2012 Toyota Prius VSome might debate the inclusion of the Prius V with these six- and seven-seaters, but this vehicle is an interesting prospect for families of four or five, especially if you like the notion of reducing your carbon footprint. Note that I won’t be talking about any money savings, because the initial outlay for the Prius V is rather steep (starting at $27K) and it would take a long time to recoup that with savings at the pumps, even if you drove it like a miser.

2012 Chevrolet Orlando
2012 Chevrolet Orlando. Click image to enlarge

So what does it offer? Quiet, cargo-carrying green appeal. Observed fuel economy was 6.1 L/100 km, a full 4 L/100 km better than the other vehicles that we drove, and at least about 3 L/100 km better than its nearest competitors, according to Natural Resources Canada ratings.

Aside from its thriftiness, the Prius V delivers a pleasant ride and forgettable driving experience, except for the variety of graphics coaching and rewarding efficient driving. The extended wheelbase and length mean ample room in the rear seats, even if you’re squeezing in three youths, though fitting three child seats would require the narrow-profile kind. And last, but not least, trunk space: 971 litre in the trunk, and 1,138 with the seats folded down, most of which is very usable with the high, wagon-esque roofline.

Pricing: 2012 Toyota Prius V

  • Base price: $27,200
  • Options: $9,675 (Touring + Technology Package)
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Freight: $1,490
  • Price as tested: $38,500You may consider this something of a cop-out, but we didn’t test these vehicles with the goal of deciding on a winner, so we did not tabulate scores for them. Each has its merits and will appeal to different needs.On the safety front, neither the Orlando nor the Mazda5 have been assessed by the IIHS (Prius V and Journey are both Top Safety Picks) and only the Dodge Journey by the NHTSA (earning four stars overall), so there is no common test by which to judge them. However, it stands to reason that improvements to chassis, frame and safety equipment (standard ABS, traction control, stability control, LATCH anchor system and at least front, side and side-curtain airbags for all four vehicles) mean that all are relatively safe choices.
    Toyota Prius V, Chevrolet Orlando, Mazda5, Dodge Journey
    Toyota Prius V, Chevrolet Orlando, Mazda5, Dodge Journey. Click image to enlarge

    The Prius V has the green credentials and pushes forward the hybrid solution to help reduce fuel consumption and emissions, although the cost of entry and limited seating mean it will only draw an exclusive audience.

    The Journey’s flexible options (five or seven seats, four-cylinder or V6 engines) have proven a success, but with either engine it is still larger and heavier (and therefore thirstier) than many shopping in this compact family hauler segment will want (though if you’re comparing it to mid-sized competition, it’s a great value in every way).

    As we said earlier, the Chevrolet Orlando is a great all-around vehicle in every way, offering the value, efficiency, and convenience that is the raison d’etre of this segment. However, in each of those areas it falls just a hair short of the second-generation Mazda5, whose sliding doors, interior liveability, slightly better efficiency and more refined ride and handling experience trump the Orlando’s style and lower price point.

    And even though there was no winner declared in this Comparison Test, well, I just booked myself a long-term test of the Mazda5; make of that what you will.

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