Test Drive: 2013 Toyota Prius V
Test Drive: 2013 Toyota Prius V
Test Drive: 2013 Toyota Prius V. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Haney Louka

This is a tough one for me.

It has been well established that hybrids are not worth the price premium if those who buy them are doing so for financial reasons. In general terms, hybrid technology costs money and those who want it will pay a premium. Basing the payback calculation on published fuel consumption figures will result in a breakeven point of several years. Basing the calculation on real-world fuel consumption, especially when dealing with a market like that of the frigid Canadian prairies, will net an even longer payback period.

The more appropriate viewpoint is simply to acknowledge that hybrid technology is a stepping stone toward a reduced reliance on fossil fuels. It’s a technology fraught with compromises, but such a step is necessary as the real world provides a test bed for increasingly capable electric systems.

Add to that the fact that some hybrids defy direct comparison because no otherwise identical gas-engined vehicle exists. The Prius V is one such example. So we’ll dispense with the notion of paying a price premium and expecting payback and treat the V just like a regular car.

As the top dog of the non-plug-in Prius variants, the Prius V accounts for more than one third of Prius sales in Canada and is presented as a Prius with more utility thanks to its more generous dimensions; most significantly its higher roofline. Think of it as a Prius wagon and you’ll be on the right track. Pricing starts at $27,425; standard equipment includes a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, rear view camera, dual-zone climate control, a split-folding rear seat, tilt and telescoping wheel, a cargo cover, push-button start, cruise control, 16-inch alloys, power heated mirrors, variable-intermittent wipers, and LED brake lights.

Another $2,985 buys the Luxury package, which includes navigation, satellite radio, synthetic leather seats, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated front seats, and more. Our tester was so equipped, resulting in an as-tested price of $30,410 before freight and taxes.

Test Drive: 2013 Toyota Prius VTest Drive: 2013 Toyota Prius V
Test Drive: 2013 Toyota Prius V. Click image to enlarge

Throw in another $3,035 and you get the “Touring” package, which adds a panoramic sunroof, automatic headlights with washers, fog lights, auto-leveling LED headlights, and 17-inch alloys. The top model, the “Touring and Technology” package, stickers for $37,120 and adds tech items like a seven-inch display, adaptive cruise control, park assist, and premium audio with eight speakers.

Stay out of the add-ons and this efficient, practical wagon can be had in the low-thirties, representing a decent value.

The Prius V powertrain is the same as that of the regular Prius. A 1.8L Atkinson-cycle four-banger is teamed up with a permanent-magnet electric motor and nickel-metal-hydride battery pack to produce 134 net hp. You’ll need to step up to the $35,700 Prius Plug-in to get the more advanced lithium-ion battery pack for more electric-only operation and longer battery life.

The “Hybrid Synergy Drive” system manages all of this through a planetary gearset that incorporates two electric motor/generators and effectively functions as a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) to drive the front wheels. It plays a huge role in determining how to extract power in the most efficient possible way. It also plays a significant role in sapping the driving fun out of the car, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Suspension duties are addressed by a basic MacPherson front and torsion-beam rear setup; nothing special about that. But on the Prius V, Toyota has increased the tech of this generic setup by adding “pitch and bounce” control which uses existing sensors in the car to subtly send torque from the electric motor forward or rearward to counter the effects of typical body motions caused by acceleration and road undulations. There’s no driver control of this function, so it is difficult to assess how much the technology actually helps. But I can say that the Prius V’s ride is smooth and comfortable for a car this size.

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