Driving Impressions – September 2014

2014 Toyota Prius V Model Two: A Versatile Green Machine

By Greg Cavanaugh

Gallup Journey Prius VThe problem with Americans is that they’ve grown a distaste for station wagons.  After the wagon’s heyday in the 70s and early 80s, the minivan swooped in to become the people mover of choice well into the late 90s.  As is all things American, the minivan became a symbol for mediocrity and the uncool, and the crossover took over in the early 2000s to fill the void.  Unfortunately, a crossover is neither a good car nor a good van, but for years the crossover was the only choice if you wanted a spacious hybrid. Fortunately there are alternatives, and the Prius V is a great choice for fuel-conscious consumers who need space for stuff, without a third row.

With a giant “50 mpg” on its window sticker, there’s no doubt that the regular Prius’s fuel economy overshadows the Prius V’s 42 mpg combined, but don’t think 44 mpg in the city makes you an environmental abuser.   The Prius V’s capacious rear end means that you get all the benefits of Toyota’s ubiquitous 1.8-liter 134 hp “Hybrid Synergy Drive” with space to actually take things and people places.  If you’ve got dogs, small kids, play in a band or have an active lifestyle, the Prius V could work quite well for you while still returning 42 mpg combined.

Gallup Journey Prius VIf one thing is for sure, the Prius V certainly gives the impression of a modern vehicle.  Between the smart key (which means no ignition to put a key into), the electric motor’s silence, the small dash-mounted gear selector and the center armrest’s EV/Power/and Eco mode buttons, the Prius takes a quick tutorial to drive.  The aesthetics of the interior also stick to Toyota’s futuristic mantra.  For the most part it works, though having the dashboard gauges centered in the dash makes little sense.  Unless you want to gloat to your passengers about your fuel economy, why have the display in the center?  Certainly it requires taking your eyes off the road for more than a glace to see your speed.  The center stack houses the HVAC and Infotainment systems in a nice easy-to-read and easy-to-reach package.  Using a rather unique design, there is one large knob in the center that doubles as a joystick/toggle to allow you to switch between fan speed, temperature and vent locations.  It took me the better part of the first day test driving to figure it out, but once I did it became relatively intuitive.  While certainly distinct, I can’t actually advocate that it works better than standard style fan and temp controls.   Space is good up front and the lack of the standard Prius’s “flying buttress” center console means that center storage is easy to access and fairly large.

Gallup Journey Prius VThe Prius V’s second row is good size with a nice flat floor to make the center seat less of a punishment.  Buckling my kids into their booster seats was made easier by the V’s wide rear doors and the V’s wide left decent space in the seat between them.  The second row also slides fore and aft and is split 60/40 to allow flexibility with space for cargo or people.  To put the Prius V’s cargo capacity to the test I rode up to Amigo on my bike to pick it up.  With the second row seats folded flat, and very little hassle, my commuter bike slid right in.  Oddly, with the seats slid all the way forward a rather large empty space is created behind the seats. With no cover to match the cargo area’s load floor, no doubt the void will be prone to collecting some rather random objects as the miles accumulate.  On paper the Prius V has roughly 13 more cubic feet of cargo space than the standard Prius, in reality is seems more like double and the space is nicely shaped with good access, making it very useable. Also, underneath the load floor, are two good sized storage compartments compared to the industry standard of one . . . some rather impressive packing considering there’s also batteries, a fuel tank and a spare tire under there, too.

At almost $2,500 more than a similarly equipped Prius hatchback and with fuel economy roughly 7-8 mpg less, the V is not a no-brainer when you walk into the dealership.  What a day and age we live in however, when a buyer would turn their nose up at “only” 44 miles per gallon!  The reality is that with the Prius V’s still excellent fuel economy and a much more versatile package with great space, the Prius V opens up the hybrid market for a larger variety of users.  Long live the wagon!

*A special thanks to the guys at Amigo Toyota for the test drive.*

**As always, please visit my YouTube channel, “Gallup Journey Test Drives” and see the Prius V on the road in Gallup **

SPECIFICATIONS

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon
PRICE AS TESTED: $28,675 (base price: $27,515)
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 16-valve Atkinson-cycle 1.8-liter inline-4, 98 hp, 105 lb-ft; permanent-magnet AC synchronous electric motor, 80 hp, 153 lb-ft; combined power rating, 134 hp; 1.3-kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack
TRANSMISSION: continuously variable automatic

DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 109.4 in
Length: 181.7 in
Width: 69.9 in
Height: 62.0 in
Curb weight: 3317 lb

FUEL ECONOMY:
EPA city/highway driving: 44 city/40 hwy /42 combined mpg

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