Full 2012 Toyota Prius v Review
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Toyota Prius V is an all-new wagon based on the standard Prius.
The Toyota Prius has won many fans with its eco-friendliness and fuel efficiency, but it might not be the best fit for someone with the responsibilities of a family. Now gas-conscious shoppers with offspring to consider have the 2012 Toyota Prius V (the "v" represents "versatility," not the Roman numeral five). This wagon is based on the Prius hatchback, and offers similar fuel efficiency and 60 percent more cargo capacity.
Relative to the standard Prius, the Prius V is an inch wider, 6 inches longer and 3 inches taller. Its wheelbase exceeds that of the hatchback by 3 inches, which helps give it a more spacious cabin, so now there's ample room for passengers and 34 cubic feet of luggage space available behind the rear seats. Utility is enhanced by rear seats that slide, recline and fold down, and there's even a fold-flat front passenger seat to help accommodate outsized cargo.
This wagon shares its powertrain with the Prius, which means it's motivated by a 1.8-liter gas engine that works with an electric motor and a nickel-metal hydride battery to produce a combined 134 horsepower. With EPA ratings of 44 mpg city/40 mpg highway and 42 mpg combined, the Prius V isn't as fuel-efficient as the standard Prius, but its mileage is good enough to give it a huge advantage over all the models against which it will likely be cross-shopped.
As with the Prius hatchback, the 2012 Toyota Prius V loses points for dull handling and a dated-looking cabin. You'll do better on both these counts with the 2012 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI, which gets pretty impressive fuel economy in its own right. Top non-hybrid crossover SUVs like the Chevrolet Equinox and 2012 Honda CR-V might also be worth a look, as would the small 2012 Mazda 5 minivan. But none of these models can touch the Prius when it comes to fuel efficiency; it's the best bet for family-minded shoppers seeking the most frugal choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Toyota Prius V is available in three trim levels: the Two, the Three and the Five.
Standard equipment on the base Two includes 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition/entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, automatic climate control, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat that slides and reclines and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod/USB audio interface and Bluetooth connectivity/streaming audio.
The Three adds a navigation system with voice controls, along with a rearview camera, satellite radio and HD radio. You also get Entune: Toyota's multimedia interface with text-to-voice functionality and app integration. The Five adds 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, automatic LED headlights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, upgraded upholstery (Toyota's new SofTex -- an eco-friendly alternative to leather) and heated front seats.
An Advanced Technology package is offered with the Five, and it includes a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, an automated parallel-parking system, a hard-drive-based navigation system with a larger touchscreen, a premium eight-speaker sound system, a pre-collision safety system and Toyota's Safety Connect system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Toyota Prius V is motivated by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine teamed with a pair of electric motors. Power is sent through a specialized continuously variable transmission (CVT), with a combined total output of 134 hp and 153 pound-feet of torque.
In track testing, the Prius V went from zero to 60 mph in 10.3 seconds -- a time that lags that of rivals like the Jetta diesel wagon (8.8 seconds). Fuel economy is a class-leading 44 mpg city/40 mpg highway and 42 mpg combined.
Every 2012 Toyota Prius V comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. Optional equipment includes a pre-collision safety system and Toyota's Safety Connect telematics system (which includes emergency assistance and a stolen-vehicle locator). In brake testing, the Prius V stopped from 60 mph in 129 feet, which is longer than average.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Prius V its highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Prius V's controls are large and clearly labeled, and its shift lever is placed within easy reach, high on the center stack near the steering wheel. All of this makes the wagon easy to operate and especially well suited for those with arthritis and other mobility challenges. Sadly, taller drivers still have to contend with a steering wheel that's placed too far away. There's a telescoping column, but it doesn't extend nearly far enough.
As with the standard Prius, the Prius V's cabin design is plainer and less ambitious than you'll find in the competition. Materials quality is spotty; some of the plastics are nicely grained, but others look cheap. Fortunately there's no shortage of storage opportunities within the cabin. For example, there's a huge two-tiered glovebox that swallows more than just an owner's manual, and there's a large center console bin along with an open nook beneath the center stack.
A reclining backseat slides fore and aft, allowing you to choose between palatial legroom and expansive cargo capacity. Luggage capacity logs in at a very generous 34.3 cubic feet. Total cargo capacity is also excellent. With 67.3 cubic feet available with the rear seats down, the Prius V rivals most small crossover SUVs.
Thanks to its heavier curb weight, the 2012 Toyota Prius V feels more substantial and stable on the road than the regular Prius hatchback. The ride is quite smooth and comfortable, and while acceleration is far from brisk, the wagon gets up to speed in an acceptable manner. A Power mode is available to provide an extra boost during highway merging or when traveling up steep gradients. There's also an extra-frugal Eco mode, which is fine in city travel, but its sluggish response makes it unsuitable for the highway. The electric steering is rather numb, but it makes the 2012 Toyota Prius V easy to maneuver in parking lots.