Strengths and weaknesses:
- easy to drive
- roomy, comfortable cabin
- adjustable seats
- no shades for large windows
- highway economy
Prius V expands on hybrid sensibilities
There’s a certain satisfaction that comes from watching the onboard fuel economy calculator drop digit by digit while you’re driving a hybrid such as the 2012 Toyota Prius V.
Driving a hybrid is becoming old hat, with all the new models; and getting low fuel numbers is getting easier and easier even with non-electrified powertrains. But when you have a hybrid that can transport three college kids and their stuff back home for an extended visit and have no complaints along the way, now that’s new and exciting.
Sadly, on the 800 km highway round trip we watch the digits rise from 4.8 litres per 100 km to 5.6. For those of you doing the math, that means that my extended highway trip scored an average of 6.5 L/100 km.
Now, highway runs is not a forte of the Toyota hybrid system, and all the slipperiness of the Prius V cabin (and the loading up of an extra 500 lbs., at least) can’t overcome the laws of physics that say a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine rates around 5 L/100km on the highway (Hyundai Elantra and Prius V come under that figure; Chev Cruze and Honda Civic above it).
The differences start happening when you can take the engine off line and run on electric power, with juice from a battery pack that can be either self sustaining or require an external power source.
As with most other hybrids, that happens automatically. In Prius V, it can also be controlled by the driver via an array of buttons on the centre console – ECO for automated driving; EV to maintain electric propulsion as much as possible; POWER to use the gasoline engine to launch the vehicle with more gusto.
The transition between gasoline and electricity is nearly seamless, with the trained eye/ear/foot noticing the changes right away, but passengers unfamiliar with the concept not even aware. Toyota has had a lot of time to perfect this and it shows, but it also helps that the Prius V cabin is so quiet (another common Toyota characteristic), insulating passengers from engine, road and wind noise (the latter being the biggest source of ambient sound).
The biggest thing disturbing our passengers, though, is the amount of sunshine coming in through the large windows (there’s also a panoramic sunroof, but we are able to close the shades on it) – when you’re on a westerly highway trajectory and the sun is at that perfect angle, it’s there for a long time. Some sunshades for the windows would be welcome.
It helps that all seats are reclinable, the rear ones however slightly, but it still doesn’t completely keep your face out of the sun. The rear seats also travel back and forth to grant more room for knees or more for cargo, as needs arise. There is a place for a middle passenger but, yeah, don’t use it.
Although not cavernous, the cargo hold does a great job of carrying a couple guitars, flat panel TVs, two gaming systems and six or seven backpacks/dufflebags, and only obscuring rearward visibility slightly. For smaller cargo hauls, a roll-out cover keeps prying eyes from … um … prying.
The housing up front is equally comfortable and, depending on whom you talk to, attractive. There’s a Prius family resemblance to the centre stack, despite its not being an exact duplicate. The gauge display is still front and centre on the dash top, but it doesn’t really take long to get used to it. Pretty much everything else is touch sensitive so it’s all pretty easy to indentify and use.
It makes for an easy to use, economical vehicle whose best trait may well be its ability to transport a full family and its cargo requirements – that’s not really that prevalent with today’s hybrid corps.