2012 Toyota Prius v Review and Prices

Last Updated: May 27, 2011

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2012 Toyota Prius v Buying Advice

The 2012 Toyota Prius v is the best hybrid station wagon for you if you need 67 cubic feet of cargo volume and want 42 mpg.

The 2012 Toyota Prius v is an elongated version of the Toyota Prius hatchback, adding 50 percent more cargo space and additional rear-seat leg room, but at the cost of a few miles per gallon. To create the 2012 Prius v, Toyota adds 3.1 inches of wheelbase to the Prius hatchback, stretches the rear roofline some 6 inches, and tacks on the v for “versatility.” It keeps the regular Prius’s 134-horsepower gas/electric hybrid powertrain and virtually all of its other convenience and tech features.

Should you wait for the 2012 Toyota Prius v? Wait for the 2012 Prius hatchback – or buy a 2011 Prius, for that matter -- if you don’t need the additional interior room; the regular Prius is a pretty spacious car and the basic version won’t change for model-year 2012. Waiting for the 2012 Prius hatchback will line you up to consider the plug-in variant being introduced to the model line, however. Wait for the 2012 Prius v if you crave a fuel-sipping wagon and don’t fancy the similarly sized gas/electric wagons due from Ford in 2012 as the C-Max Hybrid and the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid.

2012 Toyota Prius v Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Toyota Prius v wagon retains all the styling cues and general silhouette of the Prius hatchback but alters them just enough to fit over the longer wheelbase and accommodate that extra interior room. The Prius v weighs about 230 pounds more than the Prius hatchback.

Visually, the 2012 Prius v has a slightly more aggressive upper grille and headlamp shape than the Prius hatchback, a difference complimented by a lower front air intake that’s larger and holds inset  fog lamps. The Prius v’s extra 3.3 inches of overall height is most evident from the rear where the wagon takes on minivan airs with a tailgate more vertical than the hatchback’s sloped rump. The Prius v’s tailgate is bordered by taillamps more slender and intricate than the hatchback’s and is topped by a small roof spoiler designed to smooth air flow to benefit fuel economy.

Both body styles accommodate five passengers on two rows of seats, but the Prius v’s larger dimensions are obvious. In addition to its taller roofline, the front and rear axles are 3.1 inches further apart, a wheelbase stretch that contributes to more rear leg room. And it’s 1.2 inches wider overall, for more cabin width.

Toyota says the Prius v is designed to extend the Prius concept to active young families. To that end, it puts the wagon’s rear seat on tracks that allow it to slide fore and aft for easier ingress and egress and rear-storage flexibility. It allows the front passenger seatback to fold forward to accommodate long objects. And it fits the rear backrest with hinges that allow a 45-degree recline for greater comfort.

Toyota proudly notes that the Prius hatchback has compact-car exterior measurements but has cabin volume typical of a midsize-class car. The 2012 Prius v is a noticeable 6.1 inches longer bumper-to-bumper than the Prius hatchback and boats significantly more cargo space; Toyota says it’s the most spacious dedicated hybrid vehicle on the market: 34.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, compared to the hatchback’s 21.4 cubic feet. Slide the 60/40 split rear seats forward and there’s 40.4 cubic feet of storage between the seatbacks and the tailgate. With the rear seatbacks folded, the 2012 Prius v makes available 67.3 cubic feet. That’s as much as in some midsize SUVs, and more than available in the Chevrolet Equinox crossover. The Prius v also has a network of cargo-bay storage units built into the sides and beneath the floor; these include one dedicated to umbrellas.   

Compared to the Prius hatchback, the 2012 Prius v has a dashboard design similar in concept but different in execution. Both use the same steering wheel and concentrate the main gauges not directly in front of the driver but in a display high in the center of the instrument panel. The Prius v’s gearshift sprouts, minivanlike, from the base of the dashboard just right of the steering wheel rather than mounting, carlike, on the center console, as in the Prius hatchback.

