Toyota’s Prius is expanding, with the plan to become a family of four. Most consumers are familiar with the Prius hybrid, a small car that utilizes an electric motor, in addition to an ultra efficient gas engine, to increase the miles per gallon figure. On the horizon are a smaller gas/electric hybrid, the Prius C, and a Prius plug-in hybrid. Just introduced is the new Prius v. The v is pronounced “vee”, and stands for versatility.
On a media trip to spectacular Boulder, Colorado, I had the pleasure of driving the Prius v on a 70 mile route through the mountains alongside a rapidly flowing stream of crystal clear water. Nearly everyone in our group stumbled over that “v” at first, naming it the Prius five. But the presenters made it clear that versatility is the point of this larger, more utilitarian Prius; and the drive, although not over rugged terrain, reinforced that theme.
Three inches taller, 1 inch wider and with 58 % more cargo space in the lift back area, the Prius v targets families. It has the same gas engine and electric motor concept as the original Prius, 97% of which are still in operation since the first ones hit the road ten years ago! Since that time 16 automotive manufacturers have begun building hybrid vehicles.
As with the original, fuel economy is the focus of the Prius v. Highway mileage is 40 miles per gallon, city driving gets 44 miles per gallon, with a combined average of 42 miles per gallon. Toyota achieved this by keeping the aerodynamic lines and emphasizing weight reduction.
Although economy is a priority, the Prius v is comfortable and capable. The leather-like “SofTex” seats are lighter, but comfortable, a back-up camera is standard, as is dynamic radar cruise control and a smart key. The ride was smooth and quiet. Acceleration, braking and steering were responsive. The route we followed could have easily been chosen for testing an SUV—it included steep climbs, many twist and turns, and steep declines. There was never any doubt about the Prius v managing it with ease. As with the original Prius, the change from electric to gas and back is seamless, you can glance at the dashboard display if you don’t know what mode you are in.
All too soon my trip came to an end, and it was back to the Texas drought. I enjoyed the lovely weather and scenery in Boulder, and my introduction to the new Prius v, but there truly is no place like home.
The Prius v is scheduled to be in dealerships by fall of 2011. If an economical, versatile, well-equipped car is on your wish list, check it out at a Toyota dealership.