By on April 20, 2012

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?

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


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45 Comments on “Commercial Week Day Five Review: 2012 Toyota Prius v – Take Two...”

  • avatar

    You really think anyone in the market for an NV, Express, or even Transit Connect is remotely considering a Prius for the same duty?

    Big miss on this one, Alex.

    • 0 avatar
      Speed Spaniel

      A green environmentally concious courier service where the others are too big and thirsty and this is just right? I think it provides for an interesting comparison and there’s merit to it.

    • 0 avatar

      Big hit on this one, Alex.
      Yes! I have just ordered an Express for my fleet (of 10 varied vehicles). We seriously considered the TC, but really couldn’t manage the small floor area. ABSOLUTELY we would look at this if we could use it. I have no doubt that delivery businesses, taxi companies, and others whose cargo is not bulky, would love this car.
      We are also in a relatively rural area where conventional vehicles do their best and hybrids don’t, but, again, those with different driving patterns could love this.
      Thanks, Alex, for including it as good food for thought.

    • 0 avatar

      Remember Taxis are commercial vehicles as well. It might not excel with heavy, bulky items, but it looks like it would do well picking up a family of 4 at an airport. Not to mention taxis do a lot of their miles within city limits, where a Prius excels. And when vehicles in your fleet can pile up six-figure mileage per year, the gas mileage pays off quickly.

      Only downside is no one seems to know how long the battery pack should last. It seems like they last longer than naysayers first predicted, but long enough to make sense for taxi fleets? Who knows.

    • 0 avatar

      They’re already doing taxi duty. For an outfit that needs to dispatch a tech with a modest amounts of stuff, why not?

      • 0 avatar

        Why would this do taxi service any better than a Camry or Fusion hybrid? The Camry has more passenger space and is comparable in cost and fuel efficiency. If the new Fusion hybrid (let alone the plug-in version) is as efficient as Ford says it will be then it will be at least 10% more efficient than the V with more passenger space. I know the V is a hatchback but the Camry and Focus could hold reasonable amounts of luggage.

        If you need some carrying space then why not the Prius C – 30% cheaper, 20% more efficient, hatchback with fold down seats giving some cargo space. I am not advocating it but for some businesses it might be as useful as a V whilst being cheaper and more efficient.

      • 0 avatar

        In Chicago, many if not most cabs are Prius liftbacks.

      • 0 avatar

        I spent a few days this past week at a meeting in San Diego, and we were taken from the airport to the hotel in one of these. Lots of back seat space and room for our luggage. We returned to the airport in a beater Crown Vic. Greatly preferred the Prius, even though I don’t generally like the line much.

        They’re all over that area in taxi service. I took notice, since they haven’t been on the market long, and there were so many of them for different companies in service already.

      • 0 avatar

        Lets see what happens when the C-Max hybrid and plug-in versions are out later this year. Very clearly Prius V competitors.

      • 0 avatar

        Lots of Prius hatchbacks in the taxi fleet in San Francisco too. Don’t recall seeing a V yet.

        All the other hybrids are present and accounted for: Escape, Fusion, Camry… Lots of hybrid Escapes.

        Very tough duty, what with the hills, but the hybrids have been in this service for quite awhile. Driver of a Prius Taxi said they held up well.

        BTW I’ve seen one, and only one, Ford TC in taxi service here.

  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    Actually, the only reason it is in this lineup is *because* a commercial fleet operator that was shopping Transit Connects decided to use the Prius v instead. If your cargo is long (as was their case) or if your cargo isn’t on pallets, then for some buyers the fuel economy improvement is enough to compensate.

    • 0 avatar

      A friend of mine in the City of Industry, CA, owns a delivery service and has considered using Prius vehicles to replace some of his aging fleet of minivans and Tacoma pickup trucks. This primarily because of the stop-and-go nature of his delivery business.

      Although he was mostly interested in the Original Prius, this Prius V variant may serve him even better. Not everyone needs a huge delivery van.

      It wouldn’t surprise me if the operators of airport shuttle services would include some of these Prius V vehicles in their fleets.

      I’ve seen several taxi services at different airports use the original Prius over the past ten years. The Prius V makes an even better taxi.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t run a “fleet” of vehicles; I run a small production and post company with a single vehicle (for now at least.) Until the v, we were managing with an aging Subaru Impreza wagon. But our productions had grown and our vehicle was old. It was also somewhat fuel hungry.

      There is no other hybrid station wagon on the market and one of the North American v’s drawbacks (those pesky, large NiMH batteries) is an asset as the lip of the hatch is essentially flush with the floor making loading and unloading a breeze.

      We can fit a two-camera multi cam production, including a magliner gemeni, lights, grip equipment and sound gear in the v. In just two months it’s been a spectacular corporate car and production vehicle.

      It seems reviews try to make it into something it’s not.

      What is is, is a compromise in all respects, but in some cases, like ours, one that compromises in all the right places for our needs; a car that’s flexible enough to have lots of cargo space and still get good “kilometrage” as they should say here in Quebec (but don’t), is comfortable and well equipped.

