Have you ever wondered what life would be like if one tiny thing in your world changed? For example, what if you earned more money? Or had a different name?
What if Toyota made a 7-seat version of its Prius V wagon?
We can’t tell you what life would be life with more money or a different name, but we can help you with the 7-seat Prius V bit.
Because it’s real. At least if you live in Europe or Japan. And it’s called the 2012 Prius Plus in Europe, or the Prius Alpha in Japan.
Same car, different idea
Outwardly, the 2012 Toyota Prius Plus is indistinguishable from the U.S. spec 2012 Toyota Prius V.
Look inside however, and there’s an extra row of seats squeezed in where the load bay should be.
The idea, Toyota says, is to offer MPV-mad Europeans and Japanese buyers the chance to buy a car that retains the excellent gas mileage of the original Prius, but also gives them the extra seats they need.
Powered by the same 98 horsepower 1.8-liter Atkinson cycle, 4-cylinder engine and 60-kilowatt motor found in the 2012 Toyota Prius V, there’s a total of 134 horsepower available to get you from 0 to 62 mph in 11.3 seconds.
Since it isn’t sold in the U.S., the 2012 Prius Plus doesn’t have official EPA gas mileage figures. While it varies in weight slightly from the 2012 Prius V, we’d guess it should easily manage the same 42 mpg combined of its U.S. cousin.
Like the 2012 Toyota Prius V, there’s the same instrument cluster, dual-zone climate controls and navigation system, while the middle row of seats benefit from fore and aft adjustment as well as the ability to recline.
It’s worth noting however, that the middle row of seats in the Prius Plus are individually adjustable with a 30:30:30 split, versus the Prius V’s 60:40 split.
This makes it possible to carry long items down the center of the car while still being able to carry passengers.
In order to squeeze an extra row of seats into the same 181.6 inch frame as the Prius V, Toyota’s engineers had to relocate the car’s traction battery pack.
But the nickel-metal hydride battery pack found in every non-plug-in Toyota Prius since the original sedan proved just too big to put anywhere else in the car, so Toyota engineers were left with one alternative: replace it with a lithium-ion battery
Repackaged, the Prius Plus’ smaller, 56-cell lithium-ion battery pack is some 17 pounds lighter than the V’s nickel-metal hydride pack, and fits in between the front two seats underneath the center console.
The result? A Prius that packs two extra seats but doesn’t loose the ability to carry large cargo when the rear seats are folded flat.
Admittedly, the center console only has a storage area big enough for a folded map or a few compact discs, but we feel the moved battery pack -- now mid-car -- results in improved road handling.