The skinny: Facelifted for 2015, the Toyota Prius V puts a seemingly winning pitch to buyers. The ability to shift seven bodies in a vehicle with official fuel consumption of 4.4 litres per 100 kilometres makes for unbeatable efficiency.
Toyota is basically asking buyers to resist the temptation of a tough SUV, ditch a 'metal-for-the-money' mindset and instead embrace the benefits of intelligent packaging and a clever hybrid system.
Buyers have largely declined that pitch so far (see below), but with refreshed styling, revised suspension and new technology, does the Prius V warrant another look?
Vehicle Style: People mover
Price: $44,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 73kW/142Nm 1.8 4cyl petrol + 60kW/207Nm electric motor | continuously-variable transmission
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.4 l/100km | tested: 6.1 l/100km
But only 482 units of the Prius V have been sold this year to September 2015; that beats the Prius proper (354) but quite a bit less than Prius C (979). It’s also soundly beaten in its class by the larger Kia Carnival (2570) and Honda Odyssey (2167), if not the similarly sized Kia Rondo (173).
Aussies clearly like outright space more than space efficiency.
- Standard equipment: active cruise control, power windows and mirrors, keyless auto-entry, multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control air conditioning, leather seat trim with front heating, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, head-up display, automatic park assistance, rain-sensing wipers, panoramic fixed sunroof
- Infotainment: 6.1in touchscreen with USB/AUX, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, ToyotaLink app connectivity, digital radio, voice control and satellite navigation
- Cargo volume: 485 litres (5 seater), 180L (7 seater)
The revised Toyota Prius V feels more premium inside, with new soft-touch dashboard textures, piano-black trim and fresh colour displays giving the interior ambience a lift compared to the pre-facelift version.
Selecting the $44,490 Prius V i-Tech (as we’ve tested) boosts the feeling of expense, though it is expensive – a full $10K more than the standard version.
Despite the 'dollar premium', the Prius V i-Tech offers levels of equipment competitive with price-point rivals.
It impressively blends traditional luxury items (leather seat trim, panoramic sunroof) with new technology (active cruise control, auto park assistance, lane departure warning, forward collision alert, digital radio, head-up display).
As expected of a Toyota, all features are easy to use. Seat comfort up front is excellent, although storage space – especially the shallow centre console bin – is limited.
Second row legroom is a highlight. Each of the three passengers gets an individual (albeit narrow) bucket seat that independently reclines and slides forwards and backwards.
When the third row of seats aren’t in use, the three buckets can be pushed right back to deliver large sedan levels of legroom in addition to 485 litres of boot volume – competitive with most medium SUV five-seaters.
Pull the third row of seats up and boot space disappears, reduced to a paltry 180 litres as a consequence of the parking-friendly 4.65-metre body length of the Prius V.
The twin third-row seats are surprisingly comfortable, thickly padded and with a tilted base. It is possible for this 178cm-tall tester to find decent legroom if second row passengers sacrifice some of theirs.
The biggest black mark for the Prius V however is the lack of air-vents for both the second row and third row. On the upside, the curtain airbags stretch across all three rows when many competitors stop them short at the second.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine output and configuration: 73kW/142Nm 1.8 4cyl petrol + 60kW/207Nm electric motor
- Transmission type and driveline configuration: continuously-variable transmission, FWD
- Suspension type, front and rear: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brake type, front and rear: ventilated front and solid rear discs
- Steering type: electrically assisted mechanical steering
It has an EV button that prioritises silent electric running at carpark speeds and that’s fine. Stay away from the Eco button in the Toyota Prius V, however, which makes an already slightly underpowered people-mover decidedly sluggish.
Press the third and final Power button however and things liven up. Then, the 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor combination come alive to feel quite perky through the throttle.
But 'power’ is a relative term here; it is simply not what the Prius V is about. Even in its more potent driving mode, it can still achieve brilliant fuel consumption (6.1L/100km on test).
That said, the instant torque provided by the electric motor is a natural fit for the family haul, and the system works seamlessly to switch the petrol engine off when it isn’t needed, then back on when the pressure’s on.
What it can’t do is tow anything, so look to a diesel-fuelled Citroen Grand C4 Picasso or a large SUV if you need to haul even more.
Despite rolling on sensibly-sized 16-inch tyres and promising revised suspension, the facelifted Prius V isn’t the plushest bus around. It could be cushier around town, although it smooths out as speeds rise and remains controlled on a bumpy backroad.
Likewise the steering is vague in the first movements – noticeable when parking or changing lanes on the freeway – until more turn is applied through bends, where it feels direct and remains consistently mid-weighted.
In true Prius tradition, the handling is of the stable and planted variety without verve. If you’re seeking some spring in the step of your multi-seater for when the sproglets depart the car, other people-mover and SUV models are more enjoyable to drive.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 35.48 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Seven airbags including dual-front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee, ABS, ESC, front and rear parking sensors, reverse-view camera, lane-departure alert, pre-collision alert.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Grand C4 Picasso is lovely to drive and a six-year warranty goes some way to addressing reliability concerns. An Odyssey is a minivan for compact people-mover prices, but it is less refined than the Prius V. The under-rated Rondo is a fine pick, although the diesel engine has been dropped and only the sluggish petrol remains.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The facelifted Toyota Prius V feels more premium than before, at least in the loaded i-Tech grade. It remains impressively flexible, and on long trips the kids can stay fast asleep while you skip past service stations.
The Prius V however feels slow compared with the competition and its urban road manners aren’t as polished as they could be.
Some rivals – even SUV models – are both sportier and more comfortable, while many buyers will look at the tiny boot when all seats are in play then switch to a metal-for-the-money approach and purchase a bigger, bulkier rival.
Toyota’s hybrid people-mover will remain the smart choice for only some families, then – and that’s exactly what the sales figures show.