2013 Toyota Prius v

15. October 2012

“So, that’s not the small one.”

That’s right. The Prius v is the big one. Or make that “bigger” one. Because to say “big one” might lead you to think of bloat, and that’s not what the Prius lineup is all about. It is about efficiency. And that’s efficiency in a more macro sense, in that there are hybrid vehicles that provide greater miles per gallon, but none that have a track record that is comparable to that which Toyota has racked up through its various generations of its Hybrid Synergy Drive, so if efficiency is about the long run, then there can probably be greater confidence that the Prius v is going to perform in an efficient manner.

Prius v 1

So about the size and the letter v. The v is to signify “versatility.” Presumably they didn’t use the letter c for the vehicle, because there is also the Prius c. There that consonant stands for “city.” It is a smaller car. A city car. But if they could have used the c rather than the v, that would have been more apt for the Prius v because what it offers is capacity. It isn’t any more or less versatile than a plain, old Prius.

The Prius v provides 34.3-cu. ft. of space behind the second row of seats. And it provides a highly respectable 67.3-cu. ft. if that rear seat is folded down. So what does that mean?

Prius v 2

Well, take another five-passenger vehicle, one that is designated with a letter standing for “utility.” The Chevrolet Equinox CUV. The Equinox is bigger than the Prius v. (It has a 112.5-in. wheelbase; is 187.8-in. long, 72.5-in. wide, and 66.3-in. high. The numbers for the Prius v are down below. Suffice it to say at this point that every exterior dimension is smaller than the comparable Chevy Equinox number.

Yet the Equinox offers 31.4-cu. ft. of cargo volume with the second row up and 63.7-cu. ft. with the second row down. That’s not a trivial difference for those interested in versatility, utility, or simply capacity.

Prius v 3

Now with a bigger size for this Prius comes a diminution of fuel economy. The Prius v is rated at 44 city/40 highway/42 combined mpg. The regular Prius is 51/48/50 mpg. (While Ford points out that its new Fusion is the most fuel-efficient midsize sedan, with 47/47/47 mpg, note that the Prius trumps those numbers but while it has four doors like the Fusion, and is classified as a midsize car, it is a hatchback not a sedan. And you thought only politicians gamed definitions for advantage.)

While I was driving the Prius v, there was a sudden rise in fuel prices in the metro Detroit area. (The rises have continued since, but they’ve been more gradual than the overnight dime-a-gallon change.) So I hit the “Eco” button. Which has the effect of controlling throttle response for better fuel efficiency and runs the HVAC system in a more reserved manner. And before too very long, I found that I had gone from an average of 40 mpg to 42 mpg. A measurable difference. But, you might say, that by reducing throttle response, I was getting a slower vehicle. Which may have been the case. But there’s one thing. In no situation (including merging onto a freeway) did I have the sense that I was piloting a block of granite through an atmosphere of molasses. And let’s be real: No one buys a Prius of any type figuring that 0 to 60 times are at all relevant to the ownership experience.

And the reason they are buying the Prius is because they know that they can roll beyond the gas pumps for a lot longer while others are racing to get there.

Selected specs

Engine: 1.8-liter Atkinson cycle four cylinder

Material: Aluminum block and head

Engine Horsepower: 98 @ 5,200 rpm

Engine Torque: 105 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Hybrid System Horsepower: 134

Wheelbase: 109.4 in.

Length: 181.7 in.

Width: 69.9 in.

Height: 62 in.

Curb weight: 3,274 lb.

Coefficient of Drag: 0.29

EPA: 40/44/42 mpg city/highway/combined