2012 Toyota Prius V
2012 Toyota Prius V. Click image to enlarge
Test Drive: 2012 Toyota Prius V
Manufacturer’s web site
Toyota Canada

Review and photos by Chris Chase

Photo Gallery:
2012 Toyota Prius V

Many people (including what I’ll guess is the majority in my line of work) aren’t fans of the Prius. They think it’s ugly. They call it the worst-driving car ever. Sometimes, they get angry at people driving Priuses, because they’re “terrible drivers.” Trust me, bad drivers don’t limit themselves to Toyota hybrids.

But all any of this amounts to is anger directed at something that you don’t want, or doesn’t suit your needs. I like fast cars, and I like cars that handle. But I also like the Prius, because while it’s nothing like fast and it only handles insomuch as it responds to the steering wheel, it’s good at what it was designed for. I also like it because not every stint behind the wheel is going to be an opportunity to channel my inner speed demon. I save that driving for the Mini Coopers and Mazda MX-5s of the world.

2012 Toyota Prius V
2012 Toyota Prius V. Click image to enlarge

If I appreciated the Prius before, I have even more respect for it now that I’ve driven the Prius V, one of two recent additions to the family (that also now includes the Prius C, which we’ll be covering in much greater depth in the coming months).

The Prius V shares its 1.8 L engine and electric motor drivetrain with the original Prius hatchback. Its 134 hp isn’t enough to make that car quick, so with about 100 extra kilos to cart around, progress is even more ‘deliberate’ in the V. That extra weight also affects fuel consumption: the V is rated at 4.3/4.8 L/100 km (city/highway), compared to the hatchback’s 3.7/4.0. The U.S. EPA’s more realistic rating system yields figures of 5.4/5.9 L/100 km for this car; my tester averaged 5.1 L/100 km on an Ottawa-to-Vermont-and-back road trip, and managed the same in a weekend of running errands around town.

A car’s front seats are arguably the most important, but the Prius V’s rear quarters are more impressive. Generous legroom (but average headroom with the optional glass roof) teams up with a large cargo area to create a car that lives up to the versatility implied by the ‘V’ on the tailgate. The rear seats slide fore and aft, and moving them all the way forward adds six or eight inches to the length of the cargo area. That allowed us to fit all of our significant baggage behind the seat, where it was easier to keep it out of sight under the roll-out cargo cover. Among small wagons/MPVs, the Prius V has much more cargo space than a Mazda5 (but lacks that car’s third-row seating) and a little more than a Golf wagon.

2012 Toyota Prius V
2012 Toyota Prius V
2012 Toyota Prius V
2012 Toyota Prius V. Click image to enlarge

Up front, the seats provided comfort, if unremarkable lateral support, an unsurprising trait in a thoroughly unexciting car. That said, getting comfortable behind the wheel was made easier by the tilt-and-telescopic steering column, and secondary controls all fell within easy reach of the driver’s seat. My first-world complaint is with the thin padding on the centre console-cum-armrest, which killed my elbow in the first 30 minutes of our road trip.

My wife, who plays DJ on our long drives, liked the Prius V’s iPod interface, which she said was a cinch to use almost immediately. The stereo sounds decent, too. One curiosity was the absence of the Prius’ notable eyes-up, touch-sensitive steering-wheel audio controls. Normally, brushing over the buttons on the wheel broadcasts your finger’s position via a clever overlay on the instrument panel, but that didn’t happen in this car (it did in the Prius C I picked up the following week).

In addition to being slow, the Prius further refuses to entertain by way of numb steering and the kind of artificial brake feel characteristic of hybrids, with their regenerative braking systems. There’s really nothing to recommend the drive here, aside from the fact that the Prius V goes where it’s pointed and stops when it’s supposed to.

But as I alluded to before, performance isn’t the point in this car. What the Prius V (along with the rest of Toyota’s gas-electric hybrid models) is, is easy to drive and easy to live with. This car is so practical, it almost seems like the fact that it’s easy on gas, too, is a bonus. But being a Prius, its efficiency is the point.

Price is a valid argument against the Prius (and most hybrids, for that matter). At $27,200, the base V is about $4,200 pricier than a Mazda5 with its optional automatic transmission. It’ll take a long time for the Toyota’s lower fuel consumption to offset that purchase price premium. A Volkswagen Golf Wagon with TDI diesel engine and automatic is a $28,000-plus proposition: similarly pricey, also boasting world-beating gas mileage for a capable small family car, but a lot more fun to drive, for drivers to whom entertainment is a priority.

My Prius V tester had the Luxury Package, a $4,350 option add that includes navigation, satellite radio, keyless entry and drive, panoramic sunroof, front footwell lighting, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated front seats, faux leather seating and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.

That price premium makes buying a car like the Prius as much a statement about saving fuel as it is about saving the fuel itself. It’s hard to get excited about the way the Prius drives, but it’s certainly easy to like for its thriftiness, and now, with the Prius V, for its spacious interior.

Pricing: 2012 Toyota Prius V
  • Base price:$27,200
  • Options:$4,350 (Luxury Package)
  • A/C tax:$100
  • Freight:$1,565
  • Price as tested:$33,215






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