You know what the Toyota Prius is and all that it stands for. The third generation of the iconic hybrid vehicle debuted two years ago. Now we’ve driven the Prius v, which Toyota unveiled at last January’s 2011 Detroit auto show. It’s the first time that Toyota has affixed the Prius badge to a vehicle that’s bigger than the current-generation hatchback and its predecessor, the car that made the Prius name a household word.
As you might or might not have guessed, the use of the twenty-second letter of the alphabet as part of the new, bigger Prius’s badge is to emphasize its increased versatility, as compared with the standard hatchback model. Toyota lowercases and italicizes the v in an attempt to get people to pronounce the car’s name as “Prius vee” rather than “Prius five.” Um, good luck with that, Toyota; we suspect that you’ll have a 50:50 success rate. Many people are going to read the v as a Roman numeral.
Adding to the nomenclatural confusion, Toyota has designated three equipment levels for the Prius, and they’re known numerically, like the regular Prius models are. So we have the Toyota Prius v Two (base model); the Toyota Prius v Three (the midline model); and the Toyota Prius v Five (the top-of-the-line model). Perhaps Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., should have followed Toyota Europe’s lead and named our car the Prius+.