- Flexible, spacious interior
- EPA rating of 42 mpg combined
- Low-speed all-electric driving
- Lifeless, numb steering
- No all-wheel drive
- NHTSA hasn't rated it
The 2017 Toyota Prius V is the largest Prius model offered, though it's now also one of the oldest.
The 2017 Toyota Prius V wagon is the most spacious and largest member of the Prius hybrid family, now in its sixth year on the market. While the Prius Liftback model was entirely redesigned last year, the Prius V wagon uses the same powertrain as the previous generation—sacrificing performance in what is obviously a heavier and bulkier vehicle.
In a market seduced by cheap gas prices and SUVs, the Prius V isn't a crossover utility vehicle. It has the ground clearance of a car, not a truck, and doesn't offer an all-wheel drive option. That falls to the recently launched RAV4 Hybrid, which has a lower combined rating but remains the only crossover of its size to offer a hybrid version at all. Since its launch in 2016, the hybrid RAV4 has handily outsold the aging Prius V.
For 2017, the Prius V sees some additions to its infotainment system but is otherwise unchanged.
It earns a 5.8 out of 10 on our ratings scale with room to improve on styling and performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
Although the wagon looks much like the previous generation of Prius, it uses entirely unique body panels. It has a more slab-sided and taller shape than the latest Prius liftback, which gives it greater space for passenger and cargo. The V's rear window is a single piece of vertical glass rather than the split panes of the Prius hatchback, making rear vision easier. It received a styling update for 2015, with a more aggressive front end—with vertical lines that almost look like fangs—and new headlights.
With 300 pounds more weight than the last-generation Prius Liftback whose powertrain it inherited, the Prius V can struggle under heavy loads, when filled with people and cargo, and on steep hills. You'll find yourself having to plan fast uphill merges with some care to make the most of the limited power. Its 98-horsepower, 1.8-liter inline-4 and pair of electric motor-generators is both slower and more prone to engine howling under maximum power than the latest Liftback, which is far more refined and "normal" to drive than any previous Prius.
Three drive modes for special circumstances supplement the default hybrid mode. The EV mode gives all-but-silent electric travel at low speeds, up to the 1-mile limit of the battery capacity. Eco mode is almost intolerably slow—we'd say it's borderline dangerous in some driving conditions—and Power mode simply lets the hybrid wagon keep up with fast-moving traffic.
Most importantly, the EPA rates the Prius V at 44 mpg city, 40 highway, 42 combined. That's better than the Ford C-Max Hybrid, whose ratings have been lowered twice, and the Prius wagon offers more interior room to boot. (The Ford has a nicer interior and is considerably quieter, however.)
Comfort, safety, and features
Inside the Prius V, all passengers sit more upright and higher than in the regular Liftback model. But families want interior space, and depending on whether you slide the rear seat forward or back, the rear load bay provides 34.3 to 40.2 cubic feet of cargo volume. Even better, there's a wide 39 inches between wheel-well housings, meaning large boxy items slide easily across the flat load floor. Flip the 60/40-split rear seat back down and it grows to 67.3 cubic feet. As Toyota points out, that's more than many of the new small SUV and crossover entries. Those rear seats also recline, by the way, an unusual feature in cars this size. Trays, cupholders, and cubbies are in ample supply, though the interior plastics are mostly hard-textured with patterns. And the dash shows the signs of previous Prius practice, with a not-very-coherent array of icons, diagrams, readings, and symbols in full color just below the lower edge of the windshield.
The IIHS designates the Prius V a Top Safety Pick+, and it earns the institute's top "Good" rating on all tests. However, the NHTSA hasn't rated or tested the Prius V since its body structure was beefed up three years ago. An optional Advanced Technology package adds lane-departure warning and automatic high beams, and radar-based adaptive cruise control and a pre-collision system are also available. A rearview camera is standard.
Other standard equipment on all Prius V models includes keyless entry, automatic climate control, fabric seats, and Toyota's Entune cloud-based media and connectivity system. Moving from the base trim level (called Two) to the Three model gives you audio and climate controls on the steering wheel, Bluetooth a navigation system with voice control that displays on the 6.1-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash, and also a 4.2-inch color information screen in the instrument panel.
The Prius V Four adds SofTex upholstery, heated front seats, and an eight-way power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, along with an auto-dimming rearview mirror. And at the top of the range, the Prius V Five—which can take you above $35,000—includes 10-spoke 17-inch alloy wheels and LED headlamps, among other add-ons.
Options, both in packages and individually, are plentiful. The Advanced Technology Package bundles a panoramic moonroof and electric sunshades, radar-based dynamic cruise control, a lane-departure warning system, an HD-based navigation system, and automatic high beams.