More than a Prius and set to bolster a whole new family.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- July 14, 2011
2012 Toyota Prius v – The 42 mpgUS rated Prius for the family with the versatility to enjoy the sun, surf and even the open road.
Half Moon Bay, CA -- This quaint small Pacific Coast town is located just south of a legendary surfing location called the “Mavericks”, renowned for regularly producing some of the most monstrous and challenging walls of water anywhere in the world. After a strong winter storm in the northern Pacific, waves at the Mavericks can routinely crest at over 25 feet and top out at over 80 feet
The “Mavericks” was named after of one of the first individuals to ride the monster wave’s dog and is considered to be one of the most dangerous “Big Wave” surfing locations on the planet.
So what does the Mavericks and have in common with the all-new 2012 Prius v?
For one, there were a number of v prototypes that were presented to the automotive press just down the road from the monster breakers and two; there may be no better way to get your board and your buddies to the sun, the sand and the surf than from behind the wheel of a “v”
Toyota’s commitment to an ever expanding “Best in Class” fuel efficient lineup is again living up to the definition of Prius -- "to go before" -- that characterizes not just the Prius hatch we all know today but the entire upcoming Prius family we will come to know in the near future.
With over 20 years of commitment to the environment through hybrid technology R&D and now with over 1-million Prius' sold within the United States, Toyota is continuing its dominance of the truly “green” automotive marketplace with the imminent launch of the all-new Prius v.
Recall back to the first generation Prius US launch in late 2000 when auto critics the world over were skeptical that a new small car with advanced technology never before available to the average consumer was going to do anything but flop. After all, gas was less than $1.00 and the Hummer H2 was receiving “press” as meeting the needs of the average "American" consumer
In its original form, the diminutive Prius hybrid sedan sat on top of the US EPA’s sedan based fuel economy list and sold in numbers that were uninspiring. All that was about to change beginning in late 2003 with the launch of the much more refined, larger, more powerful, eye-catching and at the time, 55-mpg combined (46-mpg combined under the new 08 EPA ratings) second generation Prius.
In mid 2009, a new third generation Prius arrived with even more cargo capacity, improved safety, new features and yet another increase in its fuel economy rating.
With fuel prices rising in an almost stair step fashion through the first decade of the 21st century, the once maligned Prius and its hybrid drivetrain is now considered one of if not the most practical and reliable vehicles on the road today. Providing its owners a level of fuel economy that makes the weekly fill up almost painless even with gasoline costing close to $4.00 per gallon, is it any wonder why competitors are scrambling to release their own hybrids that even after a decade or more of development cannot touch the fuel efficiency of the "Gold Standard" named Prius?
The new Prius family begins with v
The Prius v is making its presence known with a new suspension and engine control technology called “Pitch and Bounce Control” that provides a better ride and improved handling.
The new technology entails a harmonization of the engine and new suspension tuning to reduce Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH). The system works with wheel-speed sensors and in tune with the suspension, helps suppress bounce and toss motions improving both ride and vehicle balance which improves handling.
2012 Prius v Buyer
Toyota expects the new v to reach an entirely new group of fuel efficient minded buyers and more than likely, not the same individuals that would be interested in the third generation Prius hatch as their own personal transportation solution.
Because the v’s interior cargo and passenger volume is more in line with that of a small cross-over or SUV, Toyota is targeting families that are currently considering those alternatives.
2012 Toyota Prius v Specifications
The 2012 Toyota Prius v will be available in three trim levels with one additional advanced technology option package. Complete specifications including standard and optional equipment can be found on the 2012 Toyota Prius v - Specifications
page. Pricing information is expected within the next 4 to 6-weeks.
Prius v Competitive Comparisons
Before we look at the new Prius v’s main rivals, let us consider how the Prius v grew by comparison to the third generation Prius on which its platform was based.
2012 Prius v vs. 2011 Prius
Overall length: +6.1 in
Overall Width: +1.2 in
Overall Height: +3.3 in.
Wheelbase: +3.1 in.
Headroom (Front/Rear): +1.3/+1.0 in.
Legroom (Front/Rear): -1.2/-0.1 in.
Shoulder Room (Front/Rear): -0.2/+2.1 in.
Hip Room (Front/Rear): +0.8/+2.3 in.