      In fact, since we got it, I know of another production company that’s considering doing the same. In many cases, especially the corporate lease case, it’s kind of a no brainer, provided it offers enough space.

      Do I miss having a car I can heel and toe? Sure. Do I miss it in rush-hour traffic with the car weighed down and full of equipment. Not one iota.

      Will I miss AWD and sure-footedness/fun of winters with Nokian Hakka R’s? Absolutely.

      And do I miss the 10 second acceleration time of the Impreza Outback… wait… oh yeah this one is better.

      And so far we’re averaging 4.8L/100km a tank in warmer weather. That’s 49mpg and we do a fair amount of highway driving, albeit at slightly slower speeds than the Impreza.

      The best part about the v for me, as the primary driver, is none of these things. It’s that after a long day on set, it’s a very relaxing drive. Sure it’s like driving an appliance, but it does what it does well and we couldn’t be happier with it.

  • avatar

    i would love to see the effect of weight on a Prius’s MPG. my bet is there is a reason they built it without much cargo capacity in the first place.

    • 0 avatar

      We regularly meet the “official” numbers with the vehicle fully loaded (seats flat and full of production equipment.) Empty? We can beat the numbers like most other Prii.

  • avatar

    Should make a great taxi.

  • avatar

    It is already turning up as a taxi in Chicago. I see more in that role than as private cars. As a ‘fleet vehicle’ it’s got a lot of potential in this role. Something has to balance out those massive MV1s lumbering around.

    • 0 avatar

      Same for the Seattle area. And this one swallows a boatload of luggage in the back, so I expect to see yellow (or green, or red, depending upon the taxi company) ones soon.

  • avatar

    I have a Prius v Five on order. Going from DINK to 1.5 Income – 1 kid, it ticked off all the right boxes. We’re going to try to hang on to our lovable MINI Cooper S, but we needed something that would fit the baby.

    The v is efficient, has loads of space inside, flexible seating (back seats slide fore and aft), and is available with all sorts of gadgets. The Camry hybrid comes so close to being a better vehicle other than missing a wagon variant. The Camry is a more planted, better damped chassis with an excellent 2.5L HSD drivetrain (200hp, 41mpg!), but no wagon meant no sale. I’m still recovering from a traumatic VW ownership experience, else the TDI sportwagen would have been on the shopping list.

  • avatar

    Does anyone have any updated information on when the hybrid Ford C-Max is set to be released? Last I heard was second quarter of 2012 (basically, “now”). The C-Max is supposed to have slightly more cargo capacity than the Prius-V.

  • avatar

    I hope I am not picking nits, but you need pics of the cargo area, from the rear, with rear seats folded down, to see how mucho cargo it will carry. Otherwise, comparison to real wagons sort of fails.
    But thank you for this series, it is very informative, and interesting to us cargo haulers.

  • avatar

    Without touching on the merits of faux-eco chic in the business PR, The lack of Sprinter in the comparo was disappointing and the excuse offered was dubious.

    • 0 avatar

      How about a “thanks Alex, for taking time out of your real life to review FIVE vehicles and publishing one review, over 1000 words in length, each day. Next time, could you please include a Sprinter”?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      We searched high and low for a Sprinter. No dealers in the area were willing to toss us the keys to one and Mercedes has not one single Sprinter in the press fleet in the United States. Sadly we could not find a rental van either. If anyone can find us a Sprinter we will gladly work our magic fingers.

  • avatar

    So which one did you personally like the most?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Tricky question. The GMC diesel van was interesting, but if I had to drive one of these every day the Prius would be the winner, it’s more comfortable. The Transit Connect is a close second especially with SYNC.

  • avatar

    In an urban environment the Prius in all its iterations is simply a brilliant vehicle. Afterall, this is exactly the environment it was concieved and designed for. I am simply astounded that Toyota does not sell a vehicle like the Transit Connect based on the HSD. The old Ford Escape uses it and is by all accounts BRILLIANT as a Taxi – I rode in two of them yesterday in NYC. The cabbies love them! 40+mpg in the city makes for a much nicer paycheck at the end of the day vs. 10mpg in a Crown Vic. Imagine how much better a purpose-designed small commercial with that system would be?

  • avatar

    The company I work for used to use Ford Explorer’s as service vehicles. They switched several years ago to Escape Hybrids. The fuel savings was around 10 mpg better. Over 40k miles a year for each vehicle, the amount saved on gas was remarkable. And the reliability of the Escape hybrids has been phenomenal. Mine is a 2006, was purchased used, and now has 207k on the clock, with one water pump replaced at 100k. Tie rod ends, brakes, and such have been done of course, but that was the only major repair. Anthher one in the fleet has 270k on it, again only had to have a water pump replaced. Apparently they have 3 of them, one for the engine, one for the electric motor, and one for the battery is my understanding. They aren’t all that fun to drive, but damn do they take abuse in an almost pantheresque way.

