Automotive marketers use the term “DNA” when referring to cars’ innate attributes. But the biological analogy rings true in the case of the Toyota Prius, which is growing into a “family” of related vehicles, starting with the introduction of new wagon and coupe versions of the Prius.
Toyota has sold nearly a million Prius vehicles in the U.S. since the car’s launch in 2000. The name “Prius” is synonymous with efficiency. So it makes sense for Toyota to exploit that familiarity by applying the Prius badge to other body styles. Consumers will automatically know when they see a station wagon with the name Prius on the side that they are looking at a true hybrid station wagon.
That wagon is called the Prius v (v stands for “versatility”) and it shares the original hatchback’s basic platform and Synergy Hybrid electric-drive system while adding 50 percent more cargo capacity behind the back seat.
“As much as people love their Prius vehicles, others told us they’d like a hybrid with even more versatility and room to meet their growing family needs and active lifestyles,” said Toyota General Manager Bob Carter.
The Prius v carries five passengers, like the original Prius, but offers extra comfort for those in the second row, with a seat that slides back for extra legroom and reclines to 45 degrees. The wagon is about 6 inches longer than the hatchback and rides on a wheelbase that is 3 inches longer, contributing to more rear seat legroom.
Today’s wagons and crossover sport Utility Vehicle boast airy panoramic sunroofs, so the Prius v offers one to match its competitors. However, putting a big sheet of glass on the roof is heavy and transmits a lot of heat to the cabin, so the Prius v uses a plastic sunroof that is 40 percent lighter and doesn’t conduct as much heat as glass.
The wagon delivers similar fuel economy as the Prius hatch, with expected EPA ratings of 42 miles per gallon city and 38 mpg highway. Hybrid electric drivetrains — like those from Toyota and Ford that use a Continuously Variable Transmission integrated into the electric motor — work more efficiently at lower speeds, producing higher fuel economy in city driving than on the highway. The Prius v hits Toyota showrooms this summer.
Toyota is also planning on an exciting looking coupe with the Prius c (c stands for “city”).