2012 Toyota Prius v First Impressions

2012 Toyota Prius V

QUEBEC CITY, Quebec - With the Prius v, Toyota has inadvertently created another brand to be sold under the Toyota name. Prius v is the second of four distinctive Prius models that Toyota wants to bring to Canada. With Prius v in place, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid and the Prius c will be putting in appearances in the near future.

Just in case you are wondering what “v” and “c” stand for, they mean “versatile” and “compact”. Because of that announced versatility, Toyota is placing the Prius v in the compact CUV category with its marketing plan. The logic behind this decision is twofold; when you run the numbers, Prius v has more cargo space than about 80% of the compact CUVs on the market today. In addition, it looks like one. Can’t beat that logic.


Logic is also the byword for how the new interior was developed. An increase in length and rear-seat legroom when compared to the Prius let Toyota install a 60/40-split sliding rear seat that reclines as well as folds. At the same time, the sculpted front bucket seats will now recline fully. This allows for two separate and equally important scenarios.

First up is that if you fold the second row down and then recline the front passenger seat, the cargo area extends from the rear hatch to the front of the dash. Two-by-fours will now fit, as will lengths of eavestrough and numerous other types of sizeable goods.

Number two is when the rear seat is reclined slightly and the front seat is reclined fully, making a delightful rest area while traveling. If you choose to go to an old fashioned drive-in, you can actually sit in near armchair comfort reclining in the rear with legs outstretched and shoes off.

Cabin Storage and cargo space

On a more practical note, both the centre console and glove boxes have increased in size. The centre console, which doubles as an armrest, now features a 6.5-litre storage compartment, large enough to hold an average size purse.

2012 Toyota Prius V Interior

The upper glove box increases by 50%, to 4.5 litres, while the lower one expands to 8.5 litres. Overall, that means you can stash nearly two dozen cans of Coke in the various spaces and still be able to have three or four more in the cupholders.

As for useful cargo space, a dozen “accounting boxes” will fit in the back of the Prius v, while the maximum in the regular Prius is nine. Since not all of us are accountants, think four golf bags in the back along with four adults sitting comfortably ready for the ride home.

Hybrid Synergy Drive improvement
Part of being a Prius is being a hybrid, and the v uses the same powertrain as the regular Prius. Basic gasoline power comes from a 1.8L, Atkinson cycle inline-4 and Toyota’s third-generation Hybrid Synergy Drive for a combined output of 134 horsepower. Prius v does get a new e-CVT transmission that utilizes a planetary gear drive system rather than belts and pulleys. In addition, water jackets for cooling have been added to the generator and electric motor.

The water jackets are necessary because of the added work required to power the Prius v compared to the Prius. Despite extensive use of aluminum and a new acrylic compound to lighten up the extra-large sunroof, the Prius v weighs 230 lbs (105 kg) more than the Prius. Due to excellent engineering, fuel economy hasn’t suffered; the combined highway/city rating is 4.6L/100km. Prius v also meets the more stringent Tier 2 Bin 3 emission standards.


What has suffered is acceleration. The extra weight makes the Prius v noticeably slower at wide-open throttle, and if you happen to climb a steep hill, then your foot has to go pretty much to the floor to get the car to accelerate. Using the power mode helps, but the car needs a bit more muscle for my liking.

During normal town driving, integration of gas and electric systems is nearly seamless. You really need to be paying attention to the feel of the vehicle to notice when the gas engine cuts in and out. In addition, the Prius v controllers seem to allow the electric to cut in sooner and stay in longer. Toyota did not confirm or deny that there were changes to the programming of the controllers.

2012 Toyota Prius V

One powertrain innovation that is currently unique to the Prius v is called the “Pitch and Bounce Control System”. The objective of this system is to reduce the pitching or proposing over road undulations. The first couple of times the system activates, it seems a bit weird that the car doesn’t move the way you expect. Then it sinks in that the ride is smoother than it should be for the road surface you are on.


Adding to the extensive list of standard equipment are three optional packages; Luxury, Touring and Touring/Technology. Since all major items are part of the packages, you might say there are only three options for the Prius v and a few dealer-installed accessories. The Prius v will carry a $27,200 MSRP when it goes on sale in the coming weeks.

If you have an expanding family, you might want to consider expanding your Prius to a v.