EPA Passenger Volume: +3.5 cu. ft.
EPA Cargo Volume: +12.7 cu. ft.
Curb Weight: +232 pounds
2012 Prius v vs. Main Competitors
2012 Prius v Exterior
|Year||Make||Model||Price||Passenger Volume (cu. ft.)||Cargo Volume (cu. ft.)||Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined - mpgUS)|
| || || || || || || |
|2011||Chevrolet||Equinox||$22,995 - $30,320||99.7||31.4||22/32/26|
|2011||Dodge||Journey||$22,245 - $31,945||99.5||39.6||19/26/22|
|2011||Ford||Escape Hybrid||$30,570 - $33,080||99.4||30.9||34/31/32|
|2012||Honda||CR-V||$21,895 - $28,845||103.8||35.7||21/28/24|
|2011||Hyundai||Tucson||$18,895 - $26,395||101.9||25.7||23/31/26|
|2012||Mazda||5||$19,195 - $23,875||97.7||27.5*||21/28/24|
| || || || || || || |
|2011||VW||Jetta Sportwagen TDI||$24,995 - $26,095||91.7||32.8||29/39/33|
* Mazda 5 - Third row seats folded down.
The Prius v takes on a familiar family resemblance to the current Prius but with a larger footprint and more traditional (read more horizontal) body lines. The hood incorporates two very subtle creases moving down and in from the top of the hood into the large Toyota emblem located on the front fascia. This highlight all but disappears depending on the angle and lighting.
2012 Prius v and 2011 Prius
The non-distinct single slat grille opening has a slight v shape angling upwards towards the large headlight lenses. And it is the headlight lenses where things get interesting.
The lenses were designed to reduce turbulence around the side view mirrors and include a number of small strakes that do exactly that.
The v’s front to center side profile is almost a duplicate of the regular Prius including the acute wedge shaped front cutout and straight edge “aerocorners” ahead of the front wheel wells to the A-Pillars and after the rear wheels at the rear corners. The familiar rounded roof edge continues to the top of the B-Pillar wherein the larger v’s roofline takes a decidedly less steep gradient to the rear hatch.
Due to the more upright minivan like hatch and rear window, sight lines out of the rear window have improved. In an attempt to recover the lost aerodynamics, Toyota incorporated another unique addition. Namely, the large rear spoiler has a much shallower center by comparison to the ends.
Weight Savings - The Prius v’s door panels are foam-injected with polypropylene and the deck board with light-weight urethane to produce a weight savings of approximately 20 percent. Additional weight reduction was also achieved through the use of high-strength steel surrounding the passenger cage and throughout the body to ensure a light, yet rigid structure.
2012 Prius v Interior
The Prius v’s central cluster has been improved over the current Prius with the addition of multi-color graphics for the Charge - Power, SoC, fuel consumption and clock display. The new iFCD is now numeric vs. the hard to resolve graph of the current Prius. Touch tracer has been removed.
Another improvement includes the rotation of both the volume/audio controls and temperature/Display/Trip steering wheel controls in which stereo volume is up down and temp control is up down vs. sideways on the current Prius.
New Prius v steering wheel control layout
Prius v on the left – Prius on the right
From a controls standpoint, displays are still located in the center of the dash but are easier to read. The new single climate control knob toggles between Temperature, Volume and Mode with a turn of the dial to adjust.
Upfront seating room feels similar to the current Prius but with a flatter and more comfortable contour. Standard power lumbar support also helps for the long road ahead.
Driver and Passenger Ergonomics
– While the drivers seating, steering wheel and pedal position are improved over the current generation Prius, the wheel reach is still a touch to long even with the telescopic wheel extended to its most outward position. Toyota needs to bring their Camry ergonomics team inside to setup the Prius family for North America perfectly.
Our standard F&R seating ergonomics pic… Another 1” extension on the wheel would have been perfect.
The non-leather wrapped, urethane steering wheel in the base v is rough on the hands and should not be allowed to reach the consumer.
The rear seats are where things get really interesting. They split in a 60/40 arrangement, they slide fore and aft as the front seats do, they fold allowing a maximum cargo volume of 67.3 cu. ft. and they recline from a 17 degree upright position to a 45 degree layback. With the seats slid fully back, there is plenty of rear seat legroom although the rear seats bottom cushions are still too short for full thigh support of larger passengers if they are going to live in the back for an extended period of time.
