I’ve got to admit that I have a bit of a love/hate thing going when it comes to Toyota’s oh-so-practical-and-efficient Prius lower-case v. So picking up the keys for a week behind the wheel of the mildly restyled 2015 version left me with a familiar mix of contentment, pleasure and regret. Contentment knowing that I’d be able to easily handle whatever driving duties were thrown at me that week, from ferrying tall passengers around town to hauling bulky cargo home from the gardening centre. Pleasure knowing that I’d be able to do it all for only a few dollars worth of fuel. And regret that I’d have to do it all in a car that’s well-stocked with technology and infotainment features but quite utterly devoid of emotion.

As noted, the big news for the Prius v this year is that Toyota has tweaked the styling with redesigned taillights and an all-new front fascia. Toyota says that it’s a “sporty makeover” designed to “sharpen the distinctive design” and give the Prius v “fresh attitude.” I beg to differ, because I suspect that while the new front end may look like it was designed for vacuuming up squirrels and other small animals, what it was in fact designed to do is ram into solid objects at high speed with minimal overlap. The Prius v’s IIHS crash test results support this hypothesis: In 2014, with the old front end, the Prius v achieved a rather undistinguished overall result, including a “poor” rating on the demanding new small front overlap crash test.

In 2015, with its chin now jutting out like that of a bulldog with an attitude problem, the Prius v earns the coveted IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award thanks to good crash scores across the board and a full suite of available driver assistance technologies. It just proves what six inches of extra bodywork on the corners can do for you, and you’ve got to hand it to Toyota for making it all work without looking too much like they just implanted a big length of guardrail under the car’s original front end. Or actually … uh … anyway, it’s umm … a sporty and distinctive new look, so that’s nice.

In addition to the robust new front end, for 2015 Toyota has upgraded the suite of driver assistance technologies available with the Technology Package, adding lane departure alert and automatic high beams to the existing dynamic cruise control and pre-collision system.

In most other respects, and with the exception of a few subtle changes to the audio and multimedia offerings, the Prius v remains the same car we all know and love/hate. Toyota says the “v” in the car’s name stands for versatility, and the Prius v certainly excels in that regard, with practicality on par with most compact SUVs. It has 50 percent more cargo capacity behind the rear seats than the Prius Liftback (971 versus 612L), and almost twice as much cargo capacity with the rear seats folded flat (1,906 versus 1,121L).

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