Now you can move more people without destroying the planet
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.
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.
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.
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.