2012 Toyota Prius V Review & First Drive CarShowroom com au

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2012 Toyota Prius V Review First Drive

by Brad Leach — 23/05/12

Look closely at the photos of Toyota’s all-new Prius V and you’ll see Sydney’s South Cronulla beach. Of all the Cronulla beaches, South Cronulla is the one for families — mostly small waves, lots of sand for sandcastle-building and nice cafes for mum and dad.

Toyota Prius V Overview

You could say the seven-seat Prius V is the Prius Toyota always needed as families have been early-adopters of the whole ‘going green’ philosophy but until now had no powertrain alternative in the ranks of MPV vehicles.

Toyota Prius V Engine

Toyota’s now-familiar 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle petrol-hybrid system delivers a combined 100kW of power (73kW from the petrol engine) and 142Nm of torque with fuel consumption (combined cycle) rated at just 4.4l/100kms.

Drive is to the front wheels via a Continuously Variable (CVT) automatic transmission.

But the big news is the batteries. Toyota Prius V is the first Toyota passenger car to adopt lithium-ion batteries (the other Prius models use Nickel-Metal-Hydride). Much smaller (about half the size) and 7kgs lighter, the lithium-ion battery pack is stored between the two front seats.

This change has been assisted by ramped-up production of lithium-ion batteries. Toyota and BMW are currently working collaboratively in developing future generation lithium-ion batteries and only good things can result from these two automotive giants working together.

Toyota Prius V The Interior

Toyota says the ‘V’ in Prius V stands for ‘Versatile’ and that means the interior. All-up, Toyota says the Prius V affords a staggering 64 different seat combinations (excluding slide and recline functions)

Second row seats are three individual units which not only recline up to 35-degrees, they also slide back-and-forth individually through 180mm (outer two) and 160mm (centre) for various load configurations and leg lengths. The third row seat split-folds 50:50 and reclines through 33-degrees.

Both passenger seating rows are mounted relatively high for better visibility and Toyota’s interior designers worked hard on space efficiency. In fact, compared to the regular Prius, Prius V delivers better head-room (+90mm front and +75mm second row) and new-design seat cushions for the second row provide extra space for those in the rear-most seats.

While a fold-away picnic table (the second row seat folded), sliding sun-shades for the second row windows and a 12-volt power outlet for the third row seats (handy for electronic games) are appreciated for family buyers, so versatile is the Toyota Prius V’s interior, you can fold all seats flat and turn it into a light delivery van type vehicle as used by medical couriers and florists.

Otherwise dashboard layout, driving position, steering wheel etc it’s the Toyota Prius with which we’re now familiar. Except for the centre console where the newly-located lithium ion batteries are stored in a box arrangement between the two front seats (naturally there’s still plenty of storage, it’s just different to the other Prius models).

Pleasingly, Toyota Prius V comes standard with a reversing camera certainly appreciated by family buyers.

Luggage space is impressive the tailgate opening is 1105mm wide (95mm wider than standard Prius) and, measured at the third row seats, the luggage area is 1580mm wide. Fold the third seat row and Prius V delivers 485-litres of flat space and can easily accommodate four full-size golf bags.

Toyota Prius V Exterior Styling

Obviously similar to other members of the Prius family, but in fact every external panel on the Prius V is unique. While delivering its spacious, seven-seat interior, stylists developing the Toyota Prius V focused on a relatively long, low look with minimal frontal area for enhanced aerodynamics (cD is 0.29).

The hallmark Toyota hybrid sharp bumper edges are part of the aero story as are underbody covers and a tapered rear-end with integrated roof spoiler. The front bumpers also incorporate stylish LED DRLs.

And despite the extra size, the Toyota Prius V tips the scales just 135kgs heavier than the regular Prius (helped by an aluminium bonnet).

Toyota Prius V On The Road

Toyota sent us through Sydney suburbia from Milsons Point, north of the Harbour Bridge, out to Leppington and onto rural roads and freeways to Thirlmere, in the rural south-west. That’s a good mixture of the type of roads most Australian families tackle every week.

And here’s the thing clever, seamless operation of the Toyota Prius V’s hybrid drivetrain means you’re minimizing fuel consumption while easily keeping pace with the city/suburban traffic. You really don’t notice you’re driving a hybrid except the various fuel consumption displays on the centre console confirm just how efficiently you’re progressing.

And it’s that seamless transition which is at the heart of all Toyota Prius vehicles. This easy transition is what will ultimately convince skeptics about the benefits of hybrids.

“Pitch and Bounce Control” is a term Toyota’s Prius chief engineer Makoto Okabe uses to describe the unique suspension calibration adopted for the Prius V. Amongst the changes are a re-location of the rear struts (42mm lower for enhanced luggage space), a stiffening of the shock absorbers in compression and torsional rigidity up by 18 per-cent.

Hard to detect any real changes in our one-day drive over a limited number of rural roads, but as you would expect from Toyota the Prius V showed real competence thanks to a re-tune of the electric power steering and larger brakes to handle the extra weight. Balance and grip levels were fine and in fact, thanks to some extra sound-deadening, the Prius V is a tad more refined than its Prius stablemates.

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