Vital Stats

Engine:
1.8L I4
Power:
134 HP / 105 LB-FT
Transmission:
CVT
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,274 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
34.2 / 67.3 CU-FT
MPG:
44 City / 40 HWY
Life In The Commuter Lane



Form follows function, so it's easy to find one element of a vehicle that explains everything you need to know about it.

Look at the widened haunches of a 911 and you know there's serious hardware in the Porsche's rump. Check the elongated bed of an F-150 and its obvious the Ford should be roaming free on the ranch. Look at a Smart ForTwo... Actually, don't. It's for your own good.

So when I opened the door to the 2012 Toyota Prius V, a single feature stood out: the cupholder. Encircled in a chrome ring and mounted dead-center in the massive armrest, this lone receptacle was the defining feature of the interior. As it should be. The Prius is the commensurate commuter and the V variant's raised roof and enlarged hatch make it even more practical for Mommy and Daddy carpool duty. At least in theory.
A cursory look at the interior stats are enough to convince you of the Prius V's added utility over its liftback sibling. With the rear seats in place you've got 34.3 cubic feet of storage in the way back, expanding to 67.3 cubes when you fold the seats flat. That's more space than the current Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue and easily eclipses the standard Prius' 21.6/39.6 cubic-feet. But the way you access that trunk space is where the compromise comes in.

2012 Toyota Prius V side view2012 Toyota Prius V front view2012 Toyota Prius V rear view

Because of the nickel-metal hydride battery pack mounted below the cargo area, the loading area is unusually high for a vehicle of this size. We are, after all, talking about a five-passenger mini-minivan, and when compared to something like the Mazda5, it's easier to get things in and out of the trunk when the load floor is closer to knee height.

Interestingly, Toyota has begun selling a near duplicate of the Prius V in Europe under the Prius+ moniker, which ditches the trunk-mounted nickel-metal hydride pack for more modern and efficient lithium-ion cells. The reason for the switch? Toyota added a third row to the Prius+ and had to move the battery pack somewhere. It proved the perfect time to upgrade the batteries, but also meant their new position in the center console nearly eliminated all the storage capacity. More over, the new packs wouldn't increase fuel economy but would increase the price, and that's a trade-off Toyota apparently wasn't willing to make in the U.S. Still, we would've liked to see the upgraded batteries matched with a lower cargo floor in place of the (sure to be cramped) third row.

However, the stretched wheelbase (around three inches) of the V does provide rear seat passengers more leg room and those same seats have been modified to slide forward and back, recline and lie flat(ish) for a dozen different configurations.

2012 Toyota Prius V headlight2012 Toyota Prius V fog light2012 Toyota Prius V wheel2012 Toyota Prius V taillight

As you'd expect with a vehicle that's been stretched by around six inches, fitted with a more traditional roof and a larger hatch, the curb weight of the Prius V has grown, but not by a massive margin. Overall weight is up to 3,274 – about 200 pounds more than the liftback – but because of a slight boost in battery output to 650 volts and a new axle ratio (from 3.268:1 to 3.704:1, for you geeks), acceleration and the general ability to keep pace with the rest of the motoring world is roughly on par with the standard Prius.

But that's still not saying much.

The same Atkinson-cycle 1.8-liter four-cylinder is fitted to the V, outputting 98 asthmatic horsepower. But combined with the electric motor, overall output comes in at 134 hp at 5,200 rpm and 105 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Naturally, the plus side of such a miserly engine/motor combination is fuel economy, and the V delivers with an EPA estimated 44 mpg in the city, 40 mpg on the highway and 42 combined. Over a week of errand-running, short road-tripping and a few blasts into the city, I managed 37.3 mpg overall – something that would surely be improved as one adapts to the Prius' throttle characteristics.

2012 Toyota Prius V engine

Just like it's slightly smaller brother, optimum throttle control in the V is an exercise in microscopic ankle flexes, minute toe movements and regular cursing when slipping out of full electric mode. As you've undoubtedly heard before, trying to keep that four-cylinder from ticking over turns into a game, something that's even more challenging with the V thanks to its additional heft.

Ahead of that massive cupholder are three driving modes: Power, Eco and EV. EV gives you a slightly longer leash to go fully electric, but the smallest of foot flexes sends it right back into normal mode, the engine clicking over to deliver the requested power. Eco is similar, retarding engine output, sticking to higher gears and setting more resistance to the throttle pedal. And again, as soon as you demand even the slightest increase in thrust, you're back to Normal mode. So here's a tip: Just keep it in Normal and quit playing games.

Surprisingly, after more than 10 years on the market, Toyota still hasn't cracked the code on brake pressure and modulation with its regenerative discs. The stoppers continue to be too grabby at low speeds and less than confidence inspiring when forced to slow rapidly on the freeway. What makes this all the more surprising is Volkswagen is about to release the Jetta Hybrid and the braking system on a prototype we drove recently was remarkably superior to the Prius. And it's still in "beta."

