Selling in near mythic numbers, Toyota's Prius represents the heartiest last laugh any auto manufacturer has enjoyed to date. It's easy to see the extra height and length the new "v" model adds to the Prius lineup. (Photo: Toyota) When Toyota introduced the first generation of the car back in 1997, naysayers decried it as a "science experiment," said it'd never make money, questioned the reliability of the concept, and openly scoffed at the Japanese brand for pursuing the project.
These days, it's impossible to spend any time on the road without seeing the ubiquitous hatchbacked sedan's unique shape rolling along. In April, it was announced the company has sold well over a million copies of the car-in the U.S. alone. The model surpassed the million-unit worldwide mark back in 2007, a mere 10 years after its introduction. As for reliability, Toyota reports 97-percent of Prius models ever sold are still on the road.
With so much success, Toyota's plans to
|Think of the new v as a Prius wagon. (Photo: Toyota)|
expand the Prius portfolio into a broader variety of models are quite understandable. Toyota officials promise 10 new hybrid autos within the next 20 months and four distinct members of the Prius family eventually. The first distinct new vehicle is the Prius v (v as in versatile-not as in Roman numeral five). Larger and more spacious than the standard Prius (now known as the Prius Liftback), Prius v has folded a number of features into the basic recipe to make the world's most noted hybrid more family-friendly.
Best thought of as a cross between a station wagon and a minivan, Prius v has the size and feature set of the latter, with the four doors and rear hatch of the former. Boasting 58-percent more cargo space than the Prius Liftback, along with rear seats that
|Upgrades to the interior include new features and styling revisions. (Photo: Toyota)|
slide fore and aft as well as fold flat and recline, the Prius v is ready to haul pretty much anything the modern family has to throw at it. Speaking of those rear seats, we did find it odd the centre shoulder belt is forced to cross the right side outboard seatback, leaving us to wonder if this might create a comfort issue for anyone consigned to the spot. Still, with it, the Prius v will seat five securely, as well as carry considerably more cargo than its Liftback sibling.
To achieve that added capacity, the Prius v's dimensions are 7.6 cm longer in the wheelbase, 15.2 cm longer overall, 8.4 cm taller and 2.8 cm wider than the Liftback Prius. The interior is positively cavernous. The feeling is one of exceptional spaciousness; the Panoramic View Moonroof and the concave design of the door panels to impart
|A flexible interior adds a lot of cargo space over the standard Prius. (Photo: Toyota)|
the feeling of even more space enhance this. Additionally, subtle reworking of the interior's details, such as moving the shift lever to the dash from the centre console, resulted in more personal storage space as well.
The centre console opens from the driver's side to ease access for rear seat passengers, and while we feel a better solution would have been to enable it to open from either side. The area it reveals is deep enough to hold a standard-sized square tissue box with ease. The rear cargo compartment has hidden storage as well.
With the new larger
|Double glass sunroof adds an airy ambiance. (Photo: Toyota)|
size came more weight-105 kilos more weight to be exact. And while Toyota took a number of steps to mitigate it, engine upgrades weren't one of them. The same powertrain you'll find in the Prius Liftback also provides propulsion for the v, Toyota's 98-horsepower, 1.8-litre four-cylinder and a pair of 80-horsepower electric motors for a net rating of 134-horsepower.
The good news is a gearing change that keeps the Prius v accelerating adequately for its role in motoring. Additionally, the suspension system was reworked to carry more weight and the steering was recalibrated toward the same end. A pitch control system has also been incorporated to smooth out the Prius v's ride over rough surfaces. In our testing we found it works well at limiting suspension oscillations
|Fully connected, the new Prius v offers all the modern conveniences. (Photo: Toyota)|
typically resulting from going over railroad tracks and the like.
Going down the street, it all works together pretty well. The Prius v goes, stops and steers in a manner engendering complete confidence in its abilities. Tire roar does have a tendency to resonate within that cavernous interior, and over extended stints behind the wheel might become somewhat tiring. On the other hand, the ride is smooth and thanks to Toyota's new multimedia system, there are more than enough infotainment features to keep you well occupied over even the longest of drives.
The new Entune multimedia system works with your smartphone to provide access to apps such as Pandora, Bing, OpenTable and MovieTickets.com. Entune uses voice recognition for the navigation and messaging functions so you can find your way and keep in touch purely by spoken word.
Prius v goes on sale this fall and pricing has yet to be announced. Still, as the first volley in a broad salvo of new hybrid product from the leader in the field, Prius v is a very solid shot.
Who's got the last laugh now?
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