It can only be a matter of time until I ride in the taxicab version of Toyota’s Prius v.
Can you envision a more perfect cab? Sure, there’s no wheelchair access and no obvious way to retrofit a v to be wheelchair-friendly. On the other hand, the v is safe; a Top Safety Pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
And well built, too. Bear in mind the v only landed in showrooms late last year, so the data is thin. But the v was runner-up among compact SUVs (sport-utility vehicles) in the latest J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study (IQS) – second to Kia’s Soul, in fact.
Cabbies care about running costs, which brings me to fuel economy. Toyota Canada says the Prius v delivers fuel economy of 4.3 litres/100 km in the city, 4.8 litres/100 on the highway and 4.6 litres/100 km combined. Natural Resources Canada adds that you’ll spend $966 on gas a year if you drive a Prius, which is about half what you’ll spend filling up a V-6 Toyota RAV4 in an average year – $966 versus $1,932.
I mention the RAV because it’s not much bigger inside than the v: 2,752 litres of passenger volume for the v compared to 3,064 litres for the RAV. So, when it comes to the v, you get twice the space with half the fuel used. Cabbies like that.
They like low maintenance costs, too. According to Intellichoice, v owner in the U.S. can expect to spend – wait for it – exactly nothing on repairs and a whopping $18 on maintenance during the first two years of ownership. Let me repeat that: $18 on repairs and maintenance for the first two years. Peanuts. Cabbies tell me they save mountains of cash on brake jobs because the regenerative braking of the Prius dramatically reduces pad wear, for instance.
And the v – for “versatility,” according to Toyota – has more cargo space than 80 per cent of small SUVs. That makes sense. The v is the Prius station wagon cabbies have been waiting for and will be happy to own. Perhaps families, too, who – like back-seat cab riders – will applaud all the rear legroom. If you’re loading hockey bags or groceries, you’ll cheer the big, wide rear hatch opening and all the cargo space. Cabbies loading luggage at the airport will, too.
Toyota has nailed a few other things when it comes to creature comforts, also. The sliding second row seats, which also have a 45-degree recline, are nifty enough. We’re talking flexible seating. The rears also split 60/40 and fold almost flat, too. And you can flat-fold that front passenger seat. Need to load a ladder? Here’s your cab.
For a technologically advanced gasoline-electric hybrid, the v’s cabin is mainstream, other than the push button start, drive-by-wire shift toggle and driving mode buttons. What’s smart is how easy each is to identify and operate. The controls are clear and intuitive, and they don’t look bad, either, ringed in silver trim. Even the automatic climate control is managed through a single dial.
To store your everyday stuff, there is a nifty centre console big enough to hold 23 CD cases, says Toyota. That’s correct. I tried and stuffed in all 23. Toyota also nailed the need for places to tuck away all the odds and ends we pack into our cars: dual glove boxes, a centre console utility tray and five cup holders in large and medium sizes, to name three.
There’s more. Bottle holders in the front and rear door pockets; overhead storage space for sunglasses; cargo area storage in the sides and under the cargo platform; and Vancouverites will like the umbrella space under the second row seats. Clever, so clever, as is the stain-resistant SofTex seat covering. Cabbies taking home Friday revellers unable to hold their liquor – wink, wink – will like that and they’ll like how easy it is to clean SofTex.
For a starting price of $27,200, the v comes well loaded: Bluetooth, a USB port, an in-dash display screen with iPod integration, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, a decent sound system and an available panoramic glass moonroof.
So lots of creature comforts, smart packaging and cabin room all around. Those good things come at a price and that price is an engaging design. I’d never accuse the v of being pretty, but at least it’s aerodynamic, with a 0.29 coefficient of drag that puts the v in Chevrolet Volt territory.
I’m not going to tell you the v is an engaging, entertaining drive. It’s not. There is, in fact, nothing interesting about wheeling about in a Prius, other than the fuel economy. You knew that, right? Of course, you did.
But cabbies don’t drive for fun; they drive for work. And if you need a working wagon that saves you money, you could do much worse than a Prius v.
2012 Toyota Prius v
Type: mid-size hybrid wagon
Base price: $27,200
Gas engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder
Output (horsepower and torque): 98/106 lb-ft
Electric drive: 80-horsepower/153 lb-ft electric motor with nickel metal hydride battery pack
Combined output: 134 hp
Drive: front-wheel drive.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 4.3 city/4.8 highway using regular fuel.
Alternatives: Ford C-Max Energi.