The Prius v wagon carries over to 2016 for its fifth season as a larger, roomier alternative to the more familiar Prius (itself redesigned for 2016). Prius v is a tall wagon that seats five, with versatile cargo space.
Taller and more boxy-looking than a regular Prius, the Prius v exudes practicality, serving as the most family-friendly member of the Prius hybrid group. The battery/gasoline powertrain is unchanged, and it’s the same one used in the previous generation of the traditional Prius Liftback.
Despite its tall profile, the Prius v is simply a wagon, not a crossover utility vehicle of any sort. Ground clearance, for one thing, is no greater than a car’s. All-wheel drive is not available; like every Prius to date, the Prius v is front-wheel drive.
Only a glance at the Prius and Prius v, side by side is needed to ascertain that the latter is bulkier and heavier. Logically enough, performance is a bit milder and fuel-efficiency trails that of the more familiar Prius.
Prius v is EPA-rated at 44/40 mpg City/Highway, or 42 mpg Combined. That’s impressive efficiency considering the wagon’s load-carrying merits. After all, the Prius v is a five-passenger wagon that easily holds a family and all its luggage.
Though the Prius v might seem like simply a wagon offshoot of the classic Prius, no body panels are shared between the two. Visual differences are clear. The Prius v is more slab-sided, with a vertical liftgate at the rear. The regular Prius Liftback has a sloping roofline leading to a horizontally-oriented liftgate.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2015 Prius v wagon Good scores on each crash-test it conducted.
The 2016 Toyota Prius v comes in four numbered trim levels: Two through Five.
Prius v Two ($26,675) includes automatic climate control, tilt/telescopic steering column, rearview camera, keyless entry, fabric upholstery, Entune multimedia system, and 16-inch alloy wheels. Prius v Three ($28,060) upgrades with front LED accent lights, 60/40-split sliding/reclining rear seats, and a 4.2-inch color information screen. Entune Premium Audio with navigation and an app suite displays on a 6.1-inch touchscreen.
Prius v Four ($29,695) adds SofTex upholstery and heated front seats. The eight-way power driver’s seat has power-adjustable lumbar support. Prius v Five ($30,935) adds LED headlights, foglamps, and 10-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels.
An Advanced Technology Package combines a panoramic moonroof with power-operated sunshades, hard-drive navigation, radar-based dynamic cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, and a lane-departure warning system. Included is one year’s subscription to a Safety Connect system, which provides such services as roadside and emergency assistance, automatic collision notification, and stolen-vehicle location.
Seven airbags are standard.
For 2015, Toyota gave the Prius v updated styling, including new headlights and taillamps as well as a front end that might be considered more edgy and modern. Headlights got slimmer, flowing right into the grille opening. Slits below the headlights tend to make the front end appear lower and wider.
The front of the car looks chunky, like the designers remembered there was a bumper standard and quickly glued on a front fascia.
The difference between the regular Prius Liftback and the Prius v wagon isn’t necessarily interior space or divergent appearance. For many potential buyers, it’s the back window. Many drivers who are familiar with the traditional Prius are likely to appreciate the wagon’s rear window, which is a single pane of vertical glass. Ever since 2004, the Prius Liftback has had two split panes: the upper one approaching horizontal, while the lower panel is upright but shallow. End result: not great for visibility, giving the Prius v one leg up in driving ease.
Prius v has lots of interior space and seats five. Depending on the position of the fore/aft-adjustable back seat, you get 34.3 to 40.2 cubic feet of cargo space. With rear seatback down, it expands to 67.3 cubic feet.
Front seats are comfortable, and the split rear seatback can recline. Passengers sit higher, and more upright, than in a Prius Liftback.
A central armrest sits atop a storage bin between the front seats. A diverse group of icons, symbols, and diagrams, all in color, is displayed high on the center dashboard, near the windshield.
Because interior width comes to 39 inches, large items can slide easily along the flat cargo floor. A vinyl cover fits between that load floor and the folded-down seatback, but it’s still possible for small items to fall into the gap.
The Prius v drivetrain is practically a duplicate of the one in the previous-generation Prius Liftback. Because the wagon weighs some 300 pounds more, performance inevitably suffers. When the Prius v is filled with passengers and cargo, the 98-horsepower gasoline engine, coupled with dual electric motors, is overtaxed. You can also expect a struggle when trudging up steep hills.
Not only is the Prius v slower than the prior-generation Liftback (which wasn’t noted for brisk acceleration itself), the engine howls more when pushed hard. For safety’s sake, you need to plan ahead when an uphill run is imminent, to deal with the limitation and make full use of the available power. Steering is numb and lifeless.
Like other members of the Prius family, the Prius v offers a choice of three drive modes. Eco promises fuel economy better than the EPA rating, but slows the car significantly. The Power mode is intended for climbing steep hills, but can help the Prius v keep pace with traffic. EV provides electric-only propulsion for up to a mile, at low speeds, to the limit of the battery’s capacity.
Hybrid buyers who are more impressed by spaciousness and a flexible interior than brisk performance have a practical alternative in the Prius v. Even the base Two model is nicely equipped, and the Three may be tempting. Price differences between trim levels aren’t gigantic, but watch out for costly options.
Driving impressions by John Voelcker, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report, with Mitch McCullough reporting from the New York metro area.