And rather than canting the panel that holds the main audio and climate controls toward the driver to create a cockpit-like environment, the Prius v locates these controls on a flat central dashboard surface. It’s another minivan technique that invites the front passenger to participate in their adjustment.

While the 2012 Prius hatchback lineup is expected to return with four models escalating in features and price, the 2012 Prius v launches in three available levels of trim and starts slightly upstream of the hatchback in terms of standard equipment. Toyota calls the base model the 2012 Prius v Two and the upper line versions the 2012 Prius v Three and the 2012 Prius v Five.

Mechanical: The 2012 Toyota Prius v shares the standard Prius powertrain though it has a suspension tweaked to account for its added weight and cargo capacity. As in the Prius hatchback, Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system drives the front wheels with a combination of gasoline and electric power. It can draw on either power source individually or both in combination, automatically mixing and matching to balance the requirements of acceleration with the objective of conserving fuel. The gas engine is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder. It teams with two small electric motors that draw power from onboard nickel-metal hydride batteries. Combined output is 134 horsepower.

Battery charge permitting, the Prius v is capable of moving at around-town speeds on electric power alone. It can further save gas by automatically shutting off the engine while the car is stopped; it restarts when the driver depresses the accelerator pedal. Hybrid Synergy Drive uses the engine and regenerative braking to recharge the onboard nickel-metal hydride battery pack. The system self-charges via the gas engine and by recapturing energy expended in braking and deceleration. There’s no plug-in capability and range is determined principally by how much gas is in the tank.

(Note that Toyota will add to the 2012 Prius lineup a hatchback model that employs plug-in hybrid technology that taps the energy grid for an initial battery charge. Called appropriately enough the 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid, it’ll expand Hybrid Synergy Drive technology via a lithium-ion battery that enables pure-electric operation at higher speeds and for longer distances than the conventional Prius hybrid. Toyota says a full charge from a household-type 120-volt connector takes approximately three hours and gives the Prius Plug-in an electric-only range of approximately 13 miles with a top speed of around 60 mph. For longer distances, the Prius Plug-in operates like a regular Prius.)

Hybrids that can run silently on electricity alone have been the subject of pedestrian-safety advocates. Federal regulations were approved in January 2011 require that such hybrids and full-electric vehicles produce an audible warning of their approach. The regulations won’t actually take effect for three to five years, but the 2012 Prius v includes a Vehicle Proximity Notification system that helps alert pedestrians and cyclists under certain conditions by emitting a small warning sound.  
As with the regular Prius hatchback, the 2012 Prius v uses a continuously variable transmission, or CVT. This type of transmission performs the duties of an automatic transmission but is designed to more efficiently balance acceleration and fuel efficiency. It does this by continuously adjusting the transfer of power through a belt-and-pulley arrangement rather than through a group of preset gear ratios.

Also like the regular Prius, the Prius v’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system includes four driving modes: normal for balanced performance and fuel economy; power to accentuate acceleration; Eco (Economy) to tamp down throttle response and maximum fuel economy; and EV (Electric Vehicle) to lock in electric-only propulsion at low speeds, battery charge permitting.   

Besides modifications to accommodate its extra mass and to sharpen steering response, the 2012 Prius v debuts a new suspension feature Toyota calls Pitch and Bounce Control. It’s designed to improve both ride and handling by automatically adjusting the car’s balance and posture on the road. Standard wheel size for the 2012 Prius v Two and Three models is 16 inches – 1 inch larger than the standard for the Prius hatchback, though 17- inch wheels are available on upper-trim versions of both cars. In the Prius v’s case, the 17s are exclusive standards for the Five model.     

Features: The 2012 Prius v features generally follow the Prius hatchback equipment ladder while at the same time offering a few convenience and technology items previously unavailable on any Prius.

Shared with the Prius hatchback are such 2012 Prius v standard features as remote keyless entry with pushbutton ignition. Other standard features common to both Prius versions include a tilt/telescope steering wheel whose spokes hold controls for audio, climate, and the multi-information display.

