The Toyota Prius v is a wagon, and the biggest and most spacious member of Toyota’s compact hybrid-powertrain group. It’s also the oldest. Introduced for the 2012 model year, it is now in its sixth season.
2017 Prius v models come with upgraded Entune audio with voice recognition, and Siri Eyes-Free functionality. Little has changed for the 2017 model year.
The popular Prius liftback was redesigned for 2016, but the 2017 Prius v retains the same powertrain used in the prior generation: a 98-horsepower, 1.8-liter gasoline engine that works with two electric motors and a nickel metal hydride battery pack. The primary (60 kW) electric motor propels the vehicle, while the smaller one mainly provides electric power. Total system output is 134 horsepower, sent to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and front-wheel drive.
Because the Prius v is comparatively heavy and bulky, performance trails that of other Prius models. So does fuel economy, which is EPA-rated at 41 mpg Combined city and highway, versus 52 mpg Combined for the latest Prius liftback.
Toyota promotes the tall wagon’s SUV-like space and versatility, and the interior does qualify as spacious and flexible. Occupants sit a bit higher than in a regular sedan or hatchback, promising good views. Still, despite a more boxy profile than a regular Prius, it’s by no means a crossover vehicle. All-wheel drive is not available, and Prius v ground clearance is similar to that of a conventional sedan.
Unlike the familiar liftback model with its split-pane back window, the rear window in the Prius v consists of a single element of vertical glass. As a result, rearward vision is significantly better.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety designated the Prius v a Top Safety Pick Plus, but only when equipped with an optional Advanced Technology Package. The Prius v earned top Good ratings on all tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not crash-tested the Prius v in its current structural form.
A rearview camera is standard on all four trim levels. An Advanced Technology Package bundles together a panoramic moonroof with power sunshades, radar-based dynamic cruise control, JBL Premium Audio, and a hard-drive navigation system. Also included are a pre-collision warning, lane-departure alert, and automatic high beams. The pre-collision system can apply brakes and retract seatbelts if it senses that a frontal collision is imminent.
The 2017 Toyota Prius v comes in four trim levels, numbered Two through Five. (Prices are MSRP and do not include $865 destination charge.)
Prius v Two ($26,675) comes with keyless entry, automatic climate control, fabric seat upholstery, and 16-inch alloy wheels. Toyota’s Entune cloud-based media and connectivity system also is standard. Prius v Three ($28,060) includes steering wheel-mounted audio and climate controls, Bluetooth, and power lumbar support. A navigation system with voice control displays on the 6.1-inch touchscreen. A separate 4.2-inch color screen sits within the instrument panel.
Prius v Four ($29,695) adds heated front seats, an auto-dimming mirror, and an eight-way power driver’s seat. SofTex upholstery is said to resist spills and be easy to clean. Prius v Five ($30,935), which tops the Prius v range, includes 10-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, and LED headlights.
Seven airbags are standard, as is a rearview camera.
Though more ordinary-looking overall than a Prius liftback, the Prius v is still somewhat identifiable as a Prius hybrid. Despite resembling the previous Prius generation, the wagon’s body panels are entirely unique.
In profile, the wagon is taller and more slab-sided than the current liftback model. A boldly bulging front end gives it a moderately aggressive appearance, markedly different from other Prius models.
Inside the Prius v, all five passengers sit higher and more upright than they would in a regular Prius liftback model. They also benefit from abundant space, for both people and luggage, helping to make the Prius v a sensible family vehicle.
Split 60/40, the rear seats can be reclined. They may also be slid forward or rearward, altering leg space for passengers and changing cargo volume between 34.3 and 40.2 cubic feet. With both seats folded, that rear space grows to 67.3 cubic feet. Toyota advises that the seat-down cargo space beats that of many smaller crossover SUV models. Because the distance between wheelwell housings is a sizable 39 inches, boxy items can glide easily along the flat load floor.
Interior storage is ample, including cupholders, handy trays, and cubbies. Plastic elements are primarily patterned and hard-textured. Less pleasing is the dashboard, which harks back to earlier Prius models. That means an imperfectly organized, full-color array of symbols, figures, and icons, visible at the windshield base.
Few hybrids could be described as quick-accelerating. But the Prius v wagon, ranking as a comparative heavyweight, is more emphatically underpowered. The Prius v is about 300 pounds heavier than the previous-generation Prius liftback, which used the same powertrain.
As a result, the Prius v is likely to struggle up steeper hills, or when carrying a heavy load of people and/or cargo. Prudence dictates doing some pre-planning when you expect to pass or merge, especially if the terrain is far from flat.
In addition to holding back acceleration, limited power makes the engine more likely to get loud when pushed. The recently-reworked Prius liftback is considerably more refined.
In addition to the default Hybrid mode, the Prius v provides three driving modes. EV mode yields virtually silent electric-only propulsion at low speeds, for up to a mile or so. Hyper-milers who strive for the highest possible fuel-economy figures might like Eco mode, but others may find it painfully slow â€“ possibly even dangerous at times. Power mode lets the Prius v do a satisfactory job of keeping up with briskly-moving traffic
Enthusiast drivers may consider the steering to be numb, or even lifeless, but they’re not likely prospects for a Prius. Hybrid advocates won’t be troubled by a shortage of road feel.
Though frugal, the Prius v is not a leader in fuel economy, EPA-rated at 43/39 mpg City/Highway, or 41 mpg Combined. In contrast, a regular Prius liftback is EPA-rated at 54/50 mpg City/Highway, or 52 mpg Combined. Thriftier yet is the Prius Eco edition, EPA-rated at 58/53 mpg City/Highway, or 56 mpg Combined. Hybrids typically get a higher fuel-economy estimate in city driving than for highway use.
Short on refinement compared to Toyota’s latest hybrids, the Prius v isn’t the best choice for performance or peak economy. Its primary appeal is practical, for family travel. If you carry four or five occupants, complete with luggage, the sizable interior might easily make up for a flaw or two.
Driving impressions by John Voelcker, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.