By Sara Lacey on November 13, 2013
There are four members of Toyota's Prius lineup, but the 2013 Toyota Prius v is the most utilitarian by far. This hybrid wagon is 5.3 inches longer than the Prius and more than an inch wider, making it a good fit for family duty.
While the smaller Prius embraces its funky, future-car status, the Prius v's monochromatic, minimalist interior paired with its under-the-radar exterior feels less distinctive. The Prius v is super functional when it comes to family life, but I missed having some ambiance.
The Prius v uses the same engine setup as the Prius: a 98-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder paired with an 80-hp electric motor. Gas mileage is what really counts with hybrids. The Prius v gets an EPA-estimated 44/40/42 mpg city/highway/combined. In my weeklong test drive, I averaged 40.9 mpg. The smaller Prius gets 51/48/50 mpg.
The Prius v is for five passengers, but whoever is stuck in the backseat's center position will need to be slender as it's a narrow spot. The middle seat's shoulder belt comes down from the ceiling and connects to the lap portion of the seat belt. Then it must be pulled over the lap and latched into place. It's not an uncommon setup, just a bit uncomfortable.
In a wagon that's more than 5 inches longer than its Prius hatchback sibling, you'd expect to find a lot more legroom. That's not the case in the Prius v. It offers 41.3 inches of front legroom and 35.9 inches in the backseat, but the smaller Prius has 42.5 inches in front and 36 inches in the rear.
The Prius v's rear seats recline and slide forward and back. This was great fun for my kids, ages 8 and 11, to find their happy places, and these adjustments help with child-safety seat installation. In the Car Seat Check of the Prius v, the testers found that the booster seat and rear- and forward-facing convertible fit well, but there wasn't enough room for the rear-facing infant seat unless the front passenger seat was moved forward.
The two sets of lower Latch anchors are a pain because they're hard to find. Once you locate them, you must open the camouflaged flap, unzip a zipper and then dig around to find the anchor. If you move car seats in and out of your car with any regularity, you'll be irritated. The tether anchors aren't much better; they're located at the bottom of the rear seatbacks and are small and not easy to work with because the upholstery is in the way. Additionally, the tethers' location below the cargo area's load floor means there's going to be a weird dance between you, the seatback and the load floor to get those hooks attached.
Where the Prius v trumps the Prius is in the cargo area. It has 34.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, while the Prius has 21.6. Both cars have 60/40-split folding seats. The Prius v's cargo load floor is high, which can be a pain when lifting heavy strollers or suitcases into it, but the cargo area handles weekly grocery runs and large hockey bags easily.
In the front row, the interior is 50 shades of gray — the color, not the books. There's a lot of plastic trim, and it looks dull and cold. At least there were plenty of cupholders — three in the front row — and a bottleholder in each door. The dual glove box and huge center console can handle larger items.
Despite missing some interior refinements and warmth, the 2013 Prius v is a great fit for families with lots of gear to haul. However, if you don't need the extra cargo space, the smaller Prius might be the better choice with its plentiful legroom and better fuel economy.