A Stereo/Radio today is not just a listening device but an Advanced rolling connectivity and entertainment solution. The 2012 Prius v will be equipped with Toyota’s most advanced offering with what it calls Entune.
The Prius v 2 incorporates a standard 6.1-inch touch screen audio system with integrated backup camera, AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, six speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity and control, vehicle information with customizable settings, hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology.
The Prius v 3 and 5 includes the same with the addition of Navigation and Entune, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, HD Radio with iTunes Tagging, advanced voice recognition, text to voice with programmed and customizable text responses, and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless.
- The Prius v will be one of the first Toyotas incorporating the brands new Entune multimedia system featuring a “Best in Class” advanced conversational voice recognition system that eliminates the need to memorize thousands of voice commands and reduces driver distraction. Other features include Bing search, iheartradio, MovieTickets.com, Open Table and Pandora, real-time info including traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports, stocks, and news. All Entune features are included in three years of access to Entune services.
The top-of-the-line and optional audio system arrives with a new seven-inch Premium HDD Navigation system with Entune and JBL. This system offers a new split-screen feature that allows for simultaneously displaying navigation and audio information and full iPod video integration.
The premium system adds the all-new Harman – JBL GreenEdge sound technology
that combines an eight-channel amplifier and door-mounted “acoustic lens” speakers, to provide a high-quality sound. The GreenEdge amplifier achieves a 66-percent reduction in overall mass and a 50-percent enhancement in sound efficiency.
2012 Prius v Drivetrain
The v uses the same drivetrain currently found in the Prius with some noteworthy additions.
The same 134 Net HP output (Engine and Hybrid drive combined) is standard with the v along with Toyota’s now famous Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD). And like the regular Prius, there is nothing that can touch a Prius v in the city. Out on the super slab, there are but a few vehicles rated higher and in all cases, they have significantly less cargo room than the mighty v.
The v is now equipped with an even more efficient uni-directional flowing Exhaust Heat Recirculation or Recovery system and is said to improve vehicle warm-up by one full minute over the current HER system! In addition, an improved cooled EGR is said to reduce pumping losses even further which increases efficiency and both MG1 and MG2 are now water jacketed for improved longevity. The previous setup has already proven itself so more must be better, right?
The v, just like the TCH and HiHy utilizes a planetary reduction gear. The final differential ratio has been increased from 3.268 to 3.703 improving acceleration for the larger, heavier and less aerodynamic platform. The v will do the 0 to 60 mph dance in 10.4 seconds according to Toyota’s own internal testing.
And just like the Prius, the v incorporates an Eco, Normal, EV and Power mode. Power mode increases throttle response for a given pedal application. EV mode is good for turning around in parking lots and such with a suitable SoC. In Eco driving mode, the throttle response is softened and the A/C consumes less energy at the expense of maximum cooling.
Finally, the NiMH pack cooling duct is now located under the rear seat vs. alongside the rear seat in the current Prius.
2012 Toyota Prius v Preview Drive Fuel Economy Results
I topped off one of the prototype Prius v 2’s in Half Moon Bay (Elevation 150’ ASL) and proceeded on a short drive up and over the ~ 800’ crest of the first mountain ridge. Heading southeast down the I-280 towards San Jose with a 5 to 10-mph headwind, there was some heavier rush hour traffic with maybe 5-miles of 25 to 45 mph sections. I continued a short distance north on I-680 to cover at least 50-miles for this short calibration fill. I was assured by the Japanese engineers that the v's aFCD would read a lot closer to actual then the infernal 10% over report that my parents 10 Prius displays at each and every fill up.
Stopping to refuel after 51.0 miles (Elevation 400’ ASL), the v consumed .766 gallons from top off to top off. The calculation revealed an excellent and better then expected 66.58 mpgUS actual vs. the Prius v’s 67.8 mpgUS display. I can accept a 1.8% over report although I would have liked to see none of course.
