It was more than a decade ago when the first Prius set its sights on the American soil. Since then, there has been no looking back. The Japanese manufacturer may be reeling under the pressure of having its earthquake struck plants back to normalcy however that hasn’t stopped it from launching the 2012 Toyota Prius V. This is actually an iteration of the 2011 Prius and infact is a station wagon concept based on the very successful Prius model. The Prius is the one harbinger for having cleaner but significantly fun to own vehicles. So when we got an invitation from Toyota to test drive the 2012 Toyota Prius V, we were all thumbs up for it. After all, who doesn’t want to own a style icon? Moreover its washing machine like handling is something which even a 12 years old bloke would scoff at. Infact it is one of the easiest machines to drive.
Carrying forward on the same Prius like styling but now with a more Honda Insight like face, this 2012 Toyota Prius V looks every inch a concept car. The fog lamps seem a bit hazy in their appearance and we immediately attributed it to the morning dew that was present at the time of the test drive. Like the Nissan Micra found in Asia, this one has got a knurlish lip masquerading as a grille. The Toyota badge has a background of blue color to it. The head lamps seem more wedged in and so do the indicators which are mounted in an industry first, just besides the fog lamps. While the lightning bolt shaped 17 inch alloys may not be the epitome in alloy wheel design, they definitely are eye catching and more attractive than their competition. From the side profile, the Prius V looks like the Toyota Kijang or Innova as it is called in the South East Asian regions. The small quarter glass at the rear is a good design element. A Prius special is always the ultra clear lens tail lamps and this 2012 Prius V is no different. The Kammback rear has been raised a bit in keeping with its station wagon image and hence the difference between the usual Prius and the V model is further highlighted. A single tail pipe unit makes it presence felt as part of the entire package. The rear spoiler lip is more on the aerodynamic sense and not for the aesthetic part. It reduces the drag coefficient and makes it one of the slipperiest cars in its class with a drag coefficient of .29 .
Inside, Toyota have put in leather surface which is faux in nature. The earlier upholstery section boasted of cowhide derived from real animals. Moreover the panoramic roof is a dual pane one with resin as the main substance. Not only does it help the solar gain reduction but also ensures that the overall weight of the Prius V is kept low and as far as possible by about 40 percent. The earlier Prius had a music system which used to utilize about 80 percent of the battery power. The new music system in the Prius V is the result of the collaboration between stereo giants JBL and Toyota. This new system has been also developed on the lines of keeping the Prius V’s overall weight as low as possible. However the addition of the tail or rather bigger boot has resulted in the steep increase in the overall weight of the Prius V by 232 pounds. But this weight gain and the subsequent length increase has liberated even more room in the already roomy Prius model. The highlight of this cabin is the set of individually reclining chairs. Yes, the chairs recline in all the directions and are manually adjustable. This adds to the convenience of passengers and those individuals lugging around goods in the name of utility. Knee room is also more in the front seats thanks to some innovative thinking by a Japanese designer who thought that having door panels which are concave in shape would liberate more space. Well, the designer couldn’t have been more wrong. Overall, the interiors feel closer to Lexus than Toyota. That said, there are a few plastics here and there which actually give away that this is a Toyota afterall. The stock music system also aligns itself with Entune, which is actually a new application for smartphones. Unfortunately, in a bid to cut costs, Toyota have put in the same center mounted fascia which actually isn’t helpful at all to the person that it is intended for – the driver of the car. The usual tell tale Prius things are present albeit in a darkened atmosphere and with some more added ones.
Most of the mechanical components have been shared by the regular Prius variant and hence the underwhelming driving experience has also being carried forward. However weren’t we in for a surprise when we actually took this Prius V for a drive. It not only ensures that the added weight is negated but installs some fun quotient in the drive. The accelerator is a wee bit more responsive than the regular Prius. Infact, you wouldn’t realize the extra weight at all. So that the Prius V owners can be encouraged for regular highway driving, Toyota have provided this model with a Bounce and Pitch control mechanism. This system monitors the irregularity of the road surface and accordingly arrests the oscillating motion by reducing the torque to that particular wheel. This makes the car utterly stable on the interstates.
The engine on the 2012 Toyota Prius V is shared with the base Prius and this means that the 1.8 liter engine is continued. Performance of this motor has been increased a bit due to some reworking being done in the water jackets surrounding the engine and this has resulted in the engine performing at its optimum temperature for longer times. Accordingly performance as also engine reliability have gone notches up. Inspite of competition moving ahead with Li ion batteries, Toyota seems it prudent to continue with the Nickel Hydride battery but with some increase in its peak output. The output has been bumped to 650 volts now. The battery pack has been relocated to further down the rear seat so that interior space isn’t affected. Moreover, the batteries can be cooled easily by the air sucker which is located next to the rear seats. Brake pedal feel left a lot to be desired, especially with the regeneration mechanism that it carries with it. Toyota has given an estimate of 0-60 mph time of 10.4 seconds however the Prius V feels a lot slower. There are 4 modes wherein which you can potter the car and those are Eco, EV, Normal and Power mode. The best one is EV wherein you can drive the car on the basis of only electric power while the one to go for performance is the Power mode. The EPA estimates say that the Prius V would return 44 mpg in the city whereas the highways would see it returning only 40 mpg. This figures are a tad lower than what the regular ones return but many would readily ignore this.
As far as the 2012 Toyota Prius V price is concerned, it is yet to be announced and Toyota will do it in the fall of this year.