Dad's new ride. It's a Prius - but not the one you're familiar with. It's a new addition to the Toyota family called Prius V. "V" stands for versatility.
I'm a fan of cars. But not in the same way as everyone. I have surprisingly small interest in sports cars and very little in super cars. I'm a fan of looking at cars like products - as tools for the everyday man. So just keep in mind that this isn't going to be a Car&Driver review. This is another review of a car in my style.
The Prius is a brand that gets some hate. But something that cannot be debated is how iconic this brand has become. It's quite amazing to see how persistent Toyota has been in keeping the design language intact through all these years and even through the recent product line expansion. I can't say that these cars are particularly attractive but I think they are clearly design icons and totally honest to the brand. Haters gonna hate but the Prius is going to be an automotive icon.
Toyota realized that expanding the Prius lineup would be a smart thing to do. So they added a larger "V" for 2012. This lets them bite away at the huge market of compact SUVs that suburbia loves so much. The Prius V has comparable luggage capacity to the CR-V while maintaining a fuel economy that puts compact cars to shame. If you're willing to sacrifice a few horses, the V promises to be a great alternative.
The side profile is nearly identical to the standard Prius at a quick glance. It's a bit more conservative so some people seem to prefer it.
There are moments of this car that aren't so bad. Notice the small "wing" on the headlights; all to direct air in the right places to reduce drag.
A sharp flat on the hood reduces air hitting the wipers. I can't say that Toyota has good design with a straight face but there is a certain amount of "rationality" that I can respect in their work.
Slighly more agressive than the other Prii. Those flat protrusions on the corner of the bumper are the side repeaters and apparently help to smooth out air that travels along the side of the body.
Hybrid badges on the side. Unnecessary.
The rear. Very typical boring MPV. This is probably the least Prius-like angle of the car. The edges of the bumper are super sharp though; another move to reduce drag.
This car has alloy wheels covered by plastic covers. This is apparently done to reduce the weight of the wheels. The spokes of the alloys are made thin and are made to appear larger with the cover. Interesting choice as most cars on the road also have scraped wheels; it's cheaper to replace plastic covers than entire wheel.
My least favorite part: the really gaudy looking chrome rear lights. It does look interesting when it's lit up though - the edges act like a light pipe.
Here is the famous Toyota Hybrid powertrain. It consists of a 1.8L engine producing 98hp and an electric motor producing 80hp. The net output comes out to 134hp though. I've been a passenger in hybrids but this is my first time driving one. After driving it for a few days, the biggest realization I made is how loud and archaic the petrol engine feels compared to the electric motor. It's quite a stark contrast when the rumbling engine begins to power the wheels after using smooth electric power in the neighborhood. Here is a quick summary:
- When running in EV mode, the car is completely silent. Really great.
- The petrol engine provides enough power for 99% of people.
- There is a certain feeling of "mushiness" as the car begins to accelerate with the electric motor.
- If you step on it, the car will obey and put the engine at full throttle.
- Because the car is completely silent in the neighborhood, Toyota has added a speaker to make some noise.
- Steering is light and easy. It's no sports car.
Being a futuristic car, the V has a smart key. Except it looks like it was designed in the 90s.
Arguably the most important part, the interior. Pretty standard design but there is a feeling of openness thanks to the centralized dash design. Cabin noise is pretty low, materials are good and build quality is class leading. It's not a bad place to be.
It's thankfully fairly understated and focuses on being utilitarian. There some seriously messy lines but everything is logical and easy to use.
The steering wheel. It's really small. I don't know if my Cube has an oversized steering wheel but something about this feels small. The wheel features audio and even temperature controls, which are always useful. Not having the speedometer up front lets you concentrate on the road. They should have added a HUD for the speed though.
Seats are good. Feels extremely supportive in corners after being in the Cube's sofa seats for so long.
Power button. The car starts up and begins to drive silently. Then the engine kicks in making a racket.
The speedometer has a lot of info. This is an area where an LCD with a good designer would be great. I don't know why cars always have calculator displays.
There are 3 modes you can drive the car in. Most people should just leave it in ECO mode. The car adjusts the throttle, climate and other functions to get the most out of every drop of gas. When you're in EV mode, the car shuts the engine down and runs completely off the batteries. The car can only go up to about 35km/h and will shut off EV mode automatically if it runs out of juice, overheats or you ask it to travel over 35km/h. It's useful when driving in parking lots or neighborhoods. The PWR mode is exactly what it says. It helps on freeways as ECO mode has no urgency.
Showing gas/electricity usage. It doesn't make too much sense to me.
There's also an energy monitor. Fun to see what's going on inside the car. Here, the engine is off and the battery is powering the electric motor.
The car has loads of hidden storage and features. Like R2.
The center armrest also has a huge space for junk.
This car isn't equipped with navigation but has pretty much everything else. The interface is surprisingly easy to use, it's just ugly.
Toyota is kind enough to provide a normal USB jack for iPod connectivity. There's also this huge tub to store more stuff.
Climate control is done through this dial that also jogs left/right. Also not bad to use. Surprising how complicated these basic functions are in many cars.
This tiny knob is used to shift. It takes so getting used to as it returns to its position after you select your mode. That blue pattern is gross.
There's also a rear view camera. It's very wide angle so things look really far away.
Being from a Canadian dealer, this car has a winter package. Includes a few goodies including a plastic floor mat and heated seats.
My favorite part of the interior are the textures. Every car has some imitation leather texture but Toyota has gone with some more unique choices.
Why should plastic have leather texture in the first place? I just don't get it. I applaud Toyota for going a different direction.
This one looks bad though.
Rear legroom is extremely generous. This is a perfect family car. This is a 5 seater but in Japan, they even have a 7 seat variation. The 3rd row probably got a bit too tight for the American market.
These steps are a vestige from the 7 seat model.
Also comes with a net and a removable cargo cover. There's loads of room as you can see.
More hidden storage. The cargo cover also fits neatly under the floor.
And with everything folded flat.
Size comparison with an RX. The Prius has grown up.
Looks miniscule next to some cars though.
After some time with a Prius, I now understand the charm of these products. Ecological stance aside, they make so much practical sense. The V has a huge cargo space but gets better mileage than compacts. This is truly a great alternative for someone that was looking for a crossover or wagon. It's a small step away from the gas burning machines of today. Once you drive one, you'll realize how loud and ancient the gas engine feels when it powers up to help the motor.