2012 Toyota Prius V hybrid wagon, test drive in Catskill Mountains, Jan 2012Enlarge Photo
On the other hand, the 2012 Prius V had a number of surprisingly good features and attributes:
2012 Toyota Prius V launch press conference, 2011 Detroit Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
While it "looks like a Prius" and certainly drives like one, the Prius V wagon actually doesn't share a single body panel with the existing Prius hatchback. It's taller, wider, and has a longer wheelbase for better rear-seat room.
Its cargo volume with the rear seat up and pushed fully back is 34.3 cubic feet, or 40.2 cubic feet if you slide the rear seat as far forward as it will go. Folding down the seat back boosts cargo space to 67.3 cubic feet, according to the EPA.
Moving on up
In the end, the 2012 Toyota Prius V is likely to appeal to the growing number of Prius hatchback owners who like their cars, love their gas mileage, but need to move up to a larger and more capacious vehicle.
It's just one of several new models in the Prius line, including the 2012 Toyota Prius C compact hatchback and the Prius Plug-In Hybrid.
But given the frequency with which we're asked, "Why aren't there any hybrid minivans or wagons?" we think Toyota will likely sell every Prius V it can make.
We do wonder a bit about sticker shock, though. While a base 2012 Prius Two hatchback starts at $24,000, our Prius V test car had a steeper sticker price of $36,555, including a mandatory $760 delivery fee.
2012 Toyota Prius V station wagon, Half Moon Bay, CA, May 2011Enlarge Photo
That reflected a base price of $29,990 plus a whopping $5,580 for the Advanced Technology Package and a more reasonable $225 for a package of carpeted floor and trunk mats.
The Advanced Technology Package includes a panoramic moonroof, which we liked a lot, and an eight-speaker JBL AM-FM-XM-CD stereo system with HD Radio, a USB port, and advanced voice control via Bluetooth.
Its navigation system uses a 7-inch display screen and includes real-time traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports, and stock quotes, along with a 90-day SiriusXM satellite radio trial, and Toyota's Entune informatics service.
On the safety front, it packages a suite of electronic aids, including radar-based adaptive cruise control, an Advanced Parking Guidance system, a pre-collision system, and a backup camera that displays on the dash screen.
Three years of free Entune service are included free with the car. The package also includes Safety Connect, which packages roadside assistance, emergency and automatic collision notification, and stolen vehicle location, on a one-year trial basis.
But it seems likely that you won't be able to drive a Prius V wagon off the floor for much less than $32,000--perhaps $31,000 and change if you're lucky and find a low-spec model.
So we wonder: What cars exactly is the Prius V competing with, and how does its price stack up against those vehicles?