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  • 2012 Toyota Prius v Five

    Posted on May 8th, 2012 ninarussin

    Family-sized Prius takes on Cincinnati’s seven hills

    By Nina Russin

    Toyota Prius v Five

    Last year, Toyota expanded its Prius model line-up from a single lift-back to a family of four, including the larger Prius v, compact Prius c and plug-in Prius. The Prius v’s versatile interior can meet the needs of active families, with seating for five and plenty of cargo space.

    Although fuel economy lags behind the smaller Prius models, the v’s 42 mile-per-gallon EPA estimate puts it at the top of the midsized segment. As with all gasoline-electric hybrids, the Prius v gets better gas mileage around town than on the highway: the gasoline engine shuts off when the car is idling to save fuel.

    The Five is the most upscale grade, with a base sticker price of $29,990 excluding the $765 destination charge. Standard features include keyless entry and start, leather trim, a seven-inch center stack display with rear back-up camera, six-speaker audio system with MP3 compatibility, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, power seats with adjustable lumbar, automatic climate control, tilt and telescoping steering wheel and cruise control.

    A premium package on the test car adds navigation, Entune concierge and emergency notification services, a premium audio system with high definition and satellite radio, real-time weather and traffic updates, panoramic sunroof, radar cruise control, and ultrasonic park assist ($5580). Price as tested is $36,330.

    Running with the pigs

    Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon

    Toyota is a sponsor of Cincinnati’s annual Flying Pig Marathon and Half Marathon. The course takes runners over several of the city’s steep seven hills which rise out of the Ohio River. I have run one of the two races with semi-regularity since the event began in 1999, as a way of paying tribute to the place where I grew up.

    Each time I climb the course’s steepest ascent from the river to the overlook in Eden Park, I have renewed respect for men and machines who navigate these roads on a daily basis. The race is, as its name suggests, beastly. Cincinnati streets are glorified cow paths, winding narrow thoroughfares made worse each winter by piles of salt used to keep them clear of ice.

    2012 Toyota Prius v Five

    I began the test drive at the Indianapolis airport, with a two-hour drive through Friday afternoon rush-hour traffic and on about 100 miles of freeway between Indy and Cincinnati. Using the Eco mode, the Prius v delivered better-than-average gas mileage, using up less than a quarter tank of gasoline for the 120 mile trip. Average fuel economy for the 300-mile test drive was 40.6 miles-per-gallon.

    With 20,000 runners converging in the city for the race, traffic was worse than usual. It was the perfect opportunity to test the car’s maneuverability, steering response, and suspension performance over some very bumpy surfaces.

    Pedestrian traffic is a challenge for drivers of electric cars, since they make no noise when in operation. A pedestrian warning system on the Prius produces an audible alarm when the car is in EV mode to mitigate the problem.

    Its effectiveness is limited by a lack of familiarity among most pedestrians since electric cars are still a rarity. In city centers, other types of ambient noise can drown out the sound of the alarm.

    The Eco mode is a great way to save gasoline over flat roads during steady state cruising. On hills, it can make the car seem a bit anemic. A power mode enhances mid-range response for these situations. It was ideal for driving on surface streets up the city’s steep hills, where pedestrians and traffic lights make for frequent stops.

    2012 Toyota Prius v Five

    The ace-in-the-hole for Prius performance is its electric motors, which provide peak torque at extremely low speeds. Although net horsepower from the car’s four-cylinder engine and electric motor is 134, the Prius v can accelerate from zero to sixty miles-per-hour in a reasonable 10.4 seconds.

    Visibility around the perimeter is the best of all Prius models. Unlike the lift-back, the driver’s rear view isn’t obstructed by the split rear glass. Small glass panels between the windshield and side windows make it easier to see out the front when cornering or merging onto the highway. Over-the-shoulder visibility is no issue in either direction.

    The rearview camera is a must for anyone driving in crowded urban areas. Perhaps its greatest value is the ability to monitor pedestrians and cross-traffic when backing out of vertical parking slots.

    Although the suspension doesn’t yield the plush ride of some Lexus models, it does an excellent job of smoothing out the bumps on the Midwest’s uneven surface roads. Pitch and bounce control integrated into the suspension counteracts the effects of bumps and potholes. Driving along Cincinnati streets, I was impressed with how little I felt the metal plates covering holes in the pavement, raised manhole covers and other obstructions.

    The electric power steering system provides good maneuverability around town. The turning circle is just over 38 feet with the 17-inch rims which come standard on the Five grade. Buyers wanting a smaller turning radius can shave two inches off that with sixteen-inch wheels which come on the lower grades.

    The Prius v’s aerodynamic profile makes wind noise a non-issue. Road noise is minimal enough for passengers to converse easily on the highway.

    Spacious interior

    Panoramic sunroof

    The Prius v might be the car which eco-conscious cyclists have been waiting for. While the lift-back will hold a bicycle with the front wheel removed, the Prius v can hold two bikes with its second-row seats folded flat. Even with the seats in place, there is an abundant amount of cargo space for luggage, camping equipment and groceries.

    Because there is no floor tunnel, three adults will be comfortable in back. Rear seats slide fore and aft and recline for additional comfort.

    One of the coolest features on the test car is a panoramic sunroof which opens up over both rows of seating. By making the panels out of resin rather than glass, engineers were able to minimize weight gain. The tinted panels prevent the interior from heating up, saving on air conditioning as well.

    Cargo Area

    Designers did a great job of adding storage compartments around the passenger compartment. This includes a dual glovebox, both sections of which are quite large, a deep center console bin with a removable shelf for smaller items, and a small open bin in front of it.

    The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant audio and Bluetooth controls enables small drivers to maintain a clear forward view and safe distance from the front airbag. A large hood over the information screen at the top of the center stack makes it easy to read in bright sunlight. The navigation system is fairly easy to program, with large readable graphics and voice prompts to guide the driver.

    The newest version of Entune enables the driver to pair his smartphone with the car and use the audio system for applications such as Bing, Open Table and By pushing a button, the driver is connected to a call center which can locate the vehicle and download directions on the go. The system automatically notifies police and EMTs if the vehicle is involved in a serious collision.

    Standard safety

    The Prius v comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, active front head restraints, antilock brakes, traction and stability control and smart stop technology. Other standard safety features include hill start assist, tire pressure monitoring and a vehicle proximity notification system which triggers an audible chime if the driver fails to decelerate too close to the vehicle in front.

    The Prius v is on display at Toyota dealerships nationwide.

    Like: A spacious, versatile gasoline-electric hybrid ideal for families with active lifestyles.

    Dislike: Premium option bundle is expensive, and prohibits buyers from choosing some of the included features as less expensive, stand-alone items.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Toyota
    Model: Prius v Five
    Year: 2012
    Base price: $29,990
    As tested: $36,330
    Horsepower: 98 Hp @ 5200 rpm (engine). 134 Hp net for gasoline engine and electric motors.
    Torque: 105 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm (gas engine). 153 lbs.-ft. (electric motor)
    Zero-to-sixty: 10.4 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 44/40 mpg city/highway

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