Automatic climate control, heated power mirrors, power windows, doors, and locks, and a manual adjustable-height driver’s seat also are standard on the 2012 Prius v. Same for Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity, improved on the Prius v by addition of an automatic phone-book transfer function. Included as well is a USB interface for iPods and other digital music and video devices.

The 2012 Prius v Two model comes with a 6.1-inch dashboard screen that displays the car’s standard multi-information display, which can illustrate gas-electric power flow in real time, plus fuel-consumption history, average fuel economy, distance to empty, average speed, and trip distance. The screen also displays the Prius v’s standard rearview backup camera.

The 2012 Prius v Three model upgrades by including among its standard equipment what Toyota calls a “value-driven” navigation system, meaning one that employs the 6.1-inch dashboard screen as a basic touchscreen control and concentrations on the most frequently used functions.

The 2012 Prius v Three and Five models also are among the first Toyotas with the company’s Entune multimedia system. This integrates the owner’s smartphone as part of the vehicle’s infotainment capabilities and also enables audio read-back of text messages, with the ability to respond via a catalog of pre-set “Quick Reply Messages.”

Entune includes HD Radio with iTunes tagging for future purchase; XM radio, weather, sports, stocks and local fuel pricing; Bluetooth hands-free phone and wireless audio; and full iPod integration of music and video via Bluetooth or USB interface. Toyota touts Entune advanced conversational voice recognition system, which it says eliminates the need to memorize thousands of voice commands and helps reduce driver distraction. Leveraging the mobile phone, Entunes includes support for engaging mobile apps, such as Bing, OpenTable, and movietickets.com. Among music options are iheartradio stations, Pandora personalized music. It can also access live weather and traffic data, the location and pricing of nearby gas stations, as well as stocks, news, and sports.

Available on the 2012 Prius v Five model is a premium Navigation Package that offers control via voice or a new 7-inch touchscreen. The system has a new split-screen feature that allows simultaneous display of navigation and audio-source information. And it upgrades the audio the new JBL GreenEdge system with special high-efficiency speakers and an 8-channel amplifier said to achieve a 66-percent reduction in overall mass versus a comparable system.   

The Prius hatchback offers a Solar Roof Package that embeds solar panels in a power sliding glass moonroof. They power a circulation fan while the car is parked, thereby reducing gas-chugging cool-down loads on the air conditioner. The 2012 Prius v does not offer the Solar Roof, but the 2012 Five model is the first Toyota available with a resin Panoramic View moonroof. Equipped with power retractable sun shades, the Panoramic View moonroof is designed to give the cabin an open atmosphere but with a 40-percent reduction in weight compared to a similarly sized conventional glass moonroof.    

Exclusive to the Five model in the 2012 Prius v lineup is the Advance Technology Package. This option bundles the premium Navigation Package with the Panoramic View roof;  Dynamic Cruise Control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, Advanced Parking Guidance System to automatically back Prius into a parallel parking space, and Pre-Collision to cinch seatbelts and pre-apply the brakes when a crash is imminent.

2012 Toyota Prius v Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Toyota Prius v were not announced in time for this review. However, based on the price of the Prius hatchback, expect a 2012 Prius v base-price range of roughly $27,000-$33,000. (All estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee; Toyota’s destination fee for the 2011 Prius was $760. Toyotas sold in some Southeastern and Gulf states may carry different destination fees.)

With the 2012 Prius v Two starting at an estimated $27,000, expect a base price of around $29,500 for Prius v Three, which will include all the Two equipment, plus the basic navigation system and Entunes, as well as a steering wheel expanded with controls to voice-activate the nav system.

Figure $33,000 or so as the base price for the top-of-the-line 2012 Prius v Five. In addition to the 17-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels and the equipment noted in the Features section above, the Prius v Five comes with heated front seats with armrests and upgraded upholstery and power adjustment, including lumbar, for the driver’s seat. It also has energy-conserving LED headlamps with automatic leveling, fog lamps, and an automatic-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink garage and gate transceiver.

If Toyota hews to the policy it employs with the Prius hatchback, the Prius v Five’s Advanced Technology Package will retail for around $5,100.

