I reviewed the third generation 2010 Toyota Prius a few years ago.  Starting with model year 2012, Toyota gives those seeking great fuel economy a roomier version for both passengers and cargo.  The standard Prius hatchback has a lot of compromises for fitting carseats in back, so I’ll take a closer look at seating for both kids and adults in back.

The driving experience of the Prius V wagon is actually a lot like the typical Prius.  It’s not sporty, it’s not particularly quiet, and the ride isn’t the smoothest.  Still, you’re not buying it for luxury, you’re buying it for the 44 mpg city, 40 mpg highway, which I pretty easily topped in warm weather conditions around town.  Make no mistake, the “V” isn’t for “Van”.  The Prius V simply isn’t an alternative to a minivan or midsize SUV, as some other reviews might suggest.  In terms of size, it’s a nice alternative to a compact SUV or a midsize wagon.

 

 

Advantages:

  • 2012 Top Safety Pick by IIHS
  • Smooth, secure braking system
  • Much improved visibility, backup camera standard too
  • Good Cargo Space (photo, right), open front console
  • Room of a midsize wagon, fuel economy better than a subcompact car
  • More space than most compact SUVs and easier for kids to climb inside
  • Three across carseats a bit easier than standard Prius
  • More legroom than standard Prius, average adults may fit in front with infant seat behind them
  • Rear seats adjust fore/aft, recline and fold flat separately
  • Interior quality and feel

Disadvantages:

  • No NHTSA crash test results
  • Poor result in new 2013 IIHS small overlap frontal test
  • Ceiling mounted center shoulder belt awkward
  • Center mounted display is a distraction (photo, right)
  • Short buckle stalk hard for young kids to buckle in a booster
  • Center rear head restraint too short for adults
  • I’d love one more center console cupholder
  • Front seats not particularly supportive or adjustable
  • Not remotely sporty in performance, can be a little noisy
  • Tops out well over $36k with all the trimmings, nearly as much as a base Highlander Hybrid
  • Quirks: Tiny dash mounted shifter, LATCH anchors in zippered compartments, Noisemaker when in EV mode, Reverse beeping alarm standard but can be disabled

 

 

Carseat Gallery:

Below you can see the roomy cargo area with the top tether anchors, located just below the cargo floor (left).  There’s a nice spot for a rear-facing tether strap if you own certain Britax, Diono or Combi convertibles (center).  The lower LATCH anchors are hidden behind zippered closures (right).

   

 

Below you can see a rigid LATCH booster, no problem fitting a Clek Oobr into the Prius V (left).  Three across is possible, but will require very careful selection of carseats in all three positions.  I show a Graco Snugride 30, a Diono Radian and a Recaro ProSport (right).

 

 

Legroom for the driver is ample with the 2nd row seats adjusted backward.  Shown are a Graco Size4Me 70 convertible (left) and a Britax Advocate 70 G3 convertible (right).

 

 

The second row splits and folds for even more cargo space, even with a child in one seat (Graco Size4Me 70).

 

How does the Prius V compare?

Prius: Relatively inexpensive, Best Fuel Economy. Limited 3-across possibilities, limited legroom, difficult to put rear-facing carseat behind driver or passenger.

Prius V: Bigger, better visibility, more legroom and cargo space than Prius, easier to do 3-across, only a little less fuel economy, somewhat more expensive than Prius.

Highlander Hybrid: 7-passengers, AWD, 3500lb towing,  Quietest and smoothest ride, most cargo space.  Significantly lower fuel economy than Prius V, close to $40k even in base trim.

Conclusion:

The Prius V is a great option for smaller families looking for the practicality of a wagon or small crossover SUV, but who also want to get great gas mileage.  The original Prius is no different than most compact cars in terms of kids.   For example, rear-facing carseats pose a problem with legroom and three across is very difficult.  Various incompatibility issues arise as well.  The Prius V doesn’t resolve all these issues with the Prius, but it is much more kid friendly in back and also more flexible for all that gear you need to carry.  It’s not particularly quiet or powerful, but it is a nice improvement over the 3rd generation Prius hatchback in almost every regard except for a modest reduction in fuel economy.  If you aren’t seeking the highest mpgs and have some extra coin, you’ll enjoy the extra space for your family!  I highly recommend it as an option for families with a couple kids, especially if you’re concerned about the environment they will inherit from us!