Toyota Prius v S-Tech 2012 Review

Toyota Prius v S-Tech 2012 Review

Whether it’s by happy accident or you’ve planned it, your four or more children put you in a small minority in New Zealand. Strictly speaking, having lots of children isn’t the most environmentally friendly thing you could do. Fortunately Toyota has created a seven-seat Prius v that will help atone your ecological transgressions.

Typically you’d choose an SUV, like a Toyota Land Cruiser or Holden Captiva 7, or a minivan to transport your kids. Universally, though, these will

slurp the fuel more enthusiastically than a lower-profile, lighter car, especially one like the Prius that has been designed for a low coefficient of drag that helps it achieve the sub-100g/km CO2 output that is so desirable in Europe.

The Prius offers similar practicality to a larger SUV or minivan through the use of a clever deep recess in the boot created by discarding the space saver spare wheel in favour of a can of foam and a small compressor. This extra space (which can be used with the lid on or off) is easily big enough for quite a large bag, or a couple of laptops, and still leaves room behind the third row of seats for other paraphernalia.

When the third row of seats is up, this recess in the floor has a clever space to store the boot blind/cargo blind – it’s the first time I’ve seen this done. Adults will find the third row of seats a little cramped, but the second row of seats has plenty of room. Folding the seats up and down is simple and doesn’t require any significant strength or dexterity.

Should you load the Prius to the max with seven people, the hybrid 1.8-litre motor struggles. The total output is 100kW (27kW from the electric motor and 73kW from the petrol motor). Even in Power mode this is inadequate, and it’s not astoundingly better when it’s just you driving and all other seats are empty. Sure, it helps you keep the fuel economy down to a theoretical 4.1l/100km (mine was more in the 6l/100km range), but your attempts to get any performance out of the Prius v will be met with loud moaning from the engine via its CVT gearbox.

Braking and coasting provides up to 60kW of recaptured power to help recharge the battery. The Prius v can travel on battery power alone for several kilometers and at speeds up to around 50kph. Toyota seems to have improved the brake pedal feel in the later Prius models. Any system that uses regenerative braking tends to feel a little wooden, but the Toyota’s had good feel.

This s-tech model is the middle of the range of three. The more expensive i-tech has a few extras such as synthetic leather heated seats, intelligent park assist, radar guided cruise control and radar pre-crash safety system. At 7 inches the touchscreen is also 0.9 inches bigger in the i-tech than the s-tech, and gets satellite navigation. So, you get quite a lot more for your $10,000 extra.

Over the base model (which starts at $50,990), the s-tech gets a panoramic sunroof, reversing camera, power seats, better steering wheel controls for aircon temperature, phone operation and audio operation, the aforementioned boot blind (called a tonneau cover in Toyota’s language), head-up display and smart key (which I somehow managed to turn off, necessitating Toyota to come out and reset it).

There’s no doubt that the Prius V is an extremely practical car, and I’ll disclose up front that I’m not the target market. As regards the Prius range, I loved the Prius c. If I had to, I could quite easily live with one even though it’s clearly aimed at women. The Prius c is nippy, comfortable, kind of cool in a hipster way.

The Prius v s-tech didn’t grab me. I drove it over 500km in the countryside, in the city, in the rain and sun and I only felt really at one with it either in stop-start traffic when the seamless electric/petrol combinations worked flawlessly, or on long flat stretches of motorway where I simply forgot which car I was driving.

While purchasing a car is often an emotional decision, perhaps the Prius v makes sense as an economic decision. Aside from the constant arguments about whether nickel mine tailings and other ecological consequences of having batteries are as bad as the equivalent extra diesel or petrol use in a non-hybrid, you will appreciate the frugal fuel use of the Prius v. If I was purchasing a car for four or five children there’s little else that really competes for the price, features and environmental sensibilities.

Price: $55,990

Pros

  • Versatile storage with practical boot even when using all 7 seats, plus twin glove box
  • Larger inside than it appears

Cons

  • Lethargic when loaded up
  • Engine loud under heavy acceleration

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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