2014 Prius Five
The 2014 Toyota Prius Five provides sparkling fuel economy with roominess.
The Toyota Prius got off to a rather slow start in America, after several years of sales in Japan, but it's now among Toyota's best-selling models here.
The largest v model is the hybrid gas/electric "Five," which often is referred to as a station wagon because of its impressive cargo area with the rear seatbacks folded forward. The front-drive car is larger than the regular Prius. It has a wagon-style body, but mainly looks like a small- to medium-sized four-door hatchback sedan about the size of a Mazda5.
The sticker price of my 2014 Five was $30,005, but it was an early 2014 model so the list price may be a bit higher.
The 2014 model is virtually identical to the 2015 offering, which has minor changes such as a new front fascia. Production of a radically restyled Prius to attract younger buyers doesn't begin production until the end of 2015 because Toyota felt its initial design was too conservative.
The Prius Five has the familiar Prius triangular silhouette and looks like a lot of aerodynamically styled cars, which is to say it looks bland. But never mind, because the powertrain is the star of this show.
The Five is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a battery powered electric motor, which shoots power through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with "Econ" and "Power" modes. I spent most test driving time in "Econ" mode, which worked just fine. The "Power" mode made the car feel a little quicker.
Total estimated horsepower is 134. Acceleration of the Five is lively in town and acceptable during highway merging and 65-75 m.p.h. passing maneuvers, at least with just a driver aboard. Loaded with occupants in hilly country, it's likely that performance turns to just "adequate" because the Five is rather heavy to begin with.
Estimated fuel economy of the Prius Five is an estimated 44 miles per gallon in the city and 40 on highways. Toyota says a plug-in version delivers an estimated 51 and 48.
A bonus is that the Five is rather fun to drive if you don't push it too hard. It has quick steering, agile handling, strong brakes and a firm-but-supple suspension that provides a good ride except over some bumps and broken pavement. One of my residential test roads is made of nicely laid bricks, and the Five became a little jouncy on it.
Large outside handles and wide door openings allow easy entry to the quiet interior, which is roomy throughout. However, the stiff center of the rear seat is best left to the center fold-down armrest.
Seats provide good lateral support, and digital dashboard displays can be quickly read. There's a pushbutton start and lots of small, but easily worked, dashboard buttons. But the tricky drive-by-wire shifter action takes getting used to, so I don't advise rushing from one gear to another. A separate button must be pushed to put the car in "park" mode.
Despite a large windshield, the view from the driver's seat to the front, sides and rear is hindered by short windows and wide pillars. Also, the rear view is hurt by a thick bar that divides the back window, although the racy 1974-81 Maserati Khamsin sports car had the same type of bar.
The Prius Five is well-equipped with such items as automatic climate control, power driver seat, cruise control, tilt/telescopic wheel, 6-inch touch screen with backup camera and AM/FM/CD sound system with 8 JBL speakers, power locks and automatic up/down power windows. A USB port allows playing of musical and video from portable audio devices using the sound system and in-dash display screen.
There are a fair amount of interior storage areas, including door pockets and a deep console bin. However, there's some cheap cheap interior trim.
Safety equipment includes seven air bags, "Smart Stop" technology, Lane Keep Assist and a Pre-Collision System that applies the brakes in certain conditions and is paired with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.There's also electronic brake force distribution for surer panic stops.
A rather pricey $4,320 Advanced Technology Package contains numerous items, including a major audio upgrade, hands-free phone capability and advanced voice recognition.
The large trunk has low, wide floor for quick loading and a hatch that opens with hydraulic struts, instead of cheaper mechanical hinges.
The Prius stopped being a novelty car long ago. Now, it's one of the top mainstream hybrid autos.