2012 Toyota Prius v First Look, Review and Test Drive

By Jonathan Spira on 15 June 2011
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Toyota hopes that the Prius family of vehicles will eventually be its top-selling model line and promises to offer different prii for different needs.  The first new Prius will be the Prius v (the “v” is lower case by design).  The v offers 50% more cargo space than the current Prius liftback and, according to Toyota, has more room than 80% of small SUVs.

The roof is higher by 3.3”; the rear doors are longer.  Think of it as a station wagon meets SUV meets minivan.

The Prius v comes in three trim levels, the Prius v two, which is the basic model, the Prius v three, which adds Entune (more about that later), and the top-of-the-line Prius v five.

A new color, blue sky metallic, is available for the v, along with six colors carried over from the liftback.

Toyota has done a lot to reduce weight in the v.  The panoramic roof is made of resin, not glass, which is significantly lighter and provides greater resistance to heat transfer.  The optional SofTex seat material is far lighter than leather.

Other interesting details abound.  The rear spoiler has a notch for enhanced aerodynamics and the eyebrow-like piece of plastic on the headlight is an aero fin that reduces wind noise in the cabin.

Once inside, you’ll notice a lot of differences from the current Prius.  The interior is all new and the rear seat is split 60-40.  The rear seats also recline to 45 degrees.  The new color display is much easier to decipher than the liftback.

The new single-dial climate control is easy to use and far more logical than previous controls.  Everything is accomplishment from one very large knob.

I had the chance to drive the Prius v three and the Prius v five (both in pre-production form) for several hours in Westchester County on a combination of winding country roads and major highways.  The first thing I noticed was that the steering was tight and responsive, a major change from the liftback.  I felt engaged in the driving process while I had suggested that, in the liftback, I felt more as if I were being transported.

The new seats are quite comfortable and I experienced little fatigue after several hours behind the wheel of the v.

The v has the same two electric motors and the 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine delivering a total of 134 hp.  The final-drive ratio has been changed from 3.27:1 to 3.70:1.  While the additional 232 pounds slow the car down (0-60 mph takes more than 10 seconds), it felt surprisingly zippy.  The 42 mpg (5.6 l/100 km) estimated fuel economy is impressive for a vehicle that holds so much – in my drive, I averaged 40 mpg (5.88 l/100 km).

Under the hood, the v has the same motor but there are some engine system changes.  One improvement is a shortened warm up time which saves fuel.  The v also has bigger brakes and I found them to be quite good.

Toyota is using new technology, pitch and bounce control, to reduce torque to counterbalance bouncing and improve ride quality.  Some of the roads in Westchester were in need of repaving and the Prius v did quite well here in cushioning the blow.

Click here to continue to Page 2 – High-Tech in the 2012 Toyota Prius v

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