In case you were living under a rock somewhere, no doubt you are aware that Toyota is planning to add a number of new models (or siblings if you will) to the Prius Hybrid family, which has become such an iconic mega-hit with consumers that it actually enabled Toyota the luxury of being able to create a whole new family a Prius models. In Toyota’s quest for world domination, their hope is that eventually no one would ever be able to come up with an excuse not to buy a new Prius.
Well, perhaps we shouldn’t have stayed up late last night reading George Orwell’s “1984,” but we readily admit that perhaps it is a bit fantastical to imagine Toyota has such nefarious plans afoot simply because it finally figured out small families needed a Prius with the cargo carrying capacity to rival many a compact SUV and added a “V” to the name. So, what, does Prius V really just stand for “versatility?”
Well, Toyota could be guilty of a lack of naming creativity but we must admit that the current “regular” Prius has all of the sex appeal of one of “Charlie’s Angels” whereas the Prius V Wagon’s workhorse swagger brings to mind the rather butch and angular visage of tough girl Jo from the “Facts of Life.” Sorry, we have classic TV on the brain for which we blame Betty White and the” TV Land” re-run Channel.
But we didn’t bring up those classy dames from the “Golden Girls” for no reason. What, if in a few years you found yourself on a fixed income yet still needed cargo space and hip room for Dorothy, Rose, Ma and Blanche as you made your daily trips to the bakery for yet another delicious cheesecake desert? During such outings in the 2012 Prius V, you would notice how much better this newer and somehow dorkier looking model feels like to drive compared to the model that debuted in 2010.
So what did Toyota change to this hybrid icon’s character and how will the V Wagon fit in considering that there are more Prius siblings to come with the baby sized Toyota Prius c model and the new plug-in variant coming on sale shortly. Truly, exciting times lie ahead for “green” car geeks, but what about the rest of us?
2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon: Exterior
Not only has Toyota released this larger, more homely looking and utilitarian Prius model for expanding families but there are also plans afoot for an itsy-bitsy, allegedly “sportier” baby Prius for the urban hipster masses. If Toyota can balance the right levels of techno-cool with elevated exterior cuteness factor it very well could be the third Prius child that throws this “Bunch” of revolutionary hybrids into total chaos.
Thinking back to your TV history, can you think of three 1960’s TV sisters that could have played the parts of these differing Prius models what with their hair all full of gold, like their mother’s—and the youngest one the only one in curls? We speak, of course, of “The Brady Bunch” sisters who entertained millions with their myriad neurosis.
Playing the original Prius that was the revolutionary attention getter would of course be eldest sister Marcia, if only by dint of its popularity, which could have middle sister Jan crying out why when it comes time to buy is “it always Marcia, Marcia, Marcia?” This middle child syndrome that Jan Brady so clearly suffered from in “The Brady Bunch” can be also be seen in how the Prius V wagon tries so hard to be the most useful, perfect and useful member of the bunch. Again, the Prius V’s only weakness may be how it is judged based on its appearance, much like Jan when she had to wear headgear and dorky glasses all in the same school year.
Otherwise, make no mistake; the 2012 Toyota Prius v Wagon is the all-around better car when compared to the older “Marcia” Prius version. Now, we aren’t saying that the 2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon looks bad but its styling is awkward in spots that with time you will see were necessary engineering compromises needed to make this Prius V big enough to serve a harried hypermiling mother of two who just needs more family space.
Having succeeded in turning the 2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon into the “Jan Brady of the Prius Line,” we can only hope that the smaller Prius won’t be like Cindy and tattle to the police every time you go over the speed limit. Cindy had a cute lisp too but we hope Toyota doesn’t get any funny voice activation ideas in that regard.
2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon: Interior
The cabin of the 2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon has a uniquely styled and boldly upright front dashboard design fascia that immediately lets passengers know that this is a special model. All of the seating positions feel more upright and the view out of the airy greenhouse of windows is much like that of any compact SUV—meaning very good with no real blind spot issues.
As per usual with the Prius, all of the digital displays are located at the top center of the dashboard but the rest of the layout is unique to the V Wagon variant. We were especially impressed with the easy to use climate control system design and the center console with its vast storage capacity and cool looking built in chrome ringed space age cupholder design. Our basic model just came with cloth seats but the material was of above average quality and the interior plastics in this pre-production test unit appeared durable enough for family use.
Then there is the wonder that is the standard Toyota Entune system which proves that Toyota should be the one building Smartphones, which so often are anything but. Entune is controlled via an easy to use center dash mounted touch screen or steering wheel mounted controls and can connect you to the Internet via Bing, read your text messages aloud, play music from Pandora, iHeartRadio (or a CD, the radio, an iPod, XM and quite possibly an 8-track) and the best part is that even the most technologically inept person will have no problem using it. Simply put, we think it is the best and most user friendly in-car electronic interface system we have ever tested. We could spend a month listing all of Entune’s features and capabilities but we appreciate that it all comes standard.
