PRAC­TI­CAL PRIUS

Now you can move more peo­ple with­out de­stroy­ing the planet

Herald Sun - Motoring - - On The Web - PAUL POT­TINGER paul.pot­tinger@cars­guide.com.au

If the Prius seems a bit point­less next to the Camry Hy­brid, the Prius V ups the ante by two seats

IT’S all too easy to poke fun at the Prius. And I should know, hav­ing emp­tied the bile ducts over the years. But it’s prob­a­bly only fair to dip one’s lid in the di­rec­tion of one of the most suc­cess­ful vis­ual mar­ket­ing ex­er­cises since the Coke bot­tle and Levi’s 501s.

The Prius is ev­ery bit as syn­ony­mous with hy­brid cars as those other sym­bols are with soft drink and jeans. Ex­cept the Prius isn’t cool. Oh, no. Never that. Nor is it es­pe­cially prac­ti­cal — not in the way of the big­ger, newer and ac­tu­ally very good Camry Hy­brid, which now not only has boot space but also can tow. But then the Camry looks like a Camry, as op­posed to an in­stantly recog­nis­able ad­ver­tise­ment for the eco virtue of those within.

Which is where the Prius V comes in. V doesn’t de­note five’’; it stands for ver­sa­tile’’. Sub­stan­tially big­ger than the fa­mil­iar Prius, it seats seven. At least it has seven seats, enough to shift half the kids’ footy or net­ball teams with­out mak­ing an out­size car­bon foot­print.

VALUE

Any form of seven-seater looks good at $35,990, the sticker price of the en­try-level V. It looks all the bet­ter for be­ing only a grand over the stan­dard Prius, though the top-spec i-tech Prius is still wildly over­priced at $46K.

Ex­pect the V i-tech to go over that when it ar­rives by year’s end, re­plete with leather, sun roof, sat­nav and such­like.

The pack­age at hand wants for lit­tle. Its fruit in­cludes dis­play-screen, auto air­con, head-up dis­play, key­less en­try and ig­ni­tion, the now un­avoid­able day­time run­ning lights and 16-inch al­loy wheels.

In a mar­ket oth­er­wise al­most bur­dened by choice, peo­ple­movers are the only thing not found in abun­dance and this, of course, is the only hy­brid.

The V looks hand­some against such ri­vals as there are, though Kia’s hard­breath­ing Rondo starts un­der $30K, as do a few SUVS with a third row of seats.

Get­ting rid of it might prove dif­fi­cult. As a num­ber of pri­vate and fleet own­ers have found to their con­sid­er­able cost, the used hy­brid mar­ket be­longs to the buyer.

TECH­NOL­OGY

You don’t need me to ex­pound yet again the al­most mirac­u­lous fuel sav­ing of the petrol-elec­tric hy­brid pow­er­train. Suf­fice that un­der op­ti­mum con­di­tions the com­bined 1.8-litre Atkinson cy­cle petrol en­gine and 60kw elec­tric mo­tor are ca­pa­ble of re­turn­ing 4.4L/100km (on pre­mium un­leaded).

Only af­ter a free­way stretch on our in­tro­duc­tory drive did con­sump­tion rise, and then to

a hardly out­ra­geous 5.7. As with the Prius, there are three drive modes: EV al­lows for death­lyquiet run­ning on elec­tric mo­tor power alone for up to 2km; Eco damp­ens throt­tle re­sponse and lim­its power con­sump­tion from the air­con; and Power does what it sug­gests with­out scan­dal­is­ing Bob Brown.

Un­like the Prius, the V model de­buts a space-sav­ing lithium-ion bat­tery pack, which re­sides un­der the cen­tre con­sole be­tween the two front pews, mak­ing the third row of seat­ing fea­si­ble.

DE­SIGN

Even with­out the aid of new bat­tery in­ter­nals, the Prius has been ex­panded damn clev­erly. The V is sub­stan­tially longer, wider, higher and heav­ier while re­main­ing recog­nis­ably a mem­ber of the now three­model line-up (in­clud­ing the tiny $24K Prius C).

The rear­ward seat­ing com­prises three in­de­pen­dent slid­ing, re­clin­ing and split­fold­ing sec­ond-row seats and a 50-50 split-fold­ing third tier, each row el­e­vated above the one in front. With seven up, cargo space is 80L; third row flat it ex­pands to 485L— or four full-size golf bags.

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