2012 Prius v Ride and Handling
Better than a Prius and better than a few competitive Crossovers I have driven in the past. It is not a vehicle to compete with the Lexus LF-A however. Similarly, a family of three to five would not to want to drive across the country in an LF-A either
The v is composed enough that driving the rising and falling switchbacks along the Pacific coast did not cause undue concern. The wider stance, longer wheelbase and more performance oriented 16 and 17” wheel and tire combinations surely helped. It handles very similar to the Prius package 5 with the 17” alloys in fact while having a softer ride over the rougher sections. Whether this was due to the pitch and bounce control or simply a larger underpinning with better tuned suspension is unknown. And does it really matter?
There was no opportunity to test its adhesion limits within an empty parking lot and given its mission as a premium family hauler, hopefully its owner will never experience that level of minimal traction. We will find out at our next opportunity just to make sure but like most Toyota automobiles, continuous improvement is always strived for and the v provides over and above the Prius just as the third gen Prius provided over and above the second gen and so on…
2012 Prius v Safety
Just like all Toyota’s and Lexus’ of late, a spotless safety image and superb real world protection has become the companies mantra since the Sudden Acceleration/Unintended Acceleration “Dog and Pony Show” the company was dragged through a few years back.
And just like all Toyota/Lexus models available today, the Prius v will feature Toyota’s Star Safety System which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA). It also features the standard Smart Stop Technology brake-override system.
An electronic tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is standard equipment, and there are seven airbags, front, side, side curtain and drivers side knee. A new driver and front-passenger seat design helps lessen the possibility of whiplash injury during certain types of collisions while minimizing weight. A new Vehicle Proximity Notification System helps alert pedestrians and cyclists of an oncoming vehicle under certain conditions by emitting a small warning sound.
An available Pre-Collision System (PCS) retracts seatbelts and applies the brakes in certain conditions when a frontal crash is unavoidable. It is paired with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
Another available safety system, Safety Connect, can access a call center with a live operator who can dispatch police and emergency vehicles. The system combines automatic collision notification and a stolen vehicle locator feature, which can track the location of the stolen vehicle via GPS and help guide police to recover it.
While the 2012 Prius v has not yet been tested by either the IIHS or NHTSA -- these were prototypes after all -– the regular Prius built after December 2010 has been awarded a “Top Safety Pick” by the IIHS and earned a 5-star crash test rating from the NHTSA. These two excellent crash test ratings for the platform on which the v is based bode well for it once it has been run though the crash test gambit.
2012 Prius v Preliminary Conclusions
The “v” for versatility has indeed fulfilled its niche as an environmentally friendly family hauler. Excellent fuel economy, good road manners, versatile interior configurations all coupled with room for a family makes a very compelling case vs. some of the competitors listed above. Add to it Toyota’s bullet proof reliability and as always high resale value, there had better be an awfully good reason to consider something else. Even when pitted against the smaller and lighter Prius, the v held its own from a fuel economy perspective and is far closer than the 20% lower EPA rating suggests. It felt more like a 10% hit at most and we are talking about the v competing against one of if not the most fuel efficient vehicle on the planet!
The few missteps I perceived are the urethane wheel on the v 2 and the plant-derived and carbon-neutral interior plastics. While the environmental statement of these plastics looms large, the feel and texture still feels cold, rough and harsh. The driver ergonomics are still just slightly off with a lengthy reach to the wheel and the C-Pillars decrease the rear corner -- blindspot -- sightlines. All 2010 – 2012 automobiles meeting the new Roof strength tests have been hindered somewhat with poor sightlines so it was not all that unexpected.
While the v’s HSD iteration still includes the noisy windup during heavy acceleration, it sounds more subdued thanks to improved sound insulation in the cabin’s construction. In addition, the road noise emanating from the rear hatch is much less noticeable than the current Prius.
From behind the wheel, the v provides a more comfortable large car ride than the standard every day Prius and a better view out the back.
The all-new Prius v is still set for an early fall US delivery
with more details forthcoming.
With the Japanese Yen’s strength what it is today, we are still wondering what the Prius v’s price will be? The v feels like a $2 to $3,000 more feature filled and substantial vehicle vs. the smaller platform from which it was designed. If the v – 2 is priced anywhere near $30K to start however, it will be relegated to low volume status just as some of the latest Lexus hybrid releases have been as of late. If priced right, there will be a lot of new Prius family members in the very near future which will benefit us all.
And of course surfers who need a fuel efficient ride while carrying their boards in search of the next giant wave will be praising the all-new v as well