortable and provides more lateral support than 99.9% of economy-minded drivers will ever need. But the rear seat disappoints. Though it includes an inch more headroom and two inches more shoulder room, there’s actually a little less legroom despite the new car’s longer wheelbase and overall length. Worse, the seat cushion is lower to the floor, less comfortably shaped, and further compromised by front seats that (unlike those in the regular Prius) don’t have enough room beneath them for the rear passenger’s feet. Add up these shortcomings, and the Prius v’s rear seat is considerably less comfortable for adults than that of the regular Prius. Toyota’s product development organization dropped the ball here.

One factor: the car’s packaging had to allow for the cramped third-row seat offered elsewhere in the world. This third row isn’t offered in the United States because it requires a more compact but also far more expensive lithium-ion battery pack (in place of the standard NiMH pack). Only one buyer in twenty has been willing to fork over about $900 for the similarly limited third row in the RAV4 compact SUV. So a $5,000+ third-row seat would clearly have few takers.

With the rear seat actually less comfortable, it falls to the Prius v’s larger cargo capacity to justify its existence. The regular Prius has 21.5 cubic feet behind the second row and 39.6 with this row folded. Thanks to its longer, boxier tail, the Prius v slightly exceeds the latter figure even without folding the second row if you slide this row forward a few inches (a feature the regular Prius does not have). The average adult will still fit in this mode, just with knees grazing the front seatbacks. Sliding the rear seat all the way back leaves 34.3 cubic feet behind it. With the seat folded, 67.3. These figures, a substantial improvement over the regular Prius, compare well to the compact SUVs Toyota names as the car’s primary target. A folding front passenger seat would make the Prius v even more versatile, but one is not offered.

The Prius v’s 134-horsepower (98 from the 1.8-liter gas engine) hybrid powertrain is unchanged from the regular Prius. A shorter final driver ratio (3.70 vs. 3.27) compensates for the larger car’s heftier curb weight (3,274 vs. 3,042 pounds), so acceleration is about the same. As in the regular Prius, the powertrain mode makes a big difference. Select “eco” and acceleration could hardly be more leisurely. Though accelerating very slowly feels surprisingly good in the Prius v because the powertrain in this mode is so smooth and so quiet, the drivers in your rearview mirror clearly find the experience much less relaxing. In the default mode, the powertrain feels substantially more responsive, and in “power” it feels almost quick. Work the powertrain hard, though, and it makes quite a bit more noise and has the unnatural, non-linear feel common with a CVT.

EPA ratings are much lower with the Prius v, 44/40 vs. 51/48. The differences compared to the regular Prius aren’t large—a little less slippery (the drag coefficient is 0.29 instead of 0.25), a little more frontal area, a little more weight, a shorter final drive ratio—but they apparently add up, at least within the EPA’s lab. Perhaps the Prius v wasn’t as thoroughly tweaked to gain a few tenths here and a few tenths there?

Suspension tweaks for the Prius v focused on ride quality, and the car does ride more smoothly and quietly than the regular Prius. Handling, not a Prius strongpoint to begin with, is a little less sharp but still more controlled than with the first- and second-generation Prii. Understeer and lean in hard turns are moderate. The tires rather than the suspension are very much the limiting factor. When they slide they do so progressively and without much audible fuss. Given its role as an efficient appliance, the Prius v handles well enough. Those seeking a more involving driving experience should check out the similarly functional, similarly efficient Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen TDI.

Since the Prius v shares its powertrain and many other parts beneath the skin with the regular Prius, reliability should be excellent. Prius owners participating in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey have consistently reported very few repairs. Critics of the car have often stressed the danger of expensive battery pack failures, but these are hardly ever needed before 150,000 miles. A new battery pack runs about $2,500, but people have paid only a few hundred for packs out of wrecked cars with low miles.

Toyota hasn’t yet announced pricing for the Prius v, but suggests it will cost only be a little more than the regular Prius. The difference had better be $1,000 at most, for the Prius v doesn’t offer much more than the regular car. There’s significantly more cargo space, better outward visibility, and a less constricted driving position, but fuel economy takes a hit and the rear seat is surprisingly less comfortable. The Prius v doesn’t risk damaging the brand—it’s too similar to the regular Prius for this—but since the car is essentially a Prius wagon it’s hard to see why Toyota went through the trouble of developing an all-new exterior and interior. With a largely clean sheet and more inches to work with, why aren’t the exterior and interior more attractive, and why isn’t the rear seat much roomier? Unlike with the regular Prius, no one was swinging for the fences. The Prius v certainly isn’t a bad car, but it is nevertheless an opportunity squandered.