2012 Toyota Prius V interior2012 Toyota Prius V front seats2012 Toyota Prius V rear seats2012 Toyota Prius V rear cargo area

Other bits that carry over from the Prius liftback are the general ergonomics of the interior, including the center-mounted instrument panel that you either love or loathe. The display provides all the pertinent hybrid, fuel economy and system information, but we'd still prefer a traditionally placed instrument panel behind the wheel.

The added glass and higher roof predictably provided more perspective out back, something that's always been hit or miss with the standard Prius. The seats both front and rear are coated in faux leather and are cushy enough to keep your rear comfy during your daily slog to middle managementdom.

Toyota's iPhone and Android-connected suite of services – Entune – includes everything from traffic data to streaming music. I tested this version and an updated Entune within two weeks of each other and each has their plusses and minuses. The updated setup is easier to navigate and connect with, while the older software did surprisingly better with voice recognition. The V should be getting the updated software as you read this and came as part of the $5,580 Advanced Technology Package, the most expensive kit available on our "Five" model, which rang up to a barely palatable $36,692 (including destination) as a result.

2012 Toyota Prius V rear 3/4 view

Nix the Advanced Technology Package and you lose the panoramic moon roof, premium HDD navigation system (a "lesser" nav system with Entune still comes standard), radar-based cruise control, Toyota's OnStar-like Safety Connect system and a couple of other passive safety systems, but the price settles at just above $30k. For that kind of coin, you're into a whole new class of compact crossovers, and what's coming out in the next few years might not match the V's eco-cred or fuel economy numbers, but they'll be a lot closer than they are today.

