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Test complete video: 2012 Toyota Prius V

Consumer Reports News: February 01, 2012 01:23 PM

Toyota has expanded the coveted Prius brand by introducing this larger wagon, and it will soon flank the original Prius hatchback with the introduction of a smaller hybrid, the Prius C. The Prius V certainly seems like a good idea: Take a proven powertrain and fit it to a roomier vehicle, offering current Prius owners a step-up vehicle, well suited to growing families. But does it work? We bought a Prius V “Three Model” ($28,217) to see if Toyota got the formula right, or if it proved to, literally, be too much of a good thing.

The Prius has routinely done well in our tests, with good safety marks, impressive reliability history, and of course, outstanding fuel economy. Likewise, the new Prius V performed admirably and stands tall within the wagon category.

The Prius V returned an impressive 41 mpg overall in our fuel economy tests, compared with 44 mpg for the regular Prius. Naturally, its fuel economy is impacted by the V’s heavier weight and less aerodynamic shape. These factors also put a damper on acceleration. The V shares the Prius drivetrain, adapted to this application with lower gearing. Despite this modification, the motor and engine still have to work fairly hard, especially when the car is loaded or scaling large hills at highway speeds.

A true five seater, the Prius V provides good access to the second row, with comfortable space for all riders. Rear passengers have generous leg and head room. The tall design provides significantly more cargo space than the Prius, and split-folding rear seatbacks allow for flexible configurations that can swallow a fair amount of stuff. The wagon body style is more conducive to traveling with adult companions than the Prius, and it significantly improves outward visibility.

The dashboard quirks carry over, with the center-mounted digital instruments, awkward shift lever, and push-button Park. While there is a slight learning curve for first-time Prius drivers, previous owners will feel right at home.

In the end, we think the strong fuel economy and improved interior packaging more than make up for the sacrifices in performance and powertrain noise.

Watch the video to see the Prius V in action, and read our road test for more detailed findings.

Jeff Bartlett

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