Toyota made this vehicle available for review at a regional launch event. A pre-production review can be found here.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

, Prius v front Prius v side Prius v rear quarter 2 Prius v cargo seat folded Prius v engine Prius v view forward Prius v front quarter Prius v over the shoulder view Prius v cargo seat up Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Prius v rear seat Prius v instrument panel Prius v rear quarter Prius v interior

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Pre-Production Review: Toyota Prius V Mon, 30 May 2011 18:58:02 +0000

Once upon a time Japanese cars came to our shores promising high fuel economy and despite feeling small and cheap, buyers flocked to the dealers. Over time however, the Japanese auto industry grew up. “Small and flimsy” are qualities that modern Japanese imports do not possess but as is the way with the world, better quality came with a price: lower fuel economy. The first generation Prius proved that good fuel economy did not mean jamming yourself into a two-seater light-weight vehicle full of compromises a family of four just couldn’t make. Still, it was far from perfect; it was dreadfully boring, felt small and cheap and was not large enough for many families.

In an era when ginormous SUVs were all the rage, the Prius’ mileage was nothing short of show-stopping and they sold like hotcakes once the Hollywood set made them the latest fashion accessory. When the third generation Prius saw the light of the automotive press, it was obvious that the upstart had grown up. Unlike the other Toyota family members however, the Prius becomes more efficient and larger with every revision. One complaint however has stuck: the Prius is just too small for some.

To show us how versatile Toyota’s Prius platform can be, Toyota invited us to the press preview of the Prius V (pronounced “vee” not five). The shape is familiar to anyone overseas as the V is known as the Prius Alpha in Japan and the Prius + in Europe. What is the V? It’s basically a Prius Wagon, but Toyota would prefer we just called it the largest and most versatile Prius on the market. It’s not a crossover because it retains its car-like ride height and FWD based hybrid drivetrain.

The biggest change from the Prius Alpha that has been exciting the green bloggers for a few months is the lack of a third row seat in the American Prius V. Toyota tells us that less than 5% of RAV4 buyers choose the third row option citing their research that buyers interested in a third row opt for the Highlander. Still, this seems like fuzzy logic to me since a buyer that is seriously interested in a 40+ MPG hybrid wagon is really going to be happy stepping up to a large SUV. Prius shoppers have always marched to a different drummer and may just be happy with jamming two extra passengers in the cramped back seat to save some MPGs. The real issue is a lithium-ion battery pack is required to make the 3rd row possible, and in the Prius +/Alpha, Toyota stashed a portion of this battery in the center console making the overseas models a little shy on storage space. Toyota claims that the EPA rating of the lithium-ion Prius would not have been any higher than the NiMH version either making it just more expensive in a market that just wants to jumbo-size their Prius combo for 99-cents.

Our brief encounter with the V started on an unusually sunny Monterey afternoon. We were paired up and sent off on a 98-mile road course, and like good children we shared the wheel-time. Toyota graciously allowed me an additional 40 miles of solo time to explore the car and a brief photo shoot.

Inside the V, the Prius family resemblance is obvious with many of the parts lifted right out of the liftback. Rather than just inflating the sheet metal and calling it done, Toyota chose to introduce a new three-color instrument cluster that is far more readable than the one in the liftback and some new soft-touch panels on the dash. Fit and finish was adequate, but as we were driving a pro-production vehicle I expect the final product to have these wrinkles ironed out.

The rear seats in the V are the biggest difference compared to the liftback, providing about three-inches more leg room along with seats that recline up to 45-degrees and can be moved forward/aft. The increased dimensions mean that it is possible to comfortable fit two rearward facing child seats in the rear with normal-sized parents up front. In addition to kid-friendly rear seats the V delivers more cargo room than 80% of small SUV/CUVs on the market in the US including the Escape Hybrid, Equinox, and Jetta TDI wagon. Even the payload capacity seems beefy at 1,056lbs. Just keep in mind that you still have to motivate that additional ½ ton of weight with the same 134HP as the regular Prius.

During our short stint in the V, we averaged 40.1 MPG in mixed driving which jives with the newly announced EPA estimated numbers of 44/40/42 (City/Highway/Combined) compared to the liftback’s numbers of 51/48/50, this is a 16% reduction for a 60% increase in usable cargo space and decent improvement in passenger space. The difference in fuel economy is largely due to the V’s larger profile, longer wheelbase, additional weight (230lbs) and less aerodynamic profile.

Pricing has not yet been announced, but we expect it to ring in around $26,000 base price based on Toyota’s statements that the V will command a price premium over the liftback. Toyota only expects to sell some 25,000 examples in the USA, but I suspect the take rate could be higher. Be sure to check back with for a full review including comparisons when the production model becomes available. In the meantime, if you have any review suggestions, post in our comment section or on our Facebook page and let us know.

Toyota provided the pre-production Prius V, one night’s stay at a swanky hotel in Monterey and the $10 admission fee to the “17-mile drive.”

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