Sunday, February 26, 2012

Toyota Prius V - Bigger, but Thirstier

The Prius V has arrived! It provides more cargo space and practicality than the standard Prius, and is the third member of what is becoming the Prius family of cars. Besides the Plug-in Prius, a fourth model will arrive this year, the Prius C (compact, or, perhaps "cheaper"). The C will not offer significantly greater fuel economy numbers, but will be 19 inches shorter than the standard Prius and will, most importantly, have a lower entry price, bringing hybrid ownership to first-time compact car buyers.

The Prius has never been a particularly small car, but in the interests of maximum efficiency, it tapers down at the back.This gives it a coefficient of drag (cd) of just.25--excellent. The new V is more of a crossover/wagon configuration, with a more straight-back roofline and full vertical tailgate, so it rates at .29 for its cd. That, along with a weight gain of 232 pounds using the same 134 horsepower gasoline/electric powertrain, drops the fuel economy numbers. While the familiar Prius hatchback averages 50 mpg, the Prius V gets just 42. I averaged 38.8 mpg over my test week, which included a lot of freeway driving. Incidentally, the 0-60 time drops from 9.8 seconds to 10.4 with the V.

Those fuel economy numbers bring up an interesting point. One big difference between hybrids and normal cars is that the City rating for hybrids is usually higher than the Highway figure (it's 44/40 for the Prius V). So, oddly, if I had spent more time in town my average might have been a bit closer to the EPA's 42 mpg.

Toyota has made the Prius V feel a little more like a crossover SUV inside by giving it a more symmetrical and solid-looking dash panel. My Prius-owning neighbor noticed that the center console is not attached to the dash, so it feels more spacious up front. Of course the wagon-like practicality behind adds cargo space. Cargo space jumps from 21.6 cubic feet to 34.3 with the V, and with the seats folded, it can be up to 67.3 cubic feet--that's generous for a car that can get 40 mpg.

The price is a bit scary. My tester, a top-of-the-line level 5 model, was $36,692--approaching entry luxury territory. The list for the level 5 starts at $30,750, including shipping, but mine had the Advanced Technology Package, which added many things, including $5,580 to the bottom line. Prices for the Prius V level 2 start at a more affordable $27,160.

Prii for everyone! Stay tuned.

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