Lackluster performance in today’s station wagon
Toyota’s Prius must be credited with changing the way that people think about cars. Honda tried to get a leg up in the United States by beating Toyota to the market here with the Insight, but Toyota Prius actually was the first hybrid sold publicly in Japan in 1997. Prius has come a long way in the last 15 years.
Prius started life as a relatively unattractive four-door.
The second generation took on the more familiar general tear drop shape that we know today. Toyota finally recognized that with the success of the Prius hatchback, perhaps they should broaden the line-up. So now Toyota will offer a family of Prii in various shapes and sizes, with a plug-in due in the spring. We had an opportunity to drive the Prius v recently. This is what we found.
The Prius v is an attractive station wagon variant of the original Prius hatchback. The obvious gain is more cargo capacity. The next question might be – why? Because with a combined EPA fuel economy of 42 miles per gallon with the Prius v, it offers significantly better fuel economy than pretty much anything else in the segment that will carry this much cargo. For example, the Ford Escape hybrid will not carry quite as much as the Prius while returning a less than stellar (comparatively speaking) 32 miles per gallon combined (two-wheel drive).
While we have no access to instrumentation for testing, we do have the seat of our pants. Based on this, we noted sluggish performance from the Prius v – which frankly surprised us. According to the spec sheet, the Prius v electric motor provides the same torque as the LEAF. We expected similar acceleration, perhaps even a bit better, as the Prius v uses a continuously variable transmission to accommodate the gasoline engine along with the electric motor. We expected this variable gearing to improve acceleration times. We were disappointed. It is not due to weight, as the Toyota is almost 100 pounds lighter than the LEAF. We can only surmise that the transmission mapping is optimized for fuel economy although this makes no real sense during a standing start when it should be fully electrical driven. No matter the cause – the Toyota will not light anyone’s fire with its casual takeoffs.
If you need more room for stuff than that offered by the hatch, the Prius v could be what you’re looking for. Room for five, and their luggage, along with 42 miles per gallon combined. If you can stand the sluggish performance the Prius v looks to be a reasonable choice.
Amazingly enough, one day after writing this article, we saw this driving around in our neighborhood: