Extended drive: 2012 Toyota Prius V FivePosted on January 17th, 2012
Versatile hybrid for active families
By Nina RussinWho would have thought that a niche product introduced fifteen years ago to satisfy environmentally aware buyers would become one of Toyota’s best selling cars? The success of the Toyota Prius gave rise to a new segment in the marketplace, and with that, an increasingly diverse customer base.
The fact that Toyota is expanding its hybrid offerings from a single model to a family of vehicles is therefore no surprise. The new Prius family includes a plug-in version which can run on pure electric power for short distances and a compact hatchback aimed towards urbanites living in areas where parking space is at a premium.
Of the new models, the Prius V is the largest, and the best suited for active families. Readers who expect the Prius V to be a new version of the minivan are mistaken: it isn’t that large, nor does it have three rows of seating. The extra interior space adds room in the second row, which can comfortably seat three passengers, and the cargo area. While the original Prius can only hold one bicycle, the Prius V can hold two and the people riding them.
As with the current Prius, the Prius V comes in four grades, beginning with the Two priced from $26,400. The upscale Prius V Five starts at $29,990. In both cases pricing does not include a $760 delivery charge.
Standard comfort and convenience features on the test car include keyless entry and start, navigation, rear backup camera, Bluetooth interface, heated front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, automatic climate control and split/folding second-row seats.
A premium package on the test car adds a two-pane panoramic moonroof, upgraded audio system, real-time weather and traffic updates, safety connect with automatic emergency assistance, stolen vehicle locator, and roadside assistance as well as Entune: Toyota’s proprietary infotainment system ($5580). Carpeted floor mats cost $225 and wheel locks add $67, bringing the price as tested to $36,622.
Southern Arizona road tripI first drove the Prius V at a media event last summer in Boulder, Colorado. At the time, I was impressed with the car’s power at altitude and fuel economy. Hybrids have an advantage over traditional gasoline cars in the mountains, since electric motors don’t lose power when oxygen becomes scarce. Although the Prius V doesn’t have the fuel economy of its smaller sibling, average 42 miles-per-gallon according to the EPA is nothing to sneeze at.
During my weeklong test, I wanted to get some feedback from members of my running club who own Priuses, see how well the cargo area adapted to my own needs, and go on a longer road trip to validate the fuel economy numbers I saw in Boulder.
The extended test drive included mileage around the Phoenix metro area as well as a road trip to Tucson, 150 miles to the south. Average fuel economy was on par with EPA estimates: 41.9 miles-per-gallon. I kept the car in power mode during the test drive to maximize performance. An optional eco mode extends gas mileage further. Drivers can also engage a pure electric mode at low speeds.If the input from members of the Native Beast running club is on target, the Prius V might be Toyota’sbest active lifestyle vehicle to date. All agreed that the larger cargo area was better suited to hauling bicycles, kayaks and other outdoor gear, while the exterior dimensions remain well within the mid-sized segment. Although the Prius V lacks the off-road capability of sport-utility vehicles, it should give some crossover models a run for the money.
Despite its larger size and heavier curb weight, the Prius V maintains the peppy, fun-to-drive personality of the original model, with excellent acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic.
The hybrid system is virtually the same as on the original model: an Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine which works in concert with two electric motors, powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission, the Prius V accelerates from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in a respectable 10.4 seconds.
An electric air conditioning compressor keeps running when the engine shuts down at idle, to keep passengers comfortable in temperature extremes. Toyota employs an electric power steering system for the same reason. In this case, response is similar to traditional hydraulic units. In addition to working when the car is running in pure electric mode, the electric power steering system saves weight and reduced parasitic power loss.
Because the Prius V has no low gears, a “B” setting applies the brakes slightly to reduce vehicle speed when descending steep grades. I found the feature useful in Boulder. Here in Phoenix, most of the roads I drove on were pretty flat, making the low gear unnecessary.
Visibility around the vehicle is quite good. Although the Prius V has the same split-glass rear window as the original model, visibility is better because of the angles of the glass panels. The standard rearview camera makes it easy to back out of vertical parking slots, and to see obstacles behind the vehicle. I found parking on the street easy in larger spots. The Prius has a turning diameter of 38 feet with the 17-inch tires. Performing the occasional U-turn on wider roads is not a problem.
Adaptive cruise control on the test car maintains a predetermined following distance from vehicles in front, saving the driver from disengaging the cruise control in traffic. In general, the system is flawless. The only exception was a deadhead semi, which the radar device in the Prius grille seemed to have problems reading.
Versatile InteriorToyota is famous for its quiet interiors and the Prius V is no exception. The interior was pleasantly quiet on the highway, making it easy to converse or enjoy the premium audio system.
A display at the top of the center stack takes the place of a traditional gauge cluster, with a digital speedometer, average mileage, power display, battery charge indicator and time. A large hood keeps the screen shaded, so it’s easy to read in bright sunlight. Below it, a screen in the middle of the center stack displays audio selections, the navigation map and the rearview camera when the driver shifts into reverse. Climate settings are on a third display at the bottom of the center stack.
Center stack controls are intuitive to use and easy to reach from either front seating position. In addition, redundant controls on the steering wheel enable the driver to select audio channels and use the Bluetooth interface. The cruise control is a stalk to the right of the steering wheel.
Designers did a great job creating storage areas in the passenger cabin, including a deep center console bin with a removable shelf for smaller items and dual glovebox. Both rows of passengers have ample access to cup and bottle holders.
Toyota uses a plastic composite instead of glass for the moonroof panels. The composite material is lighter than glass to keep weight off the chassis. Sunshades under the panels keep the interior cool when the ignition is off.
Rear seat passengers have ample head, hip and legroom. Because the Prius has a flat rear floor, legroom in the center position is pretty good. The seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor for larger items.
The cargo floor’s low lift-over height makes it easier to load in large items such as bicycles. A small storage area beneath the cargo floor is handy for stashing valuables.
The Prius V comes with Toyota’s star safety system which seamlessly integrates antilock braking, traction and stability control. Other standard safety features include front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags and active front head restraints.
The family-friendly Prius V is rolling into Toyota dealerships nationwide.
Likes: An environmentally-friendly vehicle with exceptional fuel economy and a spacious, versatile interior. The Prius V might be Toyota’s best active lifestyle vehicle to date.
Model: Prius V Five
Base price: $29,990
As tested: $36,622
Horsepower: 98 Hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 105 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 10.4 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 44/40 mpg city/highway
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