The 2014 Toyota Prius V sets out to deliver exceptional fuel economy along with the versatility and space of a wagon. In those regards, it handily succeeds, but don't expect gratuity. It's slow, lacks refinement, leaves the driver feeling detached and some optional features may disappoint.
What Is It?
Based on the standard Prius liftback, the larger 2014 Toyota Prius V offers more passenger and cargo space. The base model starts at $27,560. Pricing increases to $31,205 for the range-topping Five trim. Adding the optional Advanced Technology package kicks the price up another $5,650 with feature highlights that include adaptive cruise control, a self-parking system, a panoramic sunroof, a larger 7-inch high-definition touchscreen and a JBL premium audio system. With $225 floor mats, the as-tested price for our test vehicle hit $37,080.
How Does It Drive?
The 2014 Toyota Prius V is primarily focused on fuel economy. As a result, performance and driver engagement are noticeably absent. Drivers in congested urban areas will likely find this agreeable, as the car places few demands on the driver and provides a calm and quiet atmosphere. Steering effort is feather-light and visibility is mostly obstruction-free, making tight maneuvers easy.
For those who dread parallel parking or backing into a spot, our fully loaded Prius V came with Toyota's Advanced Parking Guidance System that handles the steering for the driver. We found this option largely unnecessary since the car is already a cinch to park and the system requires a slow crawl well past the intended space, followed by on-screen prompts to select and confirm the spot. The time required to shift into reverse and surrender steering control makes the process self-defeating.
Power is meager and comes from the combination of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a battery pack that runs two electric motors. Together, they produce 134 horsepower that is routed to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The driver can select the default Eco mode, Power, Normal or all-electric or EV mode. In Eco mode, the system retards the driver's throttle inputs in order to capitalize on the hybrid powertrain's fuel efficiency. Initial acceleration is performed under electric power. Applying more pedal pressure or in continued acceleration, the gasoline engine seamlessly begins contributing power. Switching to Power mode noticeably increases throttle response by initiating the gasoline engine's contribution earlier. Normal mode splits the difference and is also the default upon start-up. EV mode allows for very short distances at very low speeds and is, for the most part, unnecessary.
Attempting to get the best fuel economy in Eco mode is an exercise in patience, both from the driver as well as fellow motorists. A small display in the instrument panel shows how much throttle is being applied in a vertical meter that has a tick mark at the halfway mark, denoting the cutoff point for electric-only propulsion. Acceleration is weak in EV mode and a light touch is required to maintain all-electric operation.
The Prius V's anemic acceleration was confirmed at the test track. It reached 60 mph from a standstill in 10.7 seconds, which is slower than virtually everything else we've ever tested. With the pedal floored, as is needed to reach highway speeds, the engine labors with a loud groan that remains until the pedal is lifted. The groan is also present when climbing hills and even occurs when coasting down a hill, because the engine braking drive mode keeps revs high. Standard mode provides no engine braking so you'll find yourself using the brakes often.
Coming to a stop takes a little getting used to as well. The brake pedal feels very spongy since the initial pedal travel engages the hybrid system's regenerative braking to scrub speed. Activating the mechanical brakes requires a harder press on the pedal. To the uninitiated, this may seem unsettling, as more pressure is required to stop. In panic braking it's less of an issue and the Prius V stops from 60 mph in an acceptable 122 feet.
What Safety Features Does It Offer?
Standard safety features for all Prius V models include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and a driver-side knee airbag. A rearview camera is standard on the midlevel Three trim and above. Additional features are available on the top-of-the-line Five trim's Advanced Technology option. These include seatbelt retractors and automatic braking when an impact is imminent, as well as Toyota's Safety Connect telematics with emergency assistance and a stolen vehicle locator.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Can You Expect?
The EPA estimates a commendable 42 mpg combined (44 city/40 highway) for the Prius V. These figures are confirmed by our 39.4-mpg as-tested fuel economy. On our highway-heavy 116-mile evaluation loop, the V returned an impressive 50.4 mpg.
What's the Interior Like?
The Prius V's interior is also unconventional. Behind the steering wheel where you'd expect the typical gauges there's only a featureless expanse of dashboard. The instrument panel is instead situated atop the center of the dash and is hampered by a cluttered layout. Vital information like speed and the aforementioned power meter are located closest to the driver and are easy to read.
Below the gauge pod are the infotainment touchscreen and climate controls. Included in the optional Advanced Technology package is a high-definition 7-inch display (a 6.1-inch screen is standard). Despite this upgrade, the screen is still too small and prone to glare that makes its operation difficult. The saving grace to this system is an effective voice recognition system that essentially eliminates the need to decipher the screen and the Entune suite of apps that includes Internet streaming radio, news, traffic, gas prices and restaurant reservations. A premium JBL sound system is also part of this option package, but its performance was merely adequate.
For the average 5-foot-10-inch adult, seat comfort also presents some challenges. The lack of range in the telescoping steering wheel forces the driver to either sit closer than normal or contend with an awkward reach forward. As a result, a more upright minivan-like seating position proved most viable. Compounding matters is a short seat cushion that lacks thigh support. Sliding and reclining rear seats suffer from the same issue, but they do provide ample head- and legroom for taller adults. The seats themselves are covered in Toyota's environmentally friendly SofTex artificial leather, which simply isn't as nice as other synthetic leathers.
The Prius V's interior is awash in a sea of hard plastics with odd texturing and thin padding at many contact points. On the upside, interior storage is ample, with two gloveboxes, a large center armrest bin and a few more cubbies and door pockets. Cupholders, however, are on the small side. Cargo space is generous, offering the kind of room normally associated with small crossover SUVs. Up to 34.3 cubic feet is available behind the rear seats. Folding the seats affords 67.3 cubic feet, but it's worth noting that the gap between the rear seats and cargo floor has a tendency to swallow smaller items.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Residing in a gray area between hatchbacks and wagons, the Toyota Prius V is a bit of an oddity and has only one direct hybrid competitor. There are a few other fuel-efficient vehicles that represent an alternative, though.
Ford C-Max Hybrid: As the Prius V's closest rival, the C-Max Hybrid is similarly priced and betters the Toyota's fuel economy by 1 mpg. Rear-seat space is also comparable, but cargo capacity is quite a bit less than the Prius V. The C-Max hits 60 mph a full 2 seconds quicker, however.
Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI: If more power and driver engagement is important to you, the diesel-powered VW Jetta Sportwagen is a strong choice. Fuel economy is estimated at only 34 mpg combined (30 city/42 highway) with the manual transmission. The automatic drops to 33 mpg combined. Pricing is similar to the Prius V, as is cargo capacity, but the Volkswagen features much more interior refinement.
Why Should You Consider This Car?
Fuel economy and versatility are the overriding reasons to consider the Prius V. It will appeal most to shoppers drawn to the standard Prius liftback who need more space for passengers and luggage. What's more, it requires no effort from its driver and it will get you to your destination in relative peace.
Why Should You Think Twice About This Car?
The 2014 Toyota Prius V lacks any semblance of excitement or personality. Even in this range-topping trim and with added options, it feels as basic as a car can be. For this reason, we'd be inclined to consider the more affordable Two trim instead. The Advanced Technology package includes some notable safety features, but we'd probably skip it, as many of the other add-ons seem like unnecessary novelties.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.