2012 Toyota Prius v Fuel Economy back to top

That extra rear legroom and SUV-rivaling cargo volume costs the 2012 Toyota Prius v at the pump – at least in comparison with the smaller, lighter Prius hatchback. That’s a high standard, of course: the Prius hatch is the most fuel-efficient conventional gas-electric hybrid in America with EPA ratings of 51/48 mpg city/highway and 50 mpg combined.

The 2012 Prius v is rated at 44/40 mpg and 42 mpg combined. Given its generous interior room, there’s nothing that comes close for gas mileage. The Lexus CT 200h hybrid is rated 43/40/42 city/highway/combined, but it’s a compact-size luxury hatchback, and the Ford Fusion Hybrid is rated 41/36/39, but it’s a midsize four-door sedan with a conventional trunk.

The Prius uses 87-octane gas.

2012 Toyota Prius v Release Date back to top

The 2012 Toyota Prius will go on sale in autumn 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Toyota Prius v back to top

The 2012 Prius v represents the first step in Toyota’s plan to expand the Prius line into a family of vehicles. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid is due in showrooms in selected states during the first half of 2012. About the same time, Toyota plans to introduce a smaller hatchback tentatively labeled the Prius c, with c representing the car’s city-centric focus. Shown in concept form at auto shows, the Prius c is a sportier take on the Prius theme, with a huskier stance and exaggerated styling themes that include headlamps mounted fairly far back on the tops of the front fenders.  It’ll target young singles and couples looking for a lower hybrid price point and entertaining road manners.  

Some of the design touches seen on the 2012 Prius v, such as the larger front air intake and perhaps some larger, brighter instrumentation, could preview revisions expected when the Prius hatchback gets its next facelift, probably for model-year 2013.

But the big advance for the Prius v would be availability of plug-in technology. Toyota has established itself as the world’s hybrid leader – Prius is by far the best-selling gas-electric car in history – and plug-in capability would help it defend that position as other automakers come on line with Prius v-sized rivals that feature the technology.

2012 Toyota Prius v Competition back to top

Ford C-Max: Ford continues to stir things up with the model-year 2012 introduction of this mini-minivan based on the European-based structure of the widely praised Focus compact car. The C-Max has a tiny third-row seat that the Prius v lacks but is otherwise a close match for exterior and interior dimensions. Mainstream C-Max models will use four-cylinder gas engines (including a sporty turbo), but Ford also will offer the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid and the C-Max conventional gas-electric hybrid. It says the former will have a 500-mile range using the batter and engine – more than any other plug-in or pure-electric vehicle. The C-Max Hybrid will use an advanced version of the gas-electric powertrain in the current Ford Fusion that Ford says will beat the sedan’s 41-mpg city-driving rating and allow the mini-minivan to exceed 47 mph on electric power. Ford says the C-Max Energi and C-Max Hybrid will go on sale during 2012. While the gas-only C-Max is expected to start around $20,000, expect prices for the Energi and Hybrid to begin around $30,000

Mazda 5: Similar in size and pricing, the Prius v and the C-Max Energi and Hybrid represent pioneers in a new niche of alternative-powertrain compact wagons. Others are almost certain to follow, but one alternative available now is the Mazda 5. It’s purely a gas-only model, but seats seven in a package that falls within inches of the Prius v and C-Max for exterior and interior dimensions. The only engine is a wholly conventional 2.5-liter four-cylinder that should remain rated at a modest 157 horsepower for model-year 2012. Fuel economy won’t match the hybrids, but it’s a not-unpleasant 21/28 mpg with either the six-speed manual transmission or the six-speed automatic. A model-year 2011 freshening gave the Mazda 5 a new body every bit as futuristic-looking as the Prius v and C-Max, with the added distinction of rear doors that slide rather than swing open, as on the Toyota and Ford. The Mazda 5 is downright fun to drive, given its modest power, and best of all, starts at $20,000 with manual transmission and at $21,000 with the automatic.