published Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Test Drive: Toyota Prius V stands for hybrid versatility

The new Prius V is three inches taller and six inches longer than the standard sedan. 
Staff photo by Mark Kennedy
The new Prius V is three inches taller and six inches longer than the standard sedan. Staff photo by Mark Kennedy

FAST FACTS

Model: 2012 Toyota Prius V.

Exterior color: Clear Sky Metallic.

Interior color: Black and gray.

Engine: 1.8-liter 4-cylinder with electric motor.

Horsepower: 134.

Transmission: Continuously variable.

Fuel economy: 44 mpg city, 40 highway.

Dealer: Toyota of Cleveland.

Price (as tested): $26,550

Cross a Toyota Prius sedan with a small SUV and what do you have?

Why, the new Prius V (pronounced "vee," not "five"), a hybrid vehicle with enough cargo room to carry 98 paper bags filled with groceries, according to Toyota.

Of course, if you regularly buy 98 bags of groceries, the price of fuel might not be your No. 1 problem.

When the new Prius V was introduced as a 2012 model, the first buyers were existing Prius owners, according to Pete Green, sales consultant at Toyota of Cleveland. "The first three or four we sold were like that," Green said.

The Prius line gets top satisfaction scores from owners responding to the annual Consumer Reports survey. There's no purer measure of a vehicle than how many current owners would buy it again.

STYLING AND COMFORT

The Prius V, the wagon entry in the popular Prius line, is noticeably bigger than its stable mates. The V is six inches longer, three inches taller and about 500 pounds heavier than the standard Prius sedan. (A diminutive Prius C model was also introduced last year to bookend the standard model on the small side.)

The five-passenger Prius V, on the other hand, has space galore. With the rear seats in an upright position, there are 34 cubic feet of cargo area in the rear; a space that nearly doubles when the rear seats are folded flat.

SUV-like space in a vehicle that gets 44 miles per gallon of gas in city driving makes the Prius V a desirable urban hauler.

Our test car, a Sky Metallic Prius V from Toyota of Cleveland, has such upscale touches as a back-up camera, halogen headlights and a single-dial climate control. A six-way adjustable driver's seat makes it easy to find a comfortable driving position.

The cloth interior, gray and black in our test car, has a high-quality feel. The Prius dash, with all the digital gauges clustered in the center, has a signature, high-tech design. A 6.1-inch touch screen serves as the back-up camera display and the control panel for Toyota's excellent Entune infotainment system. Entune includes an optional navigation feature, AM/FM CD player, HD radio, hands-free telephone and music streaming through Bluetooth.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The Prius V has a tried-and-true Toyota drivetrain which combines a 1.8 liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor. Together, they deliver 134 horsepower.

With 15 years of experience mass producing the Prius, Toyota's hybrid systems are basically bulletproof. Early fears that costly hybrid batteries would have to be replaced at low mileage have not proven true. The hybrid system is guaranteed by Toyota for eight years or 100,000 miles. Consumer Reports tested a Prius with 200,00 miles on an original hybrid battery and reported that it showed little degradation.

On our test drive on Interstate 75, the Prius V had adequate, if not sporty, acceleration. There was a little tire vibration over coarse freeway pavement, but the ride was generally good.

BOTTOM LINE

If you need reliable transportation, great gas mileage and lots of cargo space, it's hard to go wrong with the Prius V. With an asking price of $26,550, our test car represents a good balance of features and value. The government estimates the Prius V owners will save $6,100 in fuel costs over five years, compared to an average vehicle.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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