The primary reason why people buy wagons is for the extra load space on offer at the rear.
|TOYOTA PRIUS V I-TECH|
|POWER PLANT: 1.8-litre in-line Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder petrol engine, 73 kW at 5200 rpm, 142 Nm at 4000 rpm, combined with a 60 kW electric motor through Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system. Total output 100 kW power, 207 Nm torque.|
|RUNNING GEAR: Front-wheel drive. Continuously variable automatic transmission. MacPherson strut front suspension, torsion beam setup at the rear.|
|HOW BIG: Length 4615mm, width 1775mm, height 1600mm, wheelbase 2780mm.|
|HOW MUCH: $65,490.
|WHAT'S GOOD: Intelligent use of additional interior room, but ...|
|WHAT'S NOT: ... there's not much load space when all seats are in use.|
|OUR VERDICT: Nice addition to Toyota's very good hybrid fleet. But the price is high for what remains a medium-sized car.
That's why I have a slight problem with a new car to enter the Toyota vehicle fleet - the Prius V wagon.
Longer, wider and taller than a standard Prius, and with an extended wheelbase, it does have more interior room. But it also has three rows of seats - and when all those seats are in use there is a measly 180 litres of load space on offer.
Hardly what could be described as capacious. And even when the third row is folded down, the available load space increases to 485 litres, which is less than the amount of boot space offered by some medium-sized sedans on the market these days.
But it certainly is a versatile vehicle.
The V wagon might be just 135mm longer than a standard Prius hatch and with an 80mm longer wheelbase, but excellent interior design has given it 785mm more room inside, and that has allowed Toyota to introduce some interesting and user-friendly features for those aboard.
The second row of seats is a case in point.
It comprises three independent sliding, reclining and split-folding seats, which means all aboard can choose their own leg room, or the driver can fold down one, two or three of the seats for more cargo room if required. The back of the seats are made of durable plastic, too.
The Toyota designers have used the Prius V's increased roof height to make sure each row of seats is raised slightly above the one in front, which helps provide better forward visibility for all occupants. It's all good thinking.
Notice that I've gone eight paragraphs without mentioning that the Prius V is a hybrid?
That's because these days hybrid technology is considered a normal powertrain choice, just like diesel or petrol.
Worldwide sales of hybrids have now passed five million, and annual sales were close to 1.5 million last year and the figures are still on the rise.
What this tells us is that while brand-new technology such as hydrogen power will be the way of the future - and is being developed by most of the major vehicle manufacturers - in the meantime, the way forward regarding reduced fuel consumption and exhaust emissions is to make the very best use of the standard internal combustion engine, including matching it up with electric power.
In the case of the Prius V, the vehicle has the latest generation of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain, which combines a 1.8-litre Atkinson Cycle petrol engine with a 60 kW electric motor for a combined system output of 100 kW.
Average fuel economy is 4.1 L/100 km, and the emissions are an average of 99 grams of CO2 per kilometre.
Newly designed from the ground up - to the extent it does not share any sheet metal with the standard Prius - it is able to have the three rows of seats because a highly compact lithium-ion battery pack has been placed under the centre console between the front seats.
This location does mean there is only a very small amount of storage space in that centre console, but there is plenty of minor storage elsewhere, including in a double-compartment glovebox.
Prius V is available in three levels of specification - a $50,990 Prius V, $55,490 s-Tech, and a top $65,490 i-Tech.
I've been driving the i-Tech, which is the most expensive of any Prius in New Zealand. But, for the money, the buyer gets satellite navigation with a seven-inch touch-screen display, premium audio, synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, automatic LED headlights, a pre-crash system with dynamic radar cruise control, and an intelligent park assist system.
That's over and above the equipment aboard all the V-range vehicles, which includes automatic air conditioning, leather-accented steering wheel, the usual hybrid energy use monitor, keyless entry and start, electric power steering, daytime running lights, rear spoiler, and rear privacy glass.
It all adds up to a new Prius that can add versatility to the list of good things about hybrid motoring.
- © Fairfax NZ News