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2012 Toyota Prius V. Click image to enlarge

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2012 Toyota Prius V

Quebec City, Quebec – It has become a symbol for responsible transportation, a public statement of one’s commitment to environmental responsibility and now, in many parts of North America, as common as a yellow cab in New York City.

The Toyota Prius started out as a gasoline-electric hybrid demonstration program in the late 1990s, but has gradually gained acceptance across the continent, although it has been embraced more in the United States than here in Canada. While Toyota has sold 23,000 Prius’ in Canada, the company has sold well over 1,000,000 units of the latest generation alone (the third variant since 1997) in the U.S.

A lot of those sales have been to fleets – taxi companies in other words – in response to directives from increasingly sensitive municipal governments. Vancouver has lead the way in Canada where you would be hard pressed to find any other vehicle used as a taxi, but other cities are embracing hybrid taxis as well. Experience has proven that the Prius can do the job – Prius taxis with over 1,000,000 miles are not uncommon.

First Drive: 2012 Toyota Prius v toyota reviews hybrids green scene green reviews first drives
2012 Toyota Prius V. Click image to enlarge

At one time, the Prius was a small sideline, one that Toyota was proud of because it demonstrated their commitment to alternative energy and advanced technology, but now the Prius has become a core vehicle in their line-up, of equal importance to such stalwarts as the Camry, Corolla and RAV4.

So it is no surprise that Toyota has well advanced plans to expand the choices based on the Prius. The Prius v is the first of three new Prius variants to arrive soon (the others being the Prius plug-in Hybrid and the Prius c, a smaller Prius coupe model).

The Prius v rides on a slightly stretched Prius platform with a 2780 mm (109.4 in.) wheelbase that is 80 mm longer than the Prius hatchback’s. Overall, it is 155 mm (6.1 in.) longer, 30 mm (1.2 in.) wider and 95 mm (3.7 in.) higher. The expanded size adds more room for rear seat passengers, a longer and taller luggage area and about 105 kg (232 lbs.) more weight.

It could have been worse, but the Prius v uses a lot of aluminum in the hood and front and rear bumper reinforcements to help reduce weight. As well, the Prius v’s optional panoramic-style roof, with two large windows over front and rear seats, is made of polycarbonate resin rather than glass.

First Drive: 2012 Toyota Prius v toyota reviews hybrids green scene green reviews first drives
2012 Toyota Prius V. Click image to enlarge

The Prius v uses the same proven gasoline-electric drivetrain – 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder with 134 net hybrid horsepower – as the 2011 Prius hatch. Naturally it is not as quick and adds an additional 0.5 seconds to the Prius’ already leisurely 10 second zero to 100 km/h time.

But people won’t be buying the Prius v to challenge pocket rockets at stop lights. They’ll be buying it because it meets their needs for a versatile vehicle that holds a lot of people and stuff and still gets amazing fuel economy – 4.3 L/100 km city, 4.8 L/100 km highway and 4.6 L/100 km combined, according to Energuide. Of course, your mileage may vary. This is not nearly as good as the rating for the Prius hatchback (3.7 L/100 km city and 4.0 L/100 km highway). But during our day of driving the Prius through both city and highway conditions in and around Quebec City, the Prius v averaged 5.4 L/100 km. Still, not bad mileage when you compare it to other compact wagons and SUVs.