Toyota offers a Goldilocks approach to its Prius lineup; the tiny Prius c subcompact and larger Prius v wagon bookend the midsize Prius and plug-in Prius hatchback. For 2015, the Prius v got a lightly updated face with available LED headlights, along with additional standard features and a lower base price.
What didn't change is its EPA rating of 44/40/42 mpg city/highway/combined, considerably less than the regular Prius' 51/48/50 mpg rating. How well does this tall, wedgy hybrid really do on the highway? We put it to the test during a road trip. During a mix of highway speeds of approximately 60 mph and stop-and-go traffic, we averaged 43.9 mpg over 280.5 miles, a tad over the EPA's combined rating.
During most of the trip, the car was loaded with three occupants and a few bags. Although the extra weight affects mileage, since the weather was in the low 60s, we didn't use much air conditioning. The system uses an electric compressor, so the air conditioning can run without depending on the engine, but it tends to use up battery power.
Power comes from a combination of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery pack for a total of 134 horsepower. It can run using the gasoline engine alone, battery alone or a combination of both, and features an automatic stop-start system that shuts the car off at a stop to conserve energy.
Four driving modes are available: Normal; Eco, which optimizes acceleration and climate settings for better fuel economy; Power, which increases gas-pedal sensitivity for better acceleration; and EV mode, which attempts to stay in electric mode as long as possible, provided the battery has enough power. During my drive, Eco mode delivered a lethargic level of responsiveness; takeoffs were painfully slow. EV mode was tough to sustain; the Prius v can drive on battery power, but only for a very short time and only at very low speeds.
Since the Prius v rides on a 3.1-inch longer wheelbase and is 5.9 inches longer overall than the Prius, you get more cargo room -- 34.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats versus 21.6 cubic feet for the regular Prius. But the room gains come at the cost of fuel economy; 43.9 mpg sounds great, but not when the regular Prius easily delivers 50 mpg.