The new Prius v is the wagon alternative to the original Prius hatchback, and it's a very good alternative if you need the space a wagon offers. It's also a Prius with great city and highway mileage and the quirky alien-hand shifter.
I looked seriously at the Prius v in January when we were replacing our Subaru Outback wagon. It seemed like a more apples-to-apples trade (size-wise) than going from a wagon to a hatchback. Apparently we're not the only ones: I talked with a woman today who asked if I thought she would be happy trading in her Outback wagon for the Prius v. I love the Outback, but I don't think it's yet returning 44 MPG in town and 40 MPG on the highway.
- Hybrid returns 44 MPG city, 40 MPG highway
- Great headroom
- 60/40 rear split seat
- With rear seat down, there is cargo space for 98 paper grocery bags (which is 67.3 cubic feet according to the Toyota website)
- Good visibility
I found the size to be very manageable while driving, and thought the dog would be very happy in the way back (a.k.a. cargo area), while the kids would fit comfortably in the back seat. The visibility is fairly good all around and out the back hatch. I give the "fair" grade because of the odd shaped window between the C and D pillars. This does create a bit of a blind spot for the driver. In my experience, all Toyota's and Lexi have rather chunky A & D pillars (i.e. the front pillars around the windshield and the pillars that surround the back hatch) that can impede visibility. Vigorous head-checking will help with that, and the v doesn't have the split rear window like it's hatchback counterpart. My least favorite detail in this Prius -- as well as my Prius and every other Toyota I've driven in the last year -- is the inferior quality of interior materials. Toyota seems to have forgotten that nowadays plastic can be fairly nice. To me, touching this plastic is like fingernails on a chalkboard. And the dust sticks. I won't even mention how much the dog hair sticks to the dash and center console.
The mileage of the Prius v deserves a thumbs up, but it isn't as good as the Prius hatchback (ours is consistently returning 52 MPG city and 50 MPG highway). The v is simply larger and heavier, even though the hybrid components are the same. This is the perfect car for people who need to haul longer items, or bags of compost and flowers from the garden center, or several dogs at once. It will work well for parents who want to have space in the back for a folded up stroller, or two. The rear seat splits easily to 60/40, so someone can sit in the backseat while a portion of the seat is folded to accommodate longer cargo items. Be aware that the LATCH-equipped seats are the two outboard rear seats only (no LATCH in the center rear seat).
According to the Toyota website, the Prius v can hold 98 paper grocery bags with the rear seat folded down and bags piled up to the ceiling. That's OK if you don't mind squished groceries and no room for passengers. The site translates that to 67.3 cubic feet of cargo volume. According to the Toyota site, the total passenger volume is 97.2 cubic feet, and the permanent cargo volume is 34.3. Which means the cargo volume is 1.3 cubic feet larger that the rear passenger space. I don't know if that means anything to you, but there it is. Numbers aside, there is a ton of headroom and decent leg room in the backseat.
All Prii have Toyota's outstanding safety standards with numerous airbags and crumple zones. Other standard safety features include energy-absorbing collapsible steering column; an engine immobilizer; and driver & front passenger Whiplash-Injury-Lessening (WIL) seats. (Great name: I like it when car companies/people/American Idol judges say exactly what they mean.) Also standard is the "Star Safety System (TM)" which includes: Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, and Smart Stop Technology. You'd think with all that they could make it clean itself.
All Prii also have keep-in-your-pocket key fobs (which I love), keyless entry, and push button start. The cargo areas have an under-floor storage space that perfectly fits muddy shoes, umbrellas, or ice scrapers. All Prii also allow you to visit the gas pump less often, which means you can brag to your colleagues and friends about your awesome mileage. In this time of high gas prices, don't underestimate the feelings of superiority this brings. Sometimes it feels good to feel superior. You're driving a Prius after all -- nobody can accuse you of being ostentatious.
Photos courtesy of Edmunds.com & Toyota.com.
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