The real story here is how roomy the 2012 Toyota Prius V feels on the inside — truly, it proves that this company still knows how to expertly package small cars. The Prius V has 58% more cargo hauling capacity than a normal Prius and the rear seats slide so you can adjust legroom and cargo volume based on your needs. Cargo volume shames many an SUV with 34.3 cubic feet with the rear seats in their rearmost position and expands to 67.3 cubic feet when you fold the rear seats flat. That’s more space than 80% of the compact SUVs on the market today by Toyota’s calculations.
Pricing for the 2012 Toyota Prius V starts at $26,400 for the basic “Two” models with up-level “Three” models priced at $27,165 and the top of the live “Five” going for $29,990. Don’t ask what us what Toyota was doing when they used the numbers two, three and five as their trim level designations but it is rather wacky. Or lazy.
All 2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon models come with automatic climate control, push-button start, power windows, locks and mirrors, XM radio, the Entune system with a 6.1 inch screen that doubles as a back-up camera screen, Bluetooth, USB/iPod integration and all of your basic essentials. Moving up to level “Three” nets you an in-dash navigation system that can be voice activated and works through your center Entune system screen.
For the high rolling 2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon buyer, “Five” models offer heated front seats covered in ecologically friendly Softex trim (like leather, but cow friendly), stylish 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps, fog-lights and other niceties. Buying the “Five” trim level also allows you to opt for the “Advanced Technology Package” which features an 8-speaker JBL Green Edge premium audio system with amplifier, HDD navigation, a panoramic moonroof as well as radar guided cruise control, a “pre-collision system” to keep you out of accidents and an “advanced parking guidance system” for those who probably should have never passed their driving test in the first place.
2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon: Driving Impressions and Safety
Now, this may come as a shock to anyone who has driven an older Prius model, but the 2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon rides, handles, steers and is actually more fun to drive than some non-hybrid models we could mention. If you have driven as many hybrids as we have, you’ll understand that these cars are usually good at saving gas (EPA estimates 44 city/40 highway from an 11.3 gallon fuel tank) but they are not designed to be, dare we say it, even just a little bit fun.
So, why is the 2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon suddenly the “fun” hybrid? Well, first off, Toyota has made serious strides with its ECVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) that is standard on all its hybrid models but now doesn’t make gratuitous amounts of noise under heavy acceleration. In fact, the CVT transmission and carryover 1.8 liter 134 horsepower/153 lb. feet of torque gas hybrid-electric motor both seem far more refined in the 2012 Prius V Wagon.
Still, the “fun” factor shouldn’t be present with this hybrid as the Prius V is heavier, has a higher center of gravity and is also slower 0-60 with a Toyota estimated time of 10.4 seconds. Top speed is 103 miles per hour and surprisingly, the 2012 Prius V feels capable of reaching triple digits at freeway speeds. Wind noise is slightly higher due to larger side mirrors on the Prius V but it still remains a tremendously stress free commuter vehicle.
Do consider the fact that prior to all of this that the 2011 Toyota Sienna SE minivan stood out as Toyota’s most nimble, agile and fun to drive model, so it is pretty surprising that the 2012 Prius V and 2012 Camry have such impressive moves. Whatever the case, it’s starting to look hopeful that the days of numb steering racks and squishy marshmallow-like suspension set-ups may be history at Toyota Motor Corporation. At least we can hope so.
The engineering thanks for the improved driving characteristics of the 2012 Prius V goes to Toyota’s inventive new Pitch and Bounce Control System which works in conjunction with the hybrid electric drive system which takes readings from speed sensors at each individual wheel as you are in motion. Then the brain that controls the Prius V adjust torque output which apparently aids ride comfort, cargo hauling and handling all with electronics.
The steering rack was also newly attached to a new spot on the front suspension member and one of the nearby stabilizer bars was repositioned to help rid the Prius of that “Novocain” sensation that has given this fuel sipper a less than “fun” reputation in the past. Toyota made extra efforts to ensure that this surprisingly fun family hybrid will be as safe as humanly possible thanks to newly designed crumple zones and standard Safety Connect, which notifies emergency services via GPS if you are in a collision.
2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon: Conclusion
While real driving enthusiasts and honest to goodness practitioners of logic may find it very hard to believe, there is some real fun to be had behind the wheel of the tremendously practical and eminently affordable 2012 Toyota Prius V. Even when ordered in its most basic form, the Prius V Wagon manages to get all of the basics right to create a family car that beats the original Prius at its own game even if the original does still boast higher EPA fuel economy numbers of up to 50 in the city.
Still, our average of 41.2 miles per gallon over a week in the V compared to a little over 43 in a regular grade 2010 Prius proves that this hybrid is yet another home run for Toyota and the fuel efficiency minded. You can’t change that you need room for your family, groceries and assorted junk but you no longer have to deal with bad SUV fuel economy as a result.
Now, the 2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon may not be the prettiest sister in the family but, she is without question the most accomplished, clever and accommodating version of this hybrid that we have ever driven. Never once did we long for more interior space, a less annoying transmission and taut steering allowed for a few moments of crazed eco-hooliganism on our part from behind the wheel. What would you expect from an automotive middle child like the 2012 Toyota Prius V other than a little rebellion?
Learn more about the Toyota Pirus v.