First Drive: 2012 Toyota Prius V

DOES IT HAVE THE SAME POWERTRAIN AS THE REGULAR PRIUS? Yes, indeed, it does. The 2012 Toyota Prius v shares its Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain with the regular, third-generation Prius hatchback. It consists of a 1.8-liter, Atkinson-cycle, four-cylinder gasoline engine making 98 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque; a power-control unit; a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack; and an electric hybrid transaxle. Total output is 134 hp. One thing that’s new is a cooling jacket for the transaxle to cool the two permanent-magnet electric-motor/generators. Gear selection for the CVT (continuously variable transmission) is via a dash-mounted lever that you pull to the bottom of the gate into D for drive or back up for R for reverse; to select P for Park, you press a separate button located above this gear lever.

HOW DOES ITS FUEL ECONOMY COMPARE WITH THAT OF THE REGULAR PRIUS? “I knew I had to focus on two areas for the Prius v to achieve good fuel economy,” recalls Kayukawa: “Aerodynamics and weight reduction. We concentrated on air flow over the back of the roof and the rear flanks, and we achieved a coefficient of drag of 0.29.” So-called “aero corners” on the front and rear bumpers and a carefully designed rear spoiler helped with this. Molded into the headlights are little eyebrows that separate the air and move it around the side mirrors.

EPA numbers are not yet finalized, but Toyota estimates 44-mpg city, 40-mpg highway, 42-mpg combined ratings. This compares with 51/48/50 mpg in the conventional Prius. In our own drives near Half Moon Bay, California, south of San Francisco, we achieved 37 mpg on a 48-mile loop that included hilly, mountainous Skyline Blvd.; and 40 mpg on a 44-mile loop that included ten miles of freeway, a long stretch of California Highway 1, and more of Skyline Blvd. These routes were hardly indicative of the average American’s urban/suburban commute, and we were not driving gingerly, so the Prius did pretty well.

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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