In just 10 years, the Prius has gone from misfit to beloved hybrid, and our love affair with the little Toyota has resulted in well over one million Prius purchases, most of which are still on the road today. But the Prius isn’t perfect, and its compact shape has meant that some buyers just can’t fit everything – and everyone – inside. That’s the business case behind the 2012 Prius v (‘v’ stands for versatility), the first addition to the extended Prius family. Essentially, it’s a bigger Prius. There’s more cargo space, more room for passengers, and more technology. The Prius v uses the same gas/electric hybrid system that the third-generation Prius uses, achieving 42 mpg combined, and it offers up a slew of information and entertainment options, including Entune – a way to use phone apps through your car’s standard touchscreen system. But what the Prius v really does best is go after the compact SUVs and wagons currently on the market. Its 67.3 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded down beats that of the Kia Sportage , Volkswagen Tiguan , and Hyundai Tucson , and it's nearly identical to the Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI’s and the Ford Escape Hybrid’s . The Prius v may not outstrip the competition in a drag race, but it might well change the way we think about the necessity of bigger cars on the road.
What's to Like
Making the Prius larger has done the trick – the Prius v has a ton of cargo space (almost 30 more cubic feet of space over the Prius), plus under-floor storage as well. There are plenty of cubby spaces throughout the cabin and five cup holders in the front alone! Visibility is better, and so are the driving dynamics. A standard touchscreen houses a backup camera too.
What's Not to Like
Fuel economy drops from the 50 mpg you get in the liftback Prius to 42 mpg combined. The large cabin space tends to make noises echo more, increasing the sound level; this doesn’t help with the already imposing road noise. The center instrument panel is cluttered and a little fussy. Taller drivers may love the headroom but hate that the steering wheel doesn’t telescope very far. It uses premium fuel – not great for the wallet.
The Prius is hardly a racecar, but modifications included in the Prius v make for a smoother ride overall. There’s less pitch and roll – or “porpoising” as Toyota calls it, so the ride feels more level over bumpy roads. Surprisingly, there’s a good amount (perhaps too much) of road feel, which makes for a less floaty ride and helps it feel more secure in corners. With a bigger car comes more glass, and visibility is indeed fantastic. There are few blind spots and the front windshield offer...