Drive – Toyota Prius V Review

8 Nov 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Drive – Toyota Prius V Review

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Pros

Sharp pricing

Frugal

Decent performance

Clever interior

Cons

Requires premium unleaded

Lifeless steering

Foot-operated park brake clunkly

No rear air vents

Boot useless with seven on board

Young families looking for four-wheeled space and versatility have been steadily migrating to the never-ending influx of compact SUVs, or four-wheel-drive lookalikes. But Toyota wants them to think again with its Prius V.

The V is a sibling to the world’s most popular hybrid car, the Prius, with the extra letter denoting versatility, thanks to a taller, more spacious body.

Price and equipment

It’s all about simplicity with the Prius V, which is a single model. For $35,990 you get airconditioning, cruise control, partial alloy wheels (there are plastic covers), head-up display, tinted rear windows and retractable sunblinds in the rear doors. There’s also a colour touchscreen and a detailed trip computer although, as with many hybrids, there’s no tachometer.

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Safety is high on the agenda, with a reversing camera and seatbelt indicators for all seven seats combining with the seven airbags and stability control.

Under the bonnet

It’s pure Prius beneath the bonnet, which translates to a 73kW 1.8-litre engine and 60kW electric motor that combine to produce a 100kW peak output. Claimed torque is a modest 142Nm but the reality is there’s plenty of muscle low in the rev range, making for respectable acceleration and easy manoeuvring around town.

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Even in eco mode, which dulls throttle response, the electric motor does an admirable job before relying on the engine.

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At slower speeds and when driving gently the Prius V relies solely on its electric motor, although it doesn’t take much of a squeeze of the accelerator to bring the petrol engine to life. It’s all fairly seamless and well co-ordinated so it drives like a regular car.

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In sport mode it’s more pronounced and a more enjoyable drive, although fuel use inches up. Toyota claims the hybrid uses 4.4 litres per 100 kilometres of fuel, but we found it used 6.0L/100km, which is still excellent, although the car calls for premium unleaded.

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Power is transmitted through a CVT (continuously variable transmission) auto, which means engine revs are matched to conditions. Again, it works well, although it can sound like it’s labouring up a hill even when it’s not.

How it drives

The V is anything but sporty on the road, with lifeless steering and a tendency to lean in corners, which dulls its senses and exposes its limited ability. That means it’s unlikely to raise the heart rate, but that’s not what it’s about.

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Think city streets and the school run, something at which the Prius V is adept. There’s a good view from the driver’s seat and the reversing camera helps with parking. The only around-town gripe is steering that starts to bind up if you quickly change direction – when parking, for example.

Oh, and the reversing beeper can be annoying.

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The V’s brakes can feel inconsistent and don’t initially react well in an emergency stop. There’s some firmness to the suspension that can be less than ideal on a second-rate road.

Comfort and practicality

A tall centre console gives the impression there will be a cavernous storage area underneath, but there’s only a shallow opening (that swings open towards the driver only). The rest of the space is taken up by batteries. Fortunately, there’s room for odds and ends further forward in uncovered consoles, while a second glovebox provides ample covered storage.

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The boot has a relatively high floor thanks to the seats folded below, but it’s a useful area with a retractable cargo blind, split-fold seats and sliding middle-row seats. The latter fold forward, creating a large, flat space.

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The luggage equation fails, however, if you want to carry seven people, leaving room only for some backpacks and the odd piece of sporting paraphernalia. Large rear doors make it easy to get in and out (not as practical in car parks) but the third row of twin seats that flip out of the floor is best left to the littlies.

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There’s a quasi-futuristic feel to the cabin via interesting materials and textures. Everything falls nicely to hand, too, with the main controls and functions high on the dash. The foot-operated handbrake feels out of place.

There are other whiffs of cost-cutting, although they are few and far between; the lack of rear air vents is one.

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The head-up display, while handy, borders on superfluous given the centrally mounted digital speedo is already close to the driver’s line of sight.

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