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2012 Toyota Prius v

By New Car Test Drive

On Sale: Summer 2011
Expected Pricing: $25,000-$39,000

The 2012 Toyota Prius v will seem familiar to current Prius owners, trading some of the standard model's hybrid fuel economy for the space and flexibility of a family oriented wagon.

The V in the Prius v name stands for versatility. Prius v will reach showrooms by August 2011, geared toward Prius loyalists who have added children and pets to the family, or who simply want more space in their vehicle.

Prius v will be the second member of what Toyota is calling the Prius family. Presumably, all will have hybrid gasoline-electric powertrains. Toyota has sold nearly a million Prius models since the car was launched in 2000. The company will introduced at least two more Prius models after the new Prius v, including a plug-in hybrid version of the current Prius and a smaller, even higher-mileage car called the Prius c.

The new Prius v will share its basic underpinnings and hybrid gasoline/electric powertrain with the standard Prius. Yet the new model is a few inches longer and taller, with a higher, squarer rear end, similar to that of a station wagon. The Prius v will deliver 50-percent more interior volume than the standard Prius, and 60-percent more cargo space.

Based on size, the federal government classifies the Prius v as a midsize wagon. Toyota expects EPA mileage ratings of 42/38 mpg City/Highway. Those figures are about 20-percent lower (worse) than mileage ratings for the standard Prius (51/42 mpg), but Toyota says they're higher (better) than any vehicle in the Prius v's size class.

The Prius v borrows heavily from the standard model's triangular, aerodynamically efficient exterior design, though its details and proportions are a bit different. With its more gradually tapering roofline, the Prius v might be a bit more attractive. Viewed from the side, it will completely hide a standard Prius parked next to it. The Prius v will come standard with 16-inch wheels, and a 17-inch option will be offered.

Its dashboard layout is similar, too, with the same center-mounted gauge package/information display and the familiar Prius double glovebox. Key driving controls, including the push-button start and electronic shifter, are the same. Yet the Prius v has larger knobs and buttons and brighter, perhaps louder, interior trim than the standard Prius.

As mentioned, Prius v has noticeably more interior space than the standard Prius, which is a fairly roomy car to begin with. The front seating position is high, with lots of headroom. Its rear seats slide fore and aft to maximize either passenger or cargo space, and the rear seatbacks on some models will recline up to 45 degrees. There's up to 34.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, which can be folded into a flat load floor for even more cargo volume. The front passenger seat folds flat as well, creating enough length to carry eight-foot planks of lumber inside the car.

Propulsion comes from a 98-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and an 80-hp electric motor, with combined peak power of 134 hp. The Prius v has the same nickel-metal hydride batteries as the standard model, with a capacity of 6.5-ampere hours. The electric motor powers the Prius v at lower speeds, while the gas engine kicks in when more power is required, or to charge the batteries.

The Prius v will introduce Toyota's next-generation multi-media system, called Entune. Entune can be controlled with a mobile-phone application. It has its own wireless data reception to update the navigation system or run Internet search functions like Ping, and it can convert text messages to audio for receipt or delivery.

The Prius v will also offer Toyota's first optional resin-plastic roof, with retractable sun shades. The plastic is lighter than glass, with better insulating properties.

The same high-tech options available on the standard Prius are available for the v, including LED headlights, solar-powered ventilation, lane-departure warning and Advanced Parking Guidance System. Standard safety equipment includes seven airbags, anti-whiplash front head restraints, vehicle stability control and full-feature anti-lock brakes.

The 2012 Prius v should be available nationally by late summer 2011. Expect a price about $2,500 higher than the standard Prius, which for 2011 ranges from $22,410 to about $37,000 fully loaded.

Prius v is just one of three new Prius variants coming over the next two years. The plug-in version of the standard Prius is next, debuting in the first half of 2012. Toyota says it will operate on the electric motor at speeds up to 60 mph for at least 13 miles before the gas engine turns on, and it can be fully charged on a standard household outlet in three hours.

Then comes the Prius c, C for city. This subcompact hatchback will be the least expensive hybrid on the market, according to Toyota, with the highest mileage ratings of any non-plug-in hybrid.


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