My Drive this week was the Prius V people mover. Last month I took a look at the compact version of the Prius, the Prius C, but this week I’m moving in the other direction, examining the bigger brother of the hybrid power fuel miser. This car is something you can sort-of compare to the Honda Odyssey and Kia Rondo – it’s a seven seat wagon that lets you cart the family around without the overhanging proportions of a larger, van-based vehicle, and thanks to the hybrid drivetrain, you can keep the fuel spend under control.
Toyota gave the Prius V its mid-life update earlier this year, with changes to the design as well as noise, handling and safety improvements. Let’s take a look.
The Prius V now sports a design you could call more assertive. Angled headlights giving the front face an angry look, flanked by new, vertical LED daytime running lamps down lower in the bumper. The rear combination lamps have also got a new look.
Going inside it’s surprising to see how much room there is in the cabin – the proportions are really deceiving. There’s plenty of room in the first two rows, while the smaller third row is good for children but will be a tight squeeze for adults. The front seats have a lot of bolstering and support, while the second row is still contoured for three people but somewhat flatter than the front. The two rear seats can be folded down flat into the floor to create a fair bit of storage – 485 litres to be exact. With the seats upright it drops to a paltry, but still usable 180 litres.
The main changes in the cabin are the dashboard – the centre console is upgraded with Toyota’s newer infotainment system, which comes with a raft of more modern features and newer satellite navigation but sadly gets the underpowered processor found across the Toyota range, making the experience a sluggish, frustration-inducing affair. The instrument cluster also gets a new multi-information LCD screen, making it easier to see the hybrid powertrain information and fuel consumption readouts.
Speaking of which, the Prius V’s hybrid powertrain remains unchanged in this updated model. The combination of a 1.8 litre, 73 kW petrol engine and a 60 kW electric motor combine for a maximum 100 kW of power, which is provided to the front wheels through a CVT planetary gear-based transmission.
The drivetrain is firmly focused on saving fuel here, so maximum acceleration can feel a bit lacking on motorways, even when you put the car in Power Mode, but fuel consumption is definitely impressive. The official combined rating is 4.4 L/100km, and in my testing of combined city and highway driving, I managed to achieve 4.9 litres. If you follow the car’s suggestions to drive economically, you’ll do better.
Ride and handling have been improved slightly in this update, with Toyota re-engineering dampers and rear trailing arm bushes to improve ride response. In practice, the Prius V is composed and confident around mild corners. It’s no sports car, but for everyday duties it’s more than adequate and instils confidence.
The braking system combines friction brakes with regenerative braking to recharge the battery system, contributing to the fuel economy of the car. It’s smooth, but I did find I needed to increase brake pressure as the car comes to a stop, which is slightly different behaviour compared to normal cars.
The Prius V is available in two grades – base model and i-Tech luxury. The base model gets standard climate control air conditioning, cruise control, automatic power windows on all four doors, alloy wheels and a six inch centre console display with six speakers and USB audio with Bluetooth. The i-Tech adds a load of extra features including panoramic sunroof, satellite navigation, radar cruise control, digital radio, bi-LED headlamps, leather trim and lane departure warning, which is a new addition in this updated model. Both variants also get seven airbags, stability control and a reverse camera.
The Prius V retails from $34,490, while the i-Tech costs another $10,000, starting from $44,490 – both before on-road costs.
All in all, if you put aside the hybrid part of the equation, the Prius V is actually a reasonably good value-for-money proposition for a people mover. It’s well featured, uses little fuel and doesn’t break the bank. I was quite impressed with it. That’s it for me this week.
12 September, 2015