2015 Toyota Prius V Four Review
Enough white bread for the whole family.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: June 18th, 2015
We get it; the Toyota Prius isn't the most exciting car on the market. Hell, it's not even in the top half. But that doesn't make it a bad car, nor does it make it a car that people shouldn't buy. In fact, there's a gargantuan market out there for the Prius; some folks just want a Point-A-to-Point-B appliance that's halfway reliable and won't require a second mortgage's worth of fuel costs. In that arena, the Prius shines; it's a no-nonsense car, designed to get you wherever you're going and back using as little gasoline as possible.
But what if you have a bigger family, or what if you just have a lot of crap you need to move around? That's where the Prius V comes in. It's the largest Prius in the lineup, slotting in above the garden-variety Prius, which is larger than the diminutive Prius C. The V is more like a wagon than anything; it's taller and longer, with ample rear storage and comfortable seating for five.
For 2015, the V was gussied up with a facelift, bringing its looks in line with the Yaris and other new-this-year Toyota vehicles (including a refreshed Prius C). There's also a new 4.2-inch TFT screen that sits atop the dashboard centerline, next to the speedometer. 2015 brings a bit of technology into the mix, but we think that buyers will be more in tune with the things that have made the Prius V great since its inception - passenger space, cargo capacity, and fuel economy.
To show just how out-of-sight, out-of-mind the whole "driving experience" thing is to Prius owners, you'll notice that there are no gauges directly in front of the steering wheel. Everything's loaded into the center stack, above the infotainment system. You can get in it and go to work without once looking at the speedometer.
Another weird Prius staple is the shifter, which is like no other shifter on the market. Park is accessed by a button, and everything else is done by flicking the blue lever that always recoils to a standard position. It takes some getting used to, but once you've got it down, it's as easy as any other shifter on the market. It's just one of those quirky-for-the-sake-of-being-quirky things, although we wonder if the car would pull in some extra buyers with a more traditional layout.
Otherwise, the Prius V's cabin is a great place to spend several hours, as your author did on a trip from Chicago to Detroit and back again. The seats were comfortable, and not once did a muscle cry out for help on our five-hour trip out east. Storage space abounds in this car, with deep map pockets, an additional compartment above the glovebox, and that gargantuan center console with a massive trough just in front of it. The rear seats don't have as many places to stow your wares, but they do recline, which was nice.
We also enjoyed the ample visibility on all sides. Thanks to some high glass all around, the Prius V has very small blind spots, and the raised roof does wonders for the feeling of spaciousness.
This car will not win any beauty pageants. Despite a facelift, the Prius V retains a funky styling that looks like a Toyota Yaris ate some shrimp despite its shellfish allergy. Yes, we know it's all in the name of reducing drag coefficient, but if the Tesla Model S looks so damn pretty, why can't the Prius V? The foglights are housed in a weird Fu Manchu mustache, and the black lower fascia makes it look like another vehicle is trying to spring forth from its gaping maw.
The rear end is far more sensible. The new-for-2015 taillights look slick, and the overall silhouette is pretty bone standard for a quasi-wagon. Thankfully, the Prius V ditches the standard Prius's annoying two-piece rear glass.
On the Road
Driving the Prius V is like staring at a blank piece of paper for several hours.
Okay, maybe we should elaborate.
The Prius V is boring. Is it a quality hybrid system that makes the best use of available electric charge? Absolutely. In fact, in the city, we were seeing our economy numbers around the 50-mpg mark, a full 6 mpg higher than the EPA estimate. On the highway, it was right at the EPA estimate of 40 mpg, which is common with hybrids that have tiny engines (the electric power doesn't do much to maintain propulsion and fight wind resistance at highway speeds). It's great at being efficient; that much is for damn sure. But every other facet of driving this car is absolutely dull, occasionally bordering on frustrating.
Take the Atkinson-cycle I-4, for instance. Mated to a CVT, this engine will wind right up to its power peak as you hit the on-ramp. With your foot buried in the firewall, the I-4 will emit a garbled wail that elicits more sympathy than one of those ASPCA commercials. It sounds like the engine is saying, "Ugh," as if it's mad that you had the gumption to attempt to accelerate beyond a snail's pace. You'll hit double nickels before the merge, but that acceleration comes at a cost to your soul.
Equally dull are the steering - which has more play than the Globe Theatre - and suspension, which lacks grace as it crashes over bumps. The suspension transmits road feel directly to your seat, whether you like it or not. It's not a particularly harsh ride, but thankfully, the overall experience is aided by some pretty great insulation.
Also, we feel the need to mention that you're probably only going to achieve the EPA-estimated fuel mileage by becoming a burden on your fellow commuters. Our best numbers were achieved by completely ignoring the flow of traffic and accelerating at a pace that would make a glacier wait for you to catch up. If you have ever exceeded the speed limit, or if you accelerate off the line at the same rate as every other driver, your mileage may vary.
This is, quite obviously, not a car for enthusiasts. There are other ways to achieve 40 mpg without sacrificing every inch of fun left in your body - you could buy a 1991 Honda CRX, for example. But, as we've said before, if all you care about is saving money at the gas pump, it's hard to go with any other brand, as none are as synonymous with economy as Prius. With the Prius V, you get all the best parts of the standard Prius, with fewer oddball idiosyncrasies (like that two-piece rear glass) and loads more space. For a good deal of the buying public, this is the perfect car.
Specs & Price
Engine: 1.8-liter Atkinson-cycle I-4, plus permanent-magnet AC electric motor with nickel-metal-hydride battery pack
Transmission: Continuously variable
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive
Power Output: 134 horsepower (net)
Fuel Economy (mpg): 44 city / 40 highway
Base Price: $29,695
As Tested: $30,745 (incl. $825 destination)
Available Features: None, although the Prius V Four adds heated leatherette seats, a power driver's seat, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror over the Prius V Three model.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2015 Toyota Prius v, click here: 2015 Toyota Prius v.