TOYOTA Australia has added a fourth member to its petrol-electric hybrid range in the form of the seven-seat Prius V, priced at a sharp $35,990 plus on-road costs.
The third and largest member of Toyota’s expanding Prius hybrid family – alongside the Prius C light car (from $23,990) and standard Prius ($33,990) – will therefore become Australia’s second-cheapest people-mover after the similarly sized Kia Rondo.
The Prius V will slot in underneath the larger Tarago eight-seater range (from $52,490), giving Toyota an effective replacement for the Avensis people-mover that it discontinued 18 months ago.
It also bolsters the brand’s petrol-electric family car showroom presence alongside the locally built Camry Hybrid, which starts from $34,990.
Toyota Australia will look to its newest model to further the strong sales growth this year of its Prius hybrid line-up – which it calls a “standalone model range”.
Sales of the Prius hatch – which received a facelift in March – have rebounded this year, up 29.8 per cent to the end of April after recording a 47 per cent drop in 2011, while the Prius C got off to a strong start by recording 405 deliveries in its first full month on sale.
Toyota Australia expects Prius V to contribute about 100 sales a month, with 70 per cent being private customers.
Globally, Toyota is projecting it will sell one million hybrid vehicles this calendar year – including members of its Lexus luxury arm – compared to 630,000 units last year, prompting the company to label 2012 as “the year of the hybrid”.
Last month, Toyota Australia made public its ambitious 22 per cent growth target (including Lexus) for this year, following a 2011 result hampered by supply shortages in the wake of natural disasters in Thailand and Japan.
The cheaper-than-expected Prius V is available in a single specification, with Toyota overlooking the five-seat option available in some overseas markets due the comparative lack of cabin flexibility.
Toyota Australia executive director of sales and marketing Matthew Callachor said the size, pricing and fuel efficiency of the Prius V will help it conquest sales from a wide range of passenger vehicles, not just people-movers.
“Prius V will compete in multiple segments with its combination of size, versatility and fuel efficiency in a mid-size package,” he said.
“We see Prius V as an alternative to small or mid-size sedans and wagons as well as compact SUVs and crossover vehicles – with fuel economy few of them can match.
“With the added cargo space, the Prius V might also make an ideal light delivery vehicle for florists and small-package delivery services.”
The Prius V is powered by a 73kW/142Nm 1.8-litre Atkinson Cycle petrol engine matched with a 650-volt electric motor producing 60kW/207Nm, giving a maximum combined output of 100kW, the same as the regular Prius.
Helped by a slippery 0.29 drag coefficient, the Prius V achieves class-leading claimed fuel economy of just 4.4 litres of 95 RON premium fuel per 100km on the combined cycle – half a litre more than its smaller Prius siblings, both of which record 3.9L/100km.
Carbon emissions are listed at just 101 grams per kilometre, compared to 89g/km in the regular Prius hatch.
Unlike other Prius models, the Prius V features a more advanced (and expensive) lithium-ion battery pack rather than the regular Prius nickel-metal hydride system.
The space-saving battery pack – the first of its kind in a Toyota sold in Australia – is mounted beneath the centre console, helping to free up the necessary room for a third row of seats.
Power is channelled to the front wheels via an E-CVT (continuously variable transmission) with three modes – EV, Eco and Power.
Like the regular Prius, the V can operate at speeds of up to 50km/h in full-electric mode, albeit with a maximum range of two kilometres. The car also employs full EV mode at start-up and when in reverse.
The Prius V is marginally larger in all departments than its Prius hatch sibling, being 135mm longer at 4615mm, 30mm wider at 1775mm wide and 100mm taller at 1590mm high, riding on an 80mm longer wheelbase of 2780mm.
The V is still smaller than popular people-mover rivals like the Kia Grand Carnival (from $38,990) and Honda Odyssey (from $37,100).
The seven-seat layout features three independent sliding, reclining and split-folding second-row seats, and 50:50 split-folding third-row seats, with each row raised slightly higher than the one ahead.
With the third-row seats in their upright positions, the cabin has 180 litres of cargo space (enough for a small golf bag), growing to 485 litres when folded flat into the floor.
Standard features on the single-model range include a 6.1-inch audio display, automatic air-conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, head-up display, keyless entry and ignition, automatic headlights, cruise control, USB/iPod/auxiliary connectivity, Bluetooth phone and audio, reversing camera, rear side window sunshades, and hill-start assist.
Safety equipment includes seven airbags, electronic stability control and ABS brakes with brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution and brake energy regeneration.
The Prius V has independent MacPherson strut front suspension and a compact semi-independent torsion beam at the back, electronically controlled power steering, 296mm ventilated front disc brakes and 290mm solid rear discs.
Toyota continues to offer fixed-price servicing for (non-government and rental) Prius customers for the first three years or 60,000km of ownership, capped at $130 for each standard service.
At the end of this year, Toyota Australia will introduce a better-equipped i-Tech variant of the Prius V, which will almost certainly feature leather upholstery, satellite-navigation and sunroof as standard.