2012 Toyota Prius V: Hybrid Wagon Drive Report

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2012 Toyota Prius V hybrid wagon, test drive in Catskill Mountains, Jan 2012

2012 Toyota Prius V hybrid wagon, test drive in Catskill Mountains, Jan 2012

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When you drive a wagon, you usually need the space.

And so it was with the 2012 Toyota Prius V, in which we hauled holiday gifts, heavy sagging boxes of old car magazines, furniture, and other life impedimentia over a 10-day, 650-mile test drive that spanned late December and early January.

It's a good hauler, with a more spacious rear seat and much larger load bay than the standard Prius five-door hatchback.

Rock-solid 40 mpg

And, to get the inevitable question out of the way, we averaged precisely 40.0 miles per gallon over the test period.

That's slightly lower than the EPA test figures, which are 44 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 42 mpg.

While that may appear notably lower than the 50-mpg combined rating for the hatchback Prius, assuming $4-per-gallon gasoline, the difference between the two cars would be only $15.25 every 1,000 miles. Moral of the story: It won't be a huge penalty to upsize to the Prius V wagon.

2012 Toyota Prius V hybrid wagon, test drive in Catskill Mountains, Jan 2012

2012 Toyota Prius V hybrid wagon, test drive in Catskill Mountains, Jan 2012

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Also, our route included quite a lot of hills and valleys throughout the rural parts of New York state, and more high-speed travel than around-town errand-running.

So we expected our mileage to be closer to the highway number than the combined figure--and it was.

Big loads, small power

We also loaded up the car with enough stuff over part of our run that it was noticeably slower in acceleration.

And that points out what's probably our major drawback with the Prius V hybrid wagon: Because it has the same powertrain as the hatchback, but is bigger and 300 pounds heavier, it feels slower and even less fun to drive.

MORE: 2012 Toyota Prius V Wagon: First Drive Review (May 2011)

The Prius V uses the same 98-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and Toyota Hybrid Synergy drive system as the hatchback, along with a very slightly reshaped nickel-metal-hydride battery pack mounted under the front of the load-deck floor.

That plus a pair of electric motor-generators creates an electronic continuously variable transmission that independently controls engine speed, engine and motor power delivery to the wheels, and regeneration to recharge the nickel-metal-hydride battery pack under the rear load deck.

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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That means the 2012 Prius V gets around town fine, but offers little extra margin of acceleration when, say, it's heading up 2 or 3 miles of steep, rural two-lane road with two adults and hundreds of pounds of cargo in the rear.

The Prius wagon maintained its speed, but even with accelerator pedal flat on the floor, there just wasn't anything more there. Not a single additional mile per hour.

So with a growing line of pickup trucks and other vehicles behind us, we wound up the hill at a steady 58 mph until the road leveled out and we could return to the speed-limit-plus-10-mph customs of the area.

As long as we're grumbling, let's get some other complaints out of the way:

  • Combining cruise control with "Eco" mode is dangerous on hills: The Prius V slows down notably, as much as 10 to 15 mph, utterly failing to maintain a steady speed.
  • The radar-based adaptive cruise control slows the car abruptly as it registers a vehicle ahead; other makers' systems are far smoother.
  • The Prius V is notably sensitive to sidewinds, though as a tall, slab-sided car, we're not all that surprised.
  • The foot-pedal parking brake is not only 1970s technology but whacked us on the shins a couple of times as we shifted position; oh, for an electric brake with a small console switch.
  • The seat-heater switches are almost impossible to find, located invisibly at the front of the flat console tray.

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Comments (2)
  1. Thanks for the test drive report. Always great to hear how vehicles are performing.

  2. Unless I'm missing something, it takes $80 (20 gallons) for the Prius and $100 (25 gallons) for the Prius V to get to 1K miles. $20 diff per thousand miles at $4/gallon and not $15.25, which frankly is kind of a strange way of suggesting mileage isn't a big financial factor. What if you wrote a driver, who benefits from a high-mpg car and averages 2k mi a month, would save nearly $500 a year in gas with the Prius? Somewhat noteworthy now.

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