Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, it seems like almost every third car on the road is a hybrid of some type, and of those hybrids, a huge majority of those are Toyota Prius’s. Californians are obsessed with the environment and with driving and many times, the two don’t really go hand-in-hand. About 10+ years ago, before gas prices truly skyrocketed, a majority of the automobiles on the road seemed to be huge SUVs and minivans. Now it seems that people have downsized in favor of crossovers and non-gas guzzlers. The Toyota Prius definitely set the mark quite a few years ago. I almost liken it to how Apple “cornered” the market with the iPad. Now, there is a lot of competition out there, but it seems like the most popular hybrid remains the Toyota Prius.
While both of my parents have Prius’s, I hadn’t had the chance to truly experience the Prius for an extended period of time. I was able to spend about a week with the 2012 Toyota Prius V and now really understand and appreciate why they are so popular. And, I didn’t test drive just any Prius, this was the Prius V which is the largest model out there.
When you think of a Prius, the first thing you think of is economical from a gas standpoint. You pretty much never think about how big it actually is inside. The Prius V has the signature “Prius” look to it – almost like an aerodynamic claw talon. The V is no different other than it is longer and almost has a legroom capacity of a small limo.
There is plenty of room to stretch your legs, especially if you are a back seat rider. And to further convey the spacious and openness of the cabin, there are dual moonroofs (which don’t open, by the way).
Not to get sidetracked, but the moonroof has some interesting technology as well built into it. If you lock your car and the moonroof shades are still open, the Prius will automatically close the shade in order to keep the cabin cool while you are away. This means that when you return to a potentially hot car, you don’t have to use the air conditioning as long to cool the cabin. It’s a nice little touch.
Before I go into some of the other features of the Prius V, watch my review below (also available directly on YouTube here) as I go through many of the features and some of the car tech of the Prius V.
Let’s talk a bit about the main technology driving the Prius V; it’s not about the tech in the interior, it’s about the tech under the hood. The Prius is a true hybrid, using an electric motor primarily around the city and in stop-and-go traffic, and then kicking over to the gas powered engine when extreme acceleration, hill climbing or freeway driving is needed. When you look at a typical car, the highway mileage typically is higher than the city mileage. The opposite is true with the Prius V which boasts a stellar 44 MPG City and 40 MPG Highway for a combined MPG of 42. We drove several hundred miles and didn’t need to fill up the tank, it was pretty amazing.
The engine is a 1.8 liter 16-valve DOHC and is powered by Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system like the other Prius’s. It produces 98 HP @ 5200 RPM (combined electric and gas motors). The battery is a sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) and the electric motor produces about 36 HP. The gas engine produces 80 HP. The Prius is a Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (SULEV).
Let me note something important here. There are many cars on the market that are marked as hybrids. Most of those don’t get the gas mileage of the Prius. What those do have though is a bit more power and acceleration than the Prius. If you are looking for a car that gets off of the line fast or can rocket up a hill, the Prius might not be for you. Honestly, it doesn’t get your adrenaline going (until you see the gas mileage). As the Prius V is a bit larger than other Prius’s, it is pulling a bit more weight and thus becomes a bit slower off the line. The way that it (sort of) compensates is by having different controllable drive styles. As the driver, you can choose 3 driving modes: EV, Eco and PWR. EV mode is purely electric motor driven (note, you need to have a full battery and just plan on driving around at slower speeds like in the city). Most people will use the default “Eco” mode which balances out the powertrain between the battery and gas engines. Lastly, if you do indeed need to boost the power output like when you go up a hill or need to accelerate onto the freeway, you click the PWR button and the gas engines provides some additional ooomph to your drive.
But what about the rest of the vehicle? We know that the engine works well and it’s tried and true in terms of great gas mileage. And I mentioned the roominess of the cabin. There is also a lot of cargo space in the back. As a hatchback with foldable rear seats, if you really want to load up the back, you truly can. Oh, and a nice little feature of the rear seats is that they do recline a bit for extra comfort.
There are other nice little add-ons. One of my daughters discovered an interestingly-placed front passenger cup holder, for example. You can find it immediately to the right of the dual (yes, that’s right, dual) glove compartments.
So what about the car tech? I have mixed feelings about this area. The model that I drove was pretty much topped out with every option including adaptive cruise control, touchscreen controls, navigation, JBL satellite radio, parking guidance, voice commands, heated seats, you name it. This model has an MSRP of $29,990 and the model I test drove retails for $36,692 (your state may have some energy incentives so be sure to check). There were, however, some inconsistency between the 3 main information areas: speedometer, touchscreen controls and climate controls. I feel that each of these three areas feel a bit pieced together, almost like depending on the option, they install a new component. The fonts of the readouts, for example are a bit different and even the colors seem vary slightly. It could be just me but I feel that it is time for Toyota to revamp the entire displays a bit and modernize them. But, the tech seems to work and do its job.
The Climate Control is easy to use. You use the main jog wheel to adjust fans speed or temperature and you click the wheel left or right to choose the setting you want to control. The touch-screen was equally easy to use. I did, however, find the navigation of the multimedia choices, especially controlling the satellite radio to be very cumbersome and confusing, especially compared to other manufacturers. This too is an area that I hope that Toyota will work on in future models (see the video above for more details).
Another item that I called out in my video review above is for first-time Prius drivers. It simply is not intuitive. You really should have someone show you how to start and park and change gears. Once you get it though, it’s easy enough to use.
Overall, I do recommend the 2012 Toyota Prius V, especially if you want a spacious and roomy, 5-passenger, gas-sipping and economical vehicle. Sure, the price point is a bit higher than non-hybrid cars, but you save both at the pump as well as keep your conscience clean knowing that you are not consuming as many dead dinosaurs and as well as keeping the air clean. This is a great vehicle for families, especially since you can really load it up with cargo and have ample leg room even for those tall passengers.
Disclosure Text: Apart from the 7-day loan of the 2012 Toyota Prius V, I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein. More information can be found in my About page as well as here.
HTD says: If your looking for a roomy hybrid, the Toyota Prius V should be at the top of your list.