The 2013 Toyota Prius V wagon was the first expansion of the Prius hybrid line when it was added last year. That line now includes four separate models, but the Prius V is the one that current Prius owners may move up to if their families grow or if they need more space. As such, it's a smart addition to the Prius line--and instantly recognizable as a member of the family.
Toyota has used the standard Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain from the Prius liftback in an all-new five-door wagon body. Despite the strong family resemblance, it shares no body panels at all with the smaller car. Its tailgate is more vertical, and the tailgate window is a single piece of glass rather than the two-pane setup used in the original Prius. The Prius V wagon is taller, longer, and contains far more volume for people and cargo than its better-known sibling.
The 2013 Toyota Prius V is rated at 42 mpg combined, far higher than Toyota's only hybrid crossover, the Highlander Hybrid, and just 15 percent below the record 50-mpg rating of the class Prius hatchback. The most direct competitor to the Prius V is the new 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, which is slightly smaller inside, but more powerful, more fun to drive, and rated at 47 mpg combined--although drivers will have great trouble achieving real-world economy much above 37 to 39 mpg in the Ford.
Inside, the driver sits higher than in a Prius liftback. The new interior has familiar Prius cues--the high-mounted Multi-Information Display at the base of the windshield, for example, with its random array of icons, diagrams, readings, and symbols--but is considerably more practical than the stylish but annoying "flying buttress" design of the liftback. There's a center bin with an elbow rest, and lots of trays, cup holders, bins, and other storage compartments that families may quickly fill.
The feel, sound, and performance of its 98-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine will be familiar to Prius drivers, though the removed and vague driving feel may be new to first-time buyers. Unfortunately, the added weight of the larger wagon--about 300 pounds--makes the Prius V slow to accelerate when heavily loaded, especially on long hard uphill climbs or at high freeway speeds.
Drivers can pick from four drive modes--EV, for all-electric drive at low speeds; Eco, for better fuel economy; and Power, for those steep hills--as well as the default hybrid mode. The Power setting helps on those steep hills, somewhat, but the Eco mode is best used only in flat terrain and by drivers not surrounded by impatient horn-honkers.
With the rear seat folded down, the Prius V offers 67 cubic feet of cargo space. Most families will keep the seat up for kids, though, and because it slides back and forth, space in that configuration varies from 34 to 40 cubic feet. Not only does it fold down and split 60/40, as well as sliding fore and aft, it also reclines from 15 to 40 degrees--a rarity in wagons. Toyota is to be commended for keeping the load-floor space between the wheel wells at a wide 39 inches, making the cargo bay truly useful for a great variety of objects.
The Toyota Prius V comes with seven airbags, the usual array of electronic safety systems, and the ratings reflect that. While the NHTSA has not yet issued ratings for the Prius V, it's rated a Top Safety Pack by the IIHS, with the top score of Good on front, side, and roof-crush tests, and rear crash protection.
The base model of the Prius V range has fabric seats, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, and automatic climate control. The three trim levels are confusing named Two, Three, and Five, and the car starts at roughly $27,500 with delivery. Other features on the base Two model are keyless entry and an integrated backup camera that displays in the audio screen.
The mid-range model, the Prius V Three, adds audio controls, Bluetooth, and climate controls mounted in the steering wheel, plus voice-activated navigation on a 6.1-inch central touchscreen that includes display audio, along with Toyota's Entune cloud-based infotainment system. Finally, at the top of the price list (roughly $31,000), the Prius V Five adds fog lamps, a smart-key system, 17-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels, LED head lamps, and a six-way adjustable driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support plus a four-way adjustable front passenger seat. Each of those seats is heated and trimmed in SofTex fabric.
Only the Prius V Five lets buyers order the optional Advanced Technology Package. That bundle adds a panoramic moonroof with electric sunshades, dynamic radar cruise control, and an HDD navigation system. The package also comes with one free year of Toyota's Safety Connect system, including emergency and roadside assistance for drivers, location of stolen vehicles, and automatic notification of first responders if a collision triggers any airbag.
For more details, see the full review of the 2013 Toyota Prius V on our sister site, TheCarConnection.