The 2012 Toyota Prius v marks the first of three additions that Toyota will be making to the Prius family over the next year or so, along with the plug-in Prius and compact Prius C. The Prius v is a bridge of sorts, trying to bring together the gap between fuel efficiency and utility. In that vein, the Prius v adds on the extras: extra backseat and cargo room, as well as few additional interior features.
From the outside, the Prius v maintains that distinctive, aerodynamic wedge-like shape. However when you get towards the rear, instead of sloping down as the normal Prius does the back continues on up high all the way to the integrated rear spoiler. This new look allows the Prius v to expand its usable cargo area, but it does have a slight drawback lowering the Prius v's coefficient of drag to 0.29 from 0.25 (basically, it is less slippery than its smaller counterpart). The Prius v is also about six-inches longer and an inch wider than a normal Prius.
Things also look familiar under the hood of the 2012 Prius v, it uses the same drivetrain that can be found in the standard Prius hatchback: a 98-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder that runs on the efficient Atkinson cycle, which works in conjunction with an electric motor to output a total of 134-horsepower. A two-speed CVT remains the only transmission option.
The rubber hits the road on this next point, because after all, a larger Prius is still... well a Prius, which is the gold standard as far as fuel efficiency is concerned. So as the Prius v got bigger, heavier, and less aerodynamic, how much smaller did that 50 combined mpg number get? In truth, not a whole lot. The 2012 Prius v checks in at 44 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway, good enough for a combined 42 mpg. This number is especially impressive when you consider that other cars offering roughly the same amount of space don't even come close to this, even those with hybrid drivetrains. Consider this - the 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid, a crossover, has 4 fewer cubic feet of cargo room and only nets you around 33 combined mpg.
Sitting inside the Prius v feels very familiar. It keeps the familiar design which pushes the instrument panel to the right, above the center console, and employs many of the same dashboard materials. The standard features list has grown however, and now includes a backup camera, Bluetooth connectivity, USB port, and passive entry. Also new for 2012 is Toyota's Entune multimedia system which connects to your smartphone through an app. Unique to the Prius v is an optional panoramic moon roof, made of a resin that is 40-percent lighter than glass.
What stuck out to us as we pored over the 2012 Prius v, is that the usable cargo area is even bigger than it would appear. The added dimensions really seem to pay off as there is more than enough room back there for virtually any day-to-day application (Toyota claims that with the seats folded, you can fit 98 paper grocery bags in the back there, if anyone wants to try this out please send us the picture).
The larger 2012 Prius v will cost you more, its MSRP starts at $26,400, about $3,000 more than a standard Prius. But for those with families or anyone who's wanted more cargo and passenger space and are not willing to compromise on fuel economy, there is finally a car for you.