Car Review: 2016 Toyota Prius V

The Toyota Prius was the first viable hybrid to hit Canadian roads back in 2000. Since then, the range has blossomed to include a number of different models including the Prius V. This model takes the hybrid basics and adds a healthy dose of versatility.

The key to the transformation from regular hatchback to station wagon is found in the roofline. Rather than plunging downward towards the rear bumper the instant it hits the back seat, it’s taller and runs horizontally all the way to the near-vertical liftgate. This opens up a ton of interior space. With the 60/40 split/folding rear seats upright, the Prius V makes light work of 971 litres of cargo. Dropping the seats reveals a flat floor and a generous 1,906 litres of capacity.

Then there are the neat touches. Beyond the extra space, the Prius V’s rear seats slide back and forth. This maximizes legroom – and there is a ton of it – or increases the seats-up cargo capacity by 167 litres when in the forward position. There is also underfloor storage, the cargo net, tie-downs and a proper place to store the privacy cover when it is not in use. The latter means it will not be left gathering dust in the garage on the very day it’s needed.

The rest of the cabin’s layout is very familiar — the instrumentation sits atop the centre stack rather than behind the steering wheel. The format is entirely logical, if unconventional, placing all of the required information and controls within easy reach. Adding the Technology package then brings a wealth of extra equipment, although it did add a significant $5,985 to the base price.

Along with active cruise control, Toyota’s pre-collision system and lane departure warning comes everything from larger 17-inch wheels and LED headlights with automatic high beams, to an eight-way power driver’s seat with four-way lumbar adjustment, and a 6.1-inch touchscreen that looks after the infotainment, phone and navigation functions. It also gives a detailed view of how the hybrid system is functioning. What’s missing from the lengthy list of equipment is blind spot monitoring.

The cabin’s lone letdown were some of the materials. They really weren’t in keeping with the rest of the car. The plastics that ring the cabin were hard, but otherwise fine; it was the SofTex “leather” that disappointed. It was pretty obvious no bovine life was sacrificed to upholster the seats, steering wheel and lid of the central storage bin.

 

The fixed two-panel panoramic moonroof, which is part of the Tech package, is interesting as it is made from a lightweight polycarbonate material that’s 40 per cent lighter than a glass panel. Aside from the obvious mass reduction, it serves to impart an airy feel to the cabin and lower centre of gravity, which helps handling.

Here, the Prius V remains very crossover-like in that the ride is favoured over outright handling. In this case, that’s not such a bad thing. With five aboard – and it does accommodate five riders very nicely – the Prius V wafts over gnarly sections of pavement without the unseemly jostling found in many crossovers. Heading into a corner, the Prius V did begin to roll, but it held the driver’s line commendably well, even when loaded. Likewise, the electrically assisted steering had some real feel, and the grip afforded by the upsized 17-inch wheel and tire package reined in understeer. In the end, the Prius V mirrors the class norm — it is not a sports wagon.

Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive powers the Prius V. Along with the nickel-metal hydrid battery and electric motor comes a 1.8-litre four-cylinder gas engine that operates on the Atkinson cycle. This cycle is more efficient, but delivers less output — 98 horsepower and 105 lb.-ft. of torque. The electric motor masks the lower numbers and with the two power sources working together, the Prius V has a net system output of 136 horsepower.

Feb 24th, 2016