Will the Toyota Prius V be large enough for families? (... Will the Toyota Prius V be large enough for families? (Toyota)
Toyota made a splash at the Detroit Auto Show when it unveiled its Prius V (for Versatility) hybrid model. The Prius V is a part of Toyota's new strategy to expand the Prius family of vehicles. Along with the Prius C concept, which was also unveiled in Detroit, and the soon-to-arrive Prius PHV, Toyota is making a big push to extend its hybrid models into new demographics.

The Prius V is essentially a larger version of the current Toyota Prius. The Japanese automaker boasted that the enlarged version of the quintessential green machine would have a much greater cargo capacity and room for more passengers, as it looks to get families who are used to more space in their vehicles behind the wheel of one of its hybrids.

On paper, the Prius V is definitely bigger, coming in at 181.7 inches long, 69.9 inches wide and 62 inches high. The numbers all improve on those of the current generation Prius, which measures 175.6 inches long, 68.7 inches wide and 58.7 inches high – barely enough to classify it as a midsize wagon. Toyota claims that the Prius V's numbers will make for 34.3 cubic feet of storage in the back for your stuff and 38 inches of rear legroom for your kids or other passengers.

But if you weren't able to see it in person, it's hard to get a good idea of whether or not the Prius V's expansion is actually noticeable and functionally significant. Without some kind of visual or frame of reference these numbers are essentially meaningless. So, how much bigger is the Prius V, really?

From a purely dimensional standpoint, the Prius V probably most closely resembles the Mazda5, the minivan-like offering (technically a compact crossover) from one of Toyota's Japanese competitors. It measures in at 180.5 inches long, 68.9 inches wide and 63.6 inches high, which is within about an inch and a half of the Prius V's dimensions in all respects.

There is a big difference, however, in that the Mazda5 contains a third row and can seat 6 people, 1 more than Prius V. Thus, it logically follows that the Prius V has a much roomier interior for both cargo and its 5 people than Mazda's small crossover.

But the fact of the matter is that this is not very big. The Prius V is far from being a hybrid minivan, despite what the Toyota PR and marketing types would have you believe. The V is dwarfed by real family haulers like the Chrysler Town & Country, which measures 202.8 inches long, 78.7 inches wide and 67.9 inches high. Even other compact crossovers such as the Chevrolet Equinox (187.8 inches long, 72.5 inches wide and 66.3 inches high) offer more space than the Prius V coupled with competitive fuel economy.

At the end of the day, when it comes to showrooms this summer, it's not going to be the only option for people who take their green driving with a side of space. In fact, the Prius V is not much bigger than the Nissan LEAF or the Chevrolet Volt, both of which are arguably greener cars and are much more efficient than the V's 38 MPG on the highway and 42 MPG in the city.

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