With the Prius line officially a family of three, made up of the standard liftback, smaller Prius C and Prius V (not to mention the plug-in version), all of which are either on the market or coming soon, the question becomes: Why didn't Toyota go all the way with the V? Stretch the platform even further, shove in a brace of lithium ion batteries into a less intrusive position and maybe even give it an occasional-use third row. Doing that wouldn't just have it competing with the whole of the compact crossover range, but put it into a class of one – just like the original Prius did over a decade ago.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 113 Comments
      r_r
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm wondering how you got such a horrible mpg. Is Prius V so much worse than the regular Prius in mpg? I drive 2010 Prius and I usually accelerate faster than other cars. I always drive in Power mode and I still easily achieve higher than 48 mpg combined. If I drive in normal mode, I get 50~52 mpg.
      Fonin
      • 2 Years Ago
      i still say these are based on the most recent pontiac vibe. the wheel base is longer and the overall length is up 4 inches, but the interior specs are quite similar and the looks to me, are like they re-used the old vibe panels.
      Typesbad
      • 2 Years Ago
      Agree on the 3rd row comment. I'm considering replacing my 98 Isuzu Oasis (1st gen Honda Oddy with Isuzu badges) It features a 3rd row that I use with regularity. Powered by a 150hp 2.3L found in the Accords of the time. Since I, or more accurately my wife, already used to not going fast, the Prius V would have been a decent successor if it could pull off the same seating capacity. But no such luck.
      EB110Americana
      • 2 Years Ago
      @Autoblog & Damon Lavrinc: "[There] are three driving modes: Power, Eco and EV." "EV gives you a slightly longer leash to go fully electric, but the smallest of foot flexes sends it right back into normal mode..." "And again, as soon as you demand even the slightest increase in thrust, you're back to Normal mode." "Just keep it in Normal and quit playing games." So there are 3 driving modes, but "Normal mode" isn't one of them, yet that's what the computer defaults to and what you should use anyway? What?! What is "Power mode?" You never even covered that. Are you calling Power mode, "Normal mode?" If not, wouldn't that mean there are 4 driving modes? The way you have written this is really confusing.
      Car Guy
      • 2 Years Ago
      Price as tested $36,692??? That is insanity.
        vripper
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Car Guy
        Yes, but try selling something similar that only seats 4 with no cargo utility for around $40,000. Wait, that's the Volt.
        uwkram
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Car Guy
        They got the fully loaded version though. That's $5000 worth of crap. Mine came with Entune, Nav, Bluetooth phone, internet traffic, SiriusXM, Pandora, pleather and some accessories for $29800K.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @uwkram
          [blocked]
          fragmit50
          • 2 Years Ago
          @uwkram
          Haha. Pleather at 30k. What a joke. My Mustang GT was 32k with actual leather. It seats four, and I am too busy laughing when I mash the gas to pay attention to the miles per gallon.
      Esher127
      • 2 Years Ago
      Jetta Sportwagen TDI >>>>>>>>>>>>>> Prius V
      MJC
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why on earth would someone pay $10K more for this than for a Jetta TDI wagon? The Jetta will get similar fuel mileage while also being enjoyable to look at, fun to drive, and more solidly constructed.
        Pandabear
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MJC
        Because VW has way inferior reliability and diesel is not as clean as gasoline (Nox)?
          Saracen
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Pandabear
          And batteries are worse than diesel and gas put together.
          woj
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Pandabear
          I had the opportunity to drive my daughter's Golf TDI this week while she was away on a business trip and I can truthfully say that it offers equal mileage and is greener once you consider the environmental impact of the battery pack disposal in the end. Needless to say, the interior is more comfortable and more appealing from where I sat. The DSG transmission was a joy and driving was quite enjoyable. Why would you even consider the expensive Prius?
        Shiftright
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MJC
        Enjoyable to look at? A Jetta? It and the Passat could pass for Toyota beige
        icemilkcoffee
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MJC
        If you compare with similar equipment/ navigation, etc, I doubt you'll find much difference in price between the two. Also lots of comparison tests have been done between the TDI and the Prius. The Prius always wins. Add to that the more expensive diesel prices in the US and availability issues- I would definitely go with the Prius myself.
        superchan7
        • 2 Years Ago
        @MJC
        Because it's a Volkswagen, meaning every single type of liquid will leak from the car, and a light bulb will burn out every few months. Then your ball joints and tie rods will go every few years. Meanwhile, the guy in the boring Toyota waves at you and your upscale German car; he's at 100+k mi and nothing but oil changes, timing belts and maybe spark plugs. Meanwhile, you've dumped $8-9k into your upscale German car over the same 100k mi. Biased and baseless? No way! Just that the "you" above was actually me.
          icemilkcoffee
          • 2 Years Ago
          @superchan7
          No more timing belt changes on Toyotas. Even the lowliest Yaris has timing chains. Good luck to the TDI owner staring at his $1000 bill for timing belt changes.
      Jesus!
      • 2 Years Ago
      Now thats a buttload of ugly. The interior is a mess as well.
      Xedicon
      • 2 Years Ago
      Okay so the whole point of this thing is good fuel economy. 37mpg and some change is completely unacceptable, especially for a mind blowing low to mid 30s price tag. Wow. There are vehicles that get more or less identical mileage for a lot less money (like 10k + less) with much less complex drivetrains that are not crappy cars. Cruze ECO is a good example, and it's a big enough car to be practical as a family car (it has a HUUUUGE trunk). Plus what about diesel vehicles? Anything badged with TDI will destroy 37mpg, and newer diesel (such as biodiesel) burn cleaner than ever. The baby Prius is going to be a smash hit, for the right reasons. This thing though, is an enormous rip off, but people will buy it anyways because it's a Prius. Augh.
        Drew
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Xedicon
        Couldn't agree more, give my a TDI sport wagon any day of this piece of crap
        mapoftazifosho
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Xedicon
        This blogger must have been a driving like a total ******* to get 37 mpg out of this thing. http://www.fuelly.com/car/toyota/prius%20v/2012 Also, Xedicon...you go run some biodiesel through a new TDi and tell me how that works out for you...you have no CLUE what you're talking about. I have a newer (2009) Jetta TDi and 35-37 mpg in the city is def the high side of things. http://www.fuelly.com/car/volkswagen/jetta
          Xedicon
          • 2 Years Ago
          @mapoftazifosho
          LOL how are you getting such horrible mileage? Seriously? " the Jetta has performed admirably, lodging nearly 50 miles per gallon in everyday driving with me behind the wheel." - http://www.autoblog.com/2012/03/08/2011-volkswagen-jetta-tdi-february-2012/ "Fuel economy, however, is as great as ever – I commonly see numbers over 40 mpg." - http://www.autoblog.com/2012/01/06/2011-volkswagen-jetta-tdi-december-2011/ "Even after half a year, we are still amazed at how easy it is to get excellent fuel mileage in the Jetta TDI. Official EPA ratings for the car are 30 city and 42 highway, but rarely do we fall below that average. Twice we have averaged more than 50 miles per gallon for a tankful, and only occasionally do we drop below 40 mpg on average." - http://www.autoblog.com/2011/12/05/2011-volkswagen-jetta-tdi-november-2011/ That's across three different drivers all killing your MPGs. You say I don't know what I'm talking about? More like you don't know what you're doing with your car, lol!
        uwkram
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Xedicon
        Diesel's sense of clean is not comparable to gasoline. The newest diesels now are still much much dirtier than petrol. They are not measured to the same standards.
      rmkensington
      • 2 Years Ago
      Or buy a nice used car for $20,000 thats much more fun to drive, then put the rest of the money in the bank.
      aatbloke1967
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Look at a Smart ForTwo... Actually, don't. It's for your own good." - Autoblog Idiocy is alive and well on AB this morning.
        Randy
        • 2 Years Ago
        @aatbloke1967
        Uncalled for I agree! But with merit!
      donnieorama
      • 2 Years Ago
      105 lb-ft of torque, 3,200 lbs, and a CVT transmission--that's got to be the most boring car on Earth.
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