And then there were two.
The Prius brand is welcoming a new family member with the autumn arrival of the Prius v wagon. Toyota explains the lower-case “v” stands for versatile, but perhaps the automaker should have also added a “p” for practicality.
The current Prius hatchback that was introduced for the 2010 model year is already plenty practical, but the upcoming wagon goes one better. It also has a more conventional appearance that should make the Prius more appealing to a wider range of buyers. And the fact that the v’s similar gasoline-electric power team produces exemplary fuel economy numbers — although not nearly as good as the hatch — is one more checkmark in its favour.
The adjustments in converting the Prius into a Prius v are many. First off, the distance between the front and rear wheels has been increased. The roof has also been elevated and the body width increased just a touch.
From the driver’s perspective, the v’s nearly vertical liftgate makes for improved rear vision.
So far, Toyota is keeping mum on the cost of v ownership, but an on-the-road price in the $32,000 range is expected. At that rate, the v could add the letter “s” for successful to the wagon’s nomenclature.
Raising the hatch reveals a cargo hold that’s about 50 per cent larger than that of the standard Prius. However, with the 60:40 split-folding rear-seat and the front-passenger seat back lowered, interior stowage volume bests most other compact wagons on the market and nearly matches Toyota’s mid-size Venza wagon for space.
When transporting people, the rear bench can be adjusted fore and aft and will recline up to 45 degrees.
With the launch of the v, Toyota is also introducing what it calls SofTex. It’s an optional synthetic leather-like seat covering that the company claims is lighter than leather, more stain resistant and uses far fewer nasty chemicals in the manufacturing process than other faux leather materials.
All Prius models arrive well equipped, and among the more interesting options is a Panoramic View Moonroof with power-retractable sunshades.
The Prius v shares the 98-horsepower, 1.8-litre gas engine and 80-horsepower electric motor (that generates 134 net horsepower) and continuously variable transmission with its smaller hatchback sibling.
Still, even with the use of lighter high-strength steel and aluminum, the v is about 100 kilograms heavier than a regular Prius and pays the price in the fuel-economy department.