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2012 Toyota Prius: GreenCarReports' Best Car To Buy 2012

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2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

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The late-night arguments are over, the statistical comparisons and product specs are put away, and we've made our choice.

The GreenCarReports Best Car To Buy Award for 2012 goes to a pair of cars: the 2012 Toyota Prius V wagon and the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid.

The two new 2012 entries together make up two-thirds of an expanded Prius hybrid range that we feel offers the best way for new-car buyers with a variety of different vehicle needs to drive green.

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

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2012 Prius V wagon

Judging from the regular stream of e-mails asking us when someone will make a hybrid minivan or wagon, Toyota should see a lot of interest in the 2012 Prius V wagon. It's taller, longer, and has far more load space--and a much more flexible rear seat--than the standard 2012 Prius hatchback.

It looks every inch a Prius, even though it shares not a single body panel with the hatchback, and the EPA rates it at 44 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, for a combined 42 mpg rating. That compares to the hatchback's 50-mpg combined rating.

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011

Enlarge Photo

And based on our the first drive review of the 2012 Toyota Prius V wagon, that 42 mpg figure is real--and can be replicated by real-world drivers.

That means that families with a couple of kids in car seats now have 34 to 40 cubic feet of load space behind the rear seat, or 67 cubic feet with the seat down. The rear seat of the Prius V also slides back and forth several inches, expanding and contracting the load bay as needed.

By comparison, the five-door hatchback Prius offers 22 cubic feet with the seat up.

We think the Prius V expands the Prius range in a very useful and practical way, making Toyota's iconic hybrid capable of doing more of what cars are made to do: haul people and stuff around.

2012 Prius Plug-In Hybrid

Absent the odd badge or graphic, you have to look very carefully at the 2012 Prius Plug-In Hybrid to know that it's any different from a standard Prius hatchback.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production model

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production model

Enlarge Photo

The best giveaway is the second round opening on the right-rear fender, which holds not a gasoline filler but a J-1772 socket for a standard 120-Volt or 240-Volt recharging cable.

And that's the key to the car: It's Toyota's first plug-in vehicle since the low-volume 2002 Toyota RAV4 EV, the last Toyota that drivers could recharge from the electric grid.

With the advent of the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt, the Prius Plug-In might be viewed as the worst of both worlds. The Leaf offers 70 to 100 miles of electric range and never uses a drop of gasoline, while the Volt offers 25 to 40 miles of electric range--enough for two-thirds of the car trips in the U.S.--and dispenses entirely with range anxiety.

So what does the 9-to-13-mile electric range of the Prius Plug-In Hybrid provide?

Least risky way to plug in

We think it will be viewed as the safest, least risky way for car buyers to experiment with plug-in vehicles. The production plug-in Prius carries an asset that neither the Volt nor the Leaf has: the Prius name, which for a decade now has stood for very high gas mileage and Toyota solidity.


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Comments (11)
  1. Voelcker lays out the argument for the new Prius models very well. Both the Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF have more of a FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) factor than the Prius models.

    While the plug-in Prius seems to be neither fish nor fowl, i.e. can't run on battery or ICE alone, at the end of the day, it is a Prius and provide the certainty that it will work.

    The Prius V will probably allow more of my well-heeled neighbors the option of stepping out of their SUVs and finally getting into an eco-friendly car that meets their needs and desires.

    Hopefully, the Prius C will win the 2013 awards but does it really have a chance against the Tesla Model S?
     
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  2. If 2011 was the year of the electric car, I think that 2012 will be the year that sees cars with a plug becoming cooler than SUVs. The V answers the space question and the Plug In will put a lot of electric miles on the road. Great choice!
     
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  3. Hard to argue with the Prius V here. I'm torn by the Prius plug-in, however, due to the almost-a-joke electric range, but I think it's a close call and I can't really complain.If it gets less fuel used, then it's a winner. Let's see where the Ford C-Max Energi coming out next year ends up, too. When does the RAV4 EV come out again, albeit in low volumes?
     
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  4. The Prius Plug in is a "Bait and Switch" tactic. It's not meant to sell. They want to sell regular Prius's. The Plug-in is meant to bring customers that are interested in a Plug-in car onto the Toyota dealership lots and then say, "Well, the Plug-in prius is almost $10,000 more than the regular prius.Therefor ALL Electric cars are too expensive. Let's just get a regular Prius."
     
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  5. CC: Pretty good on-camera job, John, but you need to get the gestures under control. Your voice sounds a bit froggy and annoying, and while I was listening I was hoping you would clear your throat. Next time, hire a real spokesmodel and your videos will positively shine. You could even call her "Carla Caprice."

    I agree with your choices, BTW. I wonder why Honda's offerings pale by comparison.
     
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  6. @Johnny: Yeah, agreed, the head-bobbing is something I need to work on. As for my voice, hey, that's what I've sounded like since I was about 16: froggy. But unless and until High Gear Media has the budget to "hire" anyone solely for on-camera work, I'm afraid I'm what you get ...
     
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  7. Nothing personal, John, and you actually did quite well for a non-actor. Put an ad on Craigslist for a spokesmodel to work for experience, and you might be surprised by the response. Here's one of my videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow2l0mANJ_8
     
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  8. Predictable result for a US car website I suppose.

    Good news for Bolivian Lithium manufacturers but maybe not their environment!
     
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  9. Lithium Battery Production Implications:

    "One of the most important concerns is about the potentially devastating impacts that lithium exploitation could have on the region’s environment, concerns that the Bolivian government is not treating nearly as seriously as it must.
    “Like any mining process, it is invasive, it scars the landscape, it destroys the water table and it pollutes the earth and the local wells. This isn’t a green solution - it’s not a solution at all.” – Guillermo Gonzales, Leader of the Chilean delegation to Salar De Uyuni to warn locals of the problems of lithium mining.
     
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  10. source: http://www.ifg.org/pdf/DClithiumfullreportenglish.pdf
     
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  11. We own a 2010 Prius . . . it's a great vehicle. The Prius V is an interesting product line extension but for the extra money, marginal additional space and it's lower fuel economy, just doesn't add up. Toyota would have been better off bringing a Synergy powered Sienna minivan to the market. Apparently there is such as vehicle available in Japan.

    The plug-in makes sense for smaller, commuter type vehicles such as the new Prius-C. The range on these plug-ins just doesn't seem to be worth the additional cost (at least at today's fuel prices).
     
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