    I have to wonder if the Prius can stand up to that kind of treatment and mileage.

  • avatar

    I don’t know if this has been discussed before, but as long as you are looking into the Prius V as a viable commercial van alternative, what about a diesel vw jetta wagon (Let’s assume that VW has the electronics sorted out at this point in the model’s gestation period)? Am I crazy to think that this could be a good fleet vehicle?

  • avatar

    I wonder how a hybrid Transit Connect might alter the equation.

    Really, with the obvious benefits to fleets (as evidenced by how many seem to be embracing the Prius), why the hell is it taking so long for someone to come out with a hybrid minivan? I just don’t get it.

  • avatar

    A curve ball but an interesting one. As a prior poster mentioned, it’s surprising toyota hasn’t offered the prius with a Connect footprint. I grew up aroundCV2 trucks and Renault L4 variants so I like the format. The connect seems overpriced and thirsty though – a shame.

    Thanks for the series – great idea.

  • avatar

    Nice report. I sat in one of these at the local auto show, and it was one of the few vehicles that elicited a “wow” from me. The interior is spacious and well-done, and I happen to really like the exterior styling more than the basic Prius.

  • avatar

    Seriosuly, you added this in here but no Sprinter? I get it, I see, it’s clever, it’s a ahh-hah(!) moment. But no Sprinter van, a staple among many fleets, and a great vehicle from personal experience.

    Overall this was a great series, until you through it at the end with a damn Prius…..

    • 0 avatar

      THanks for including this, I’m thinking of going this route. Unless I’m delivering cabinets I use my old Saab hatchback to carry tools and parts to the job. Great savings in fuel and clients understand. Its not as accepted among job site workers since it doesn’t leave the same impression obviously, if you’re insecure don’t show up in one of these.

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    Again, thank you for a wonderful series. Adding a station wagon at the end was great. Gives us room for thought.

    As I mentioned yesterday I want the Transit’s low floor but I also want 40+ mpg. Why oh why didn’t Ford go all the way and break open the market? Is this another example of US builders being too timid?

    If I have to buy a hauler this year it will have to be the Prius V. Hopefully I can wait to see if Ford can catch up.

  • avatar

    from the article: 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.

    What is that in terms of miles? Since I don’t know what assumption you make about mi/yr, it doesn’t tell me anything.

  • avatar

    The Prius is an interesting option…thanks for the informative review. But I would have held off on the whole series (not much risk in anything significant changing in the interim) until you were able to get your hands on a Sprinter. [Or at least talk one of your fleet buddies into letting you borrow one for a few hours?] My former employer switched to Sprinters back when the previous generation was being sold…yes they are about $10k more up front compared to the domestics, but the lower operating costs, improved reliability and better residuals/trade-in value more then made up the cost difference in our case. If covering a lot of miles annually, I think they are tough to beat–lower mileage operations probably less so. And, they’re actually pretty fun to drive! Hope you can include a review of one soon.

  • avatar

    Great surprise ending to this series. Thanks. Here on the Left Coast, LAX and SFO require “green” cabs. While CNG Crown Vics are preferred, there is a very small supply of them, and none new, available. I’ve ridden in the Ford Escape hybrid, yuk, Camry Hybrid and regular Prius cabs. Cabbies complain about the high lease payments on all, but find that the Ford doesnt give them enough real-world savings in fuel. The Prius V seems ideal for airport duty.

  • avatar

    perhaps Toyota should think about selling a “cargo” version of this, like the old cargo-style HHR and Caravan models (and the upcoming Mini Clubvan)

  • avatar

    Wanted to advise one error in this otherwise well put review. The front passenger seat does allow for “long cargo mode”. In order to set up for this use simply remove the headrest and recline the seat all the way back. It will be level with the rear seat which is as good as a fold flat front passenger seat back.

  • avatar

    Good idea to take the “v” and make a cargo van with . But… I buy myself a Kia Rondo 2011 for 18800 $ ( cdn dollars ) brand new ( all tax in ) dump the rear seat and lowering all the rear floor to increase the standard 74 cbic feet of rear cargo. Go to youtube and click over ” Kia Rondo Cargo van at the cias 2011 ” and you can see that a Cdn company offers a conversion without however lowering the rear floor like I do . A base Ford Tc and a base Prius V are about the same price here in Cdn . Roughly 30000 $ with all the tax and destination charge . So it’s gonna take 9 years just in fuel to amortize the superior price of an holding value Prius, compare to my cheap Kia . Maybe I gonna lost at the end but for many people the initial expense is an important thing for starting a small business, no matter if you got a small gaz guzzler like my Rondo 2.4 . Just hope the “V” could came here with the more efficient & compact battery pack the Euro version get. This way a conversion like mine ( lower rear cargo area ) could eliminate the remaining bump in front of the rear underfloor compartment and behind the rear seat . Toyota should sell an allready cargo version of the “V” like Chevy was doing with the late panel HHR ( …but dump those awful plastic underfloor bins who eat vertical dimension ).

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