2013 Toyota Prius V Three Model – Truck Guy Review

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As a truck guy, I have always been curious as to what was the allure with the Prius. Toyota has sold more than 3 million of these hybrids in more than 80 countries and I see them everywhere. What does a truck guy think of them? Find out in my review.

2013 Toyota Prius V Three Model - Truck Guy Review Interior

This is a first day photo I quickly took. A large winter storm moved in the next day along with an Arctic cold front that kept temps to around 10.

Here is what I knew about the Prius before my review: it is a small hybrid car that gets great fuel economy. That’s it. I had never really been interested in sitting in one nor driving one. I just didn’t have a desire. When, I saw a Prius V in the local press fleet, I thought what the heck, let’s give it a try. I also thought it would be good for our site and our readers.

The truth is that we have been asked a lot (for a truck site) about the Prius. In fact, Jason wrote a post comparing a 2011 Prius with a 1993 Geo Metro that is still getting comments and hits. Seems to me that either people love the Prius or hate the Prius, but they all want to talk about the Prius. Don’t believe me? Go to any truck forum, type the word Prius in and you will find lots of threads.

For our test model we were given a 2013 Toyota Prius V Three Model with a price of $29,189.00. Our model was rated at 44 city, 40 highway – odd that city is higher than highway, yet I think that is due to the hybrid. For the record, the Prius has a 1.8L DOHC 16-Valve VVT 4 cylinder engine with the sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride battery. Toyota calls this the Hybrid Synergy Drive System.

A few things to clarify before I start the review. The V series is what Toyota calls “versatility” or as a common guy calls it a “hatchback.” The Three model is the trim level and is akin to the Tundra Limited trim level (if you go with SR5, Limited, Platinum/1794 – exclude SR). Our test model was white, however, with the bitter cold snap we experienced, I didn’t get many photos of it (too darn cold). I will use some stock photos instead.

2013 Toyota Prius V Three Model - Hatch

The rear hatch is really clean and blends in very well.

Exterior

When they dropped the Prius off, the first thought that crossed my mind is that it isn’t bad. While I have passed quite a few at various auto shows, taking a closer look at this one, I was actually pretty impressed for a hatchback. I have driven the Ford Fiesta ST hatchback and comparing the two, the Prius just looks much better to me. Unlike the Ford, the Prius isn’t trying to attract a new younger, audience and the lines in the Prius are more for a mature audience. It is a stable product for Toyota and if anything it is a little on the bland side (Toyota’s design hallmark). Yet, there isn’t a lot of turnoffs. I thought everything from the lights, mirrors and trunks looked like it was well designed and fit together nicely.

On the rear, I really thought the hatch was well done. In years past, there had been some hatch designs that really stood out. I mean, you knew it was a hatch. This Prius was harder to immediately identify as a “hatch” since everything blended so well. It is one of the very few hatchbacks that I wouldn’t call ugly.

Everything on the car seemed to fit extremely well and the nothing stood out. The fit and finish was superb as usual for Toyota products, every detail fit together and while it didn’t stand out in a crowd, it stood out in its own way.

2013 Toyota Prius V Three Model - Interior

While the seats folded down, the interior is really spacious (I was really impressed). The way Toyota made the opening wide makes it easy to load and unload lots of items.

Interior

The inside, as opposed to the exterior, really surprised me. There are just so many things to discuss that you really have to sit in one to understand. For starters, the windows provide excellent vision and it really rivals the view you get from the Tundra. The space between the passengers and driver is ample for a car. Yet there is only one cup holder that is apparent (the others are hidden). All the gauges are easy to see and the knobs are easy to reach. And there again, some of the knobs felt odd and the “park” button was huge and disproportional to the others in an odd way. It is a combination of good/odd throughout the car.

The space in the rear though is amazing. Opening the hatch and folding down the seats, I felt like I could haul all sorts of things. It was shocking how much space there was and this is best feature by far of the interior.

While the space was surprising in a good way, the seats, instrument panel and lack of options wasn’t. I was flat out shocked at how the driver’s seat didn’t have anything power besides lumbar. Every adjustment was manual. Maybe I have been driving Lexus products way too much, but for $30k and a brand new 2013 model, I expected power seats at least. I checked the Toyota site and the next trim level up, the 5 model, doesn’t have power seats either although it does have leather. This was very odd to me, since I would have thought this would be at least an option.

2013 Toyota Prius V Three Model - Interior

The Prius has the radio and instrument panel all lined up in the center. This takes a bit to get used to when driving it. Also, the flat space behind the steering wheel is just different. Also, the different driving modes are accessible by buttons  to the left of the cup holder.

Another odd item is the instrument panel that sits in the middle of the dash. It isn’t exactly out of the way, but it certainly isn’t ideal I think. You have to constantly look over at it while driving to see your MPH. While, I did get used to it, I never felt extremely comfortable with it. Mostly, it left me wondering why they did it. The space behind the steering wheel, where the dash normally is, was blank, empty and not useful. Basically, you have this huge empty space that felt out of place. I guess you could have put a map there or some important folder of papers, but why? It really didn’t serve any purpose nor make sense.

Overall, the interior felt very utilitarian. It wasn’t fancy and was, in my opinion, lacking many features/options that could have improved the driving experience. I guess I just thought it would be fancier or more interesting.

Driving Impressions

The Prius is like any other compact car to me, driving it isn’t exactly exciting. The model I had did extremely well considering the roads were snowy and icy every where. Overall, I was pretty happy with how the Prius handled the conditions and how it drove.

There had been some discussion on other reviews that the road noise from the Prius was “loud.” I’m not so sure about this. Could it have been quieter? Sure, but I didn’t really expect it to be.

Piloting the car (and I will say piloting) is a bit of different matter. First off, the Prius has four driving modes that are: EV, ECO, PWR and Normal. While I played with all of these modes, I never felt any real difference. Toyota says that the modes impact fuel economy and the PWR (power) is meant for wanting more torque. On their site, they state: “EV/ECO/POWER Modes; 98 hp @ 5200 rpm (73 kW @ 5200 rpm); 105 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm (142 N•m @ 4000 rpm).” Frankly, I tried them all and there are extremely minimal differences at best. I did try, quite often, to get the Prius to use the EV only mode (battery), yet I did a poor job at this and was never really able to do it effectively. This is a car that you need some time/experience driving I think to really get the EV mode down.

2013 Toyota Prius V Three Model - Gear Shifter

This gear shift knob is tiny and strange. It also snaps back into this position after moving it to put the car in gear. Also, the “B” is an engine brake driving mode. First time I have ever seen this.

It also has this strange gear shift knob that snaps back to a neutral placement AFTER you select drive, reverse or park. This small gear shift knob felt awkward to me and took a while to get used to the feel of it. Also, the snapping back into place piece was just strange. Why Toyota decided to have this item on the Prius is beyond me.

Another strange thing is that the car has a “ready” light that comes on when the vehicle is “on.” Several times I would either be backing out or starting to drive BEFORE the engine kicked on. While I knew this was going to happen at some point with the hybrid, it was just a strange feeling especially coming from driving a full-size truck. There is no throaty roar of the engine when it turns over, no reeving up excitement. Frankly, there were times I wasn’t exactly sure if the car was on or off.  Several times I had turned the music up and didn’t even hear the engine turn over. All I felt was this little vibration.

Overall Thoughts

While Prius owners seem to take a lot of heat from truck guys for being tree huggers or environmentalists that thought never crossed my mind. I just put the Prius into perspective. It is a $30k, 44, 40 city, highway mpg compact hatchback.Looking at the competition, it stacks up really well with the others like the Ford Fiesta  (38/27 for $22k), Mazda3 (41/30 for $27k) and Honda Fit (35/28 for $20k). Yes, it is more expensive, but the fuel economy is quite a bit better.

I thought overall, the Prius is a good product, for what it isthat shouldn’t be overlooked when looking for a compact car. Frankly, if I had a long commute, I would strongly consider one. You just can’t beat 44/42 mpg these days from a well-built car.

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  1. Speedster says:

    “The model I had was an AWD which was great considering the roads were snowy and icy every where. Overall, I was pretty happy with how the AWD handled the conditions and how it drove.”

    Um, no. No Prius is AWD. All the Prius’ models have traction control, but you can’t turn it off. As we all know, there are some times that you need to turn it off to be able to get where you need to go. I’m glad it got around well enough that you though it was AWD. Prius is light enough that most people prefer snow tires for winter conditions.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      Speedster,

      You are correct and it was my error. I have since fixed the story and removed the AWD reference.

      Thanks for letting me know.

      -Tim

  2. Mickey says:

    Okay since the wife has a 07 Prius pkg 6 which is a Limited. The price was close to what you had on the V. As for mpg the regular Prius is higher than the V. The V is a station wagon kind of vehicle. The higher in the city mpg is because of the hybrid. A good example to get the EV to work is pulling into a subdivision and go 25mph. It’s all on the battery. Since the wife has a Nav in hers you can put it consumption mode and it shows you 100mpg doing that 25mph and that’s your EV mode. It’s good to 35 mph. then engine takes over. You can even watch the Hybrid battery charge. Only a few times did she ever get the battery charged all the way up in green. While riding it’s in blue. Yes there’s a road noise but not really loud. My downside is in long commutes over 200miles I start getting leg spasms because of the tight space. I can’t stretch my legs all the way out. Her Prius has proven to be more economical than any vehicle we owned. Bought only two HID headlights, one set of wiper blades, one taillight and one car battery which you have OEM or Optima batteries to choose from. Now I have to get her another hub cap piece since somehow she lost one. Currently at 139,427 miles and she is still on original brake pads and still in the green according to Toyota techs. So for spending under $500 for what needed replacing you can see constant savings. Being paid off you can see high amount of savings. Wife knows the car is ugly. She got it for mpg’s. She drives nearly 100 miles round trip to work. So savings was a must for her to get out of a perfectly great car in a 03 Crown Victoria LX Sport. Big difference in ride but the Vic only got 17mpg. Car note was the same on both cars so you can see where the savings come from. As for the shift knob Tim it does take some getting use to. Only gear that’s hard to shift to is neutral.

  3. toyrulz says:

    Always thought the central pod gages were for global cars so easier cheaper to produce left and right side drive…?

  4. Randy says:

    Well I have sat in a Prius before and I like it. But have never taken one for a spin.

    I am more of a Corolla kind of guy, super inexpensive rock solid durable etc. But then I realize a Camry is just the cost of two bags of groceries more (I could lose some weight). But why bother with that! If I do “skip” the next weekend vacation, I can have Avalon with 12 way power seats both sides….that one I have owned before and it was the best 4 door ever made IMHO.

    So many choices it makes your head spin.

    Tim, looking for a few more cars reviews; good job because they are “sane”. Meaning not “hot air”.

  5. toyotadave says:

    I’d roll in a Prius for sure. I just gotta pay my Yaris off first, of which, is a car that I love as well. I use the Yaris for work/gen. commuter car to save gas so as to not use my ’06 Tundra DC SR5. Awesome unit as well.

  6. toyotadave says:

    How about a Highlander review!?

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      Good question. Let me check the press fleet and I’ll let you know.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      Just got an answer back, I have to wait until the 2014 model. I know they are currently doing regional press events with it. I’ll keep after one.

  7. mk says:

    who in their right mind would pay 30K for a small car getting 40 hwy mpg?

    there are so many cars, the new mazda 3 gets 40, hyundai elantra 39, and toyota corolla 39 as well on the hwy. all for aorund 20K Seems pointless to spend 10K more on a car to get 2-3 more mpg at best.

    A toyota dealer gave me one as a rental one winter in WI and I couldn’t take it home. It was stuck in the ice upfront of car and had no power ot break away from the snowbank. What a piece of work, my cycle has more hp/torque than this thing.

    • Anonymous says:

      Like I said a Corolla makes more sense to me. I think the Corolla is one of the best automotive bargains on the planet. And yes I would give Mazda a close look, straight forward old school technology that is highly refined to produce great MPGs without problems.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      MK,

      I referenced those cars at the end of the story. While individual deals and rebates will vary, I do think the Prius stacks up pretty well on paper. I found the Mazda3 to be around $27k and about 10 mpgs less city.

      I absolutely agree though that a motorcycle has more hp/torque. It drove fine for me in the snow/ice, yet I didn’t have a big amount of snow to deal with.

      • Mickey says:

        Also Tim the Prius V has the lowest mpg of all the Prius’s. I have no idea why the 10mpg less but I guess the wind tunnel wasn’t favorable for the V. Basic Touring model will have way more mpg’s and if I put down the cost of my wife’s 07 Prius to my 07 Tundra you would see it costs more for the Tundra. Being the fact only HID headlights at $200 for both. A taillight for $3. Optima battery at $225. One set of windshield wipers at $35 for all 3. Only $463 spent on the Prius since we bought it in 07/07. That is cost effectiveness. Now the Tundra 4 times for warranty issues. $4,000 for tranny rebuild. $100 for OEM shocks all 4. $57 for brake pads. $3 for a DRL. $45 for 3 sets of low beams. $25 for 2 sets of fog lights. $650 for 2 AIP pumps. $255 for Air Switch Valve plus another $185 to install it. That’s $5420 for 6 years on a Tundra where $463 for 6 years on a Prius. Prius was under $28k. Tundra was $40k. Cost for Prius was $77.16 per year. Cost for Tundra $903.33 per year.

        • Tim Esterdahl says:

          Mickey,

          That is interesting about cost of ownership via repairs. I would also think looking at fuel differences, the Prius’s difference grows substantially.

          For all the crud that Prius owners seem to take, I still do think it is a viable option for people with longer commutes and those wanting to save gas money. If I had a long commute, I would seriously consider it. I know a guy on a forum who bought one and parked his truck. He was spending $400+ a month on fuel for this Tundra, the payments and gas on his Prius are $350. His Prius is paying for itself in fuel savings.

          -Tim

          • Mickey says:

            Tim her 9 gallon fill up cost under $30 while she avgs 48-55mpg. My Tundra takes under $70 for 21 gallons avg and I get from 17-21mpg. Yes she had me for awhile but not now. I just increased my mpg’s well over 35mpg. By simply buying a Harley. 6 gallon tank cost $16 to fill. It cost less to fill than her Prius. So now I don’t hear her statement “How much it cost to fill up”? I simply rub it in and just tell her.

          • Tim Esterdahl says:

            LOL! I should tell my wife about the “benefits” of driving a Harley. :)

            -Tim

  8. toyotadave says:

    How about a Yaris review Tim? Thanks for checking on Highlander, wife has an ’04 and she is waiting to see about the all-new ’14 model.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      ToyotaDave,

      Unfortunately, there is no Yaris in the press fleet.

      I know they are doing the regional press events for the 2014 Highlander (unfortunately, yours truly wasn’t invited) and it set to hit dealer showrooms in February. While I don’t know a ton about the Highlander, Toyota seems to be pushing the hybrid as the big news. I wrote about it over here: http://partsblog.olathetoyota......er-hybrid/. Pretty pricey if