TEST DRIVE: First drive 2012 Toyota Prius V
Every year, there are new words that make their way into our vocabulary.
One of the latest is hybridization and it may very well have been the Toyota Motor Corp. that coined the word.
Toyota started the hybrid revolution about a decade ago with the introduction of its Prius liftback, a hybrid gas-electric car that has gone on to sell more than three million units around the world, including 23,000 in Canada.
No longer just a standalone vehicle, the Prius has been turned into a family of cars with the introduction of the Prius V (pronounced vee for versatility, not five) for 2012 with more models to come in the future.
While some manufacturers look to diesel and others to fully electric vehicles, Toyota sees the hybrid as the way of the future and offers more hybrids than any other automaker with eight currently in the fleet.
In fact, by the 2020s, Toyota aims to have a hybrid in every segment of the market.
Thus, the hybridization of the brand is continuing full bore as Toyota strives to increase its penetration in the Canadian hybrid market to more than the 60 per cent it currently holds.
Although the third-generation Prius liftback will carry on unchanged for the time being, the Prius V is clearly aimed at the family buyer. Toyota says the Prius V offers 50 per cent more cargo space behind the rear seats than the liftback and has more cargo space than 80 per cent of the small SUVs in the market.
It is classified as a crossover but one could also think of it as a “mini” minivan as its tall roof and wagon-like rear hatch allow for lots of usable cargo and passenger space.
With the rear seat at its rearmost position, there is 971 litres (34.3 cu ft) of cargo room.
The 60/40 split rear seats also fold down to produce 1,905 litres (67.3 cu ft) and if you need even more room, the front passenger seat folds to handle really long items.
The Prius V has seating for five adults and the rear seats actually travel fore and aft by 180 mm to add to the versatility of the design. That allows for more rear passenger legroom when needed, or, more cargo capacity when the rear seats are in the most forward position.
I’ve been talking a lot here about interior capacity and versatility because that is what sets the Prius V apart from its liftback sibling.
In a demonstration, Toyota loaded both Prius models with banker’s boxes. The Prius V held 12 compared to only eight for the liftback.
Size is not all that sets the Prius V apart from the old Prius. Interior quality is much improved with soft-touch materials all round and this is a car that starts at $600 less ($27,200) than the original with $1,100 in additional features.
My driving partner and I managed 5.7 and 5.4L/100 km in our two combined city/highway driving routes. The system uses an electronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) that routes power to the front wheels. You can choose from four drive mode selections: normal, EV, ECO and Power.
Even with the Power mode selected, this is a sluggish car that definitely favours fuel economy over performance.
Competition for the Prius V comes from cars like the Mazda5, Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon TDI, and crossovers like the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V.
Priced from $27,200 to $36,875, the Prius V is pricier than most competitors, but Toyota should have no trouble selling the 4,000 units it plans to bring into Canada.
The versatility, fuel economy and hybrid technology make this a vehicle appealing to buyers wanting to show off their “green” bent.
The Prius V will be on sale by the end of October.