First Drive: 2012 Toyota Prius V

HOW MUCH BIGGER IS IT? The 2012 Toyota Prius v isn’t the size of a Ford Explorer, but it’s appreciably bigger than the regular Prius. “My biggest goal in developing the Prius v was utility and space,” says chief engineer Hiroshi Kayukawa, who made the obligatory journey to America to haunt Home Depot parking lots and visit famous tourist sites before returning to his 1500-member development team in Toyoda City to start work on the Prius v. One imagines that his conclusions were simple: “Yep, Americans are big and they buy too much big stuff at big-box stores. So let’s make the Prius v as big of a box as we can.”

The Prius v is built on the same Toyota MC platform as the regular Prius, with a Macpherson-strut front suspension and torsion-beam rear. Base wheels and tires are sixteen inches, up from fifteen inches in the regular Prius, and seventeens are optional. The wheelbase is 3.1 inches longer, at 109.4 inches; overall length is 6.1 inches longer, at 181.7 inches (15.1 feet); the vehicle is 3.3 inches higher, at 62.0 inches; and it’s 1.1 inches wider, at 69.9 inches. Interior volume rises by 3.5 cubic feet, to 97.2 cu ft. There’s marginally more head, shoulder, and hip room both front and rear, but front legroom, strangely enough, is down 1.2 inches.

As for cargo space, one of the attributes that caused some potential buyers of the existing third-generation Prius to go elsewhere? It rises from 21.6 cubic feet behind the rear seats to 34.3 cubic feet, or 40.2 cubic feet when the seats are fully forward. With a driver and a front-seat passenger in place and the rear seats folded, the air space behind them rises dramatically, from 39.6 cubic feet for the third-generation Prius to 67.3 cubic feet in the v. To put these figures into perspective, a Toyota Camry sedan has 15 cubic feet of cargo capacity, so the Prius v has almost a Camry’s worth of additional space behind the rear seats when they’re occupied, and when those seats are folded, it has the equivalent of nearly two Camry trunks in additional cubic footage available under its sloping rear roofline.

The Prius v’s H-point (the distance from an average person’s hip joint to the ground) is 30 mm (1.2 inches) higher for front-seat occupants and 80 mm (3.1 inches) higher in the rear. This gives the Prius v some measure of the higher seating position that many people like in crossovers and SUVs.

The Prius v has a 3274-lb curb weight, which is 232 lb more than the regular Prius’s 3042-lb weight; not a bad weight penalty considering the increase in vehicle size. Toyota says that the 0-to-60-mph time is 10.4 seconds, versus 9.8 seconds for the standard Prius.

With 44 city; 40 highway; 42 combined rating, I will prefer my Jetta Sportswagon TDI any day over the Prius V.... AT 39 city and 50 highway my 2010 Sportwagon is a drivers car.... And when the Prius batteries are just about dead at 150,000 miles, meaning $8000 for new batteries, the TDI engine has just about gotten to its half life....
Well, Toyota seems to be doing exactly what it ought to do to come out of its recent troubles. It's building on its strengths. Every generation of the Prius has gotten better to drive, here's hoping that they continue that trend.That being said, it is surprising that 232 pounds and a few ticks of aerodynamic coefficient should have such a huge effect on the MPG. Nearly ten miles per gallon worse? Geeuh. When the Scion Xb got the bloat, it was 600 pounds heavier and a lot more powerful, but the MPG stayed surprisingly close.

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