Mountain Wheels: The bigger Prius V is no small game
October 12, 2013
2013 Prius V
MSRP: $27,415; as tested, $29,189
Powertrain: 134-HP net 1.8-liter 4-cylinder/battery/generator combo; electronic continuously variable transmission
EPA figures: 42 combined, 44 city, 40 highway
Extra space — and, arguably, even more sanctimoniousness — are guaranteed in one of the extended branches of the Prius family, the Prius V. In a way, it's the SUV of the ceaselessly popular hybrid line, with almost 60 percent more cargo and passenger room than your standard Prius.
Making it, as I discovered over the weekend, a hideously efficient moving van by older Prius standards — still capable of 47 combined mpg in several days' worth of city driving and highway careening.
There are 34.3 cubic feet of storage just behind the second-row seats, and when you drop those seatbacks — leaving a slight incline, but covered in plastic skid plates — it's the kind of room you can load a table or even a washing machine into.
I wasn't entirely sold on the V when it first appeared two years ago, as I kind of thought that the extended rear end and bustled hatch made the decent-enough looking new-gen Prius look like an oversized version of the Mazda5 minivan. And not a very good looking variant, at that.
But if you're searching for a mixture of the still-revolutionary Toyota hybrid technology and a way to cart a lot more stuff than a standard Prius (or six times the amount of stuff you could carry in the newer, pint-sized Prius C), this might be the car for you. It's also gotten rid of standard Priuses' rear visibility issues and their two-level rear glass; this has a totally normal, albeit SUV-inspired, liftgate.
Better yet, the V still rolls along in a mostly pleasant fashion, despite its growth spurt. V is not made for intense fun, granted, but it corners and even patiently careens when put to the test, and it can use its 134 combined horsepower output to accelerate in an almost-acceptably speedy fashion (especially when switched to Power mode, versus the speed-sapping Eco mode). It's still far faster than other manufacturers' cars sharing the one-speed continuously variable transmission. Mitsubishi, hint, hint.
And man, does it swallow up the stuff. Crack the hatchback and start cramming stuff in; just be mindful of the fact that the items in this overhead bin of a car may shift during flight. The carpeted back space accelerates the drama, in some cases.
I did get a feeling that even the drivers of standard Priuses believed I was some sort of earth-destroying bastard on account of the size of my vehicle, but I swear, the car's 1.8-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine and battery/generator combo really will produce a very comfortable 42 mpg combined, the EPA sticker figure — and maybe a lot more, if you drive it nicely.
On the inside, the looks and dimensions aren't much different up front, though rear passengers will enjoy more seating room and fore-and-aft sliding seats. The center-biased control suite is a little goofy upon first inspection but instantly learnable, and designed for easy comprehension.
I liked the single A/C control knob which can toggle left or right to control temps and fan speed. And the reconfigurable speedometer and hybrid data center is tolerably busy — if your game is intense hypermiling, all the readout is there, and probably even more if you dial up the data on the display audio screen.
Seating is basic and basically unmemorable, but mine was equipped with a power lumbar bolster. Like all Priuses, it's easy to get in and out of, and while the driving is never intensely sportily inspired, it's a pleasant enough experience.
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