If you put the standard Prius hatchback next to the new Prius v, this model expansion might seem like a pointless exercise, as the Prius v doesn't seem much bigger.
But it is a different story inside the car, as the larger cargo area, higher roof, and some design touches lead to an unexpected spaciousness. A standalone console between the front seats and dual moonroofs makes the car seem like a minivan.
The Prius v gets the same hybrid power train as the standard Prius, based around an electric motor and 1.8-liter gasoline engine, and the driving feel is very much the same. But there is a price to be paid for the extra weight and lessened aerodynamics, a substantial drop-off in fuel economy. But the Prius v still easily averages over 40 mpg, outstripping every other straight gasoline-engine car in the market.
Toyota also fits the Prius v with its new generation of cabin tech, based around a new series of head units. CNET's review car was fitted with the top tier, meaning hard-drive-based navigation, external data coming in through satellite radio and Entune app integration, and a new JBL GreenEdge audio system, designed to use less energy but produce robust sound.
We might have been skeptical about Toyota's decision to expand the Prius brand, but judging from the Prius v, it should be a success.
Read our review of the 2012 Toyota Prius v.