Toyota has recently went “all in” on their Prius lineup and now offers many different models including a hatchback. While a hatchback hasn’t been a sales hit in the U.S. since the 80s, the 2013 Toyota Prius V Three model isn’t your father’s wagon. It is actually quite nice. Recently, I got a chance to test drive one. Here is my review.
When someone says the word “Prius” most people automatically think of the oblong box on wheels with signs on the back that say it can’t drive over 55 mph. Truth be told, the early versions of the Prius created a deep love/hate divide in the U.S. These days, the car is still thought of as an “environmentalists” vehicle, yet Toyota is trying to change that image a bit by expanding its offerings. A Prius wagon allows for a whole new group of people to downsize from their SUV and consider this gas-sipping vehicle.
Frankly, I didn’t know much about the Prius before I got my press fleet loan. About all I knew was that it was great on gas and was a big sales hit for Toyota. Their production of it has vastly expanded and Toyota recently sold its 3 millionth Prius.
For the record, my loaner is a Prius V Three model. The three stands for the trim levels (two, three and five). It was powered by the Hybrid Synergy Drive System, 1.8L DOHC 16V VVT-1 4-cylinder engine with power modes. It also included a driver smart key system (door unlocked when you approached), 6.1″ touch-screen with backup camera, fabric trimmed seats with lumbar and push button start. It had a retail MSRP of $29,189. For fuel economy, the Prius V is rated at 44 city and 40 highway or 42 combined.
Knowing the past history of the Prius as an “odd duckling” among conventional car designs, I was quite surprised with how far this model has come. The 2013 Prius V fits in better among car styling and this wagon does a great job of blending the hatchback in. It really did take me a minute to figure out that this was the hatchback offering since the rear blended in so well.
One of the obvious things about the Prius is the not so obvious. Where the new 4Runner has headlights that jut out at you, the Prius blends everything in. From front to back, the exterior paneling, lights, bumpers and rear hatchback blend together with nothing sticking out. That is probably my overall review “theme” for this vehicle – nothing stands out on its own, yet the car stands out as a whole.
The inside is much like the outside, nondescript except for a few different items and the placement of things. I was taken back a bit at first by how much it was like any other car and then it was not.
First, the dash is moved off center and is inline with the center console. Not a big deal, just took a while to get used to it.
Also, different was the gear shift that is small and different from other models. In order to shift, you slide the gear into place and then it slide back. While this was a bit different, the “B” on the shift gear was different as well. In fact, it forced me to consult the manual where I learned it is an “engine brake” gear. This is quite handy since I live in Colorado and we use engine braking quite a bit coming down the mountains.
Another odd thing about the interior was the different driving modes. While everyone has different driving modes these days, the placement of them on top of the center console was pretty different.
A big surprise of the car was the vast amount of space in the hatch. I’m not sure the word “ample” quite describes how much room there is and how much I could get to fit inside it. I would theorize that the “usable” space is quite similar to larger SUV models.
The Prius is small, nimble and economical. In other words, it is a boring drive, yet that’s the point isn’t it? The slower and more cautious you drive, the more fuel you save and this car is about one thing really, saving fuel. While it handled like a small car and not like a large wagon, it didn’t have much in the way for HP even with the “PWR” mode engaged. But, that didn’t really bother me. Instead, I spent much of my time trying to keep the car in electric mode (pretty much became a game for me).
All in all, the Prius simply isn’t a sports car. It is though a really economical hatchback with lots of room. If you are looking for a car with better fuel economy than your SUV that still has the room, check out the Prius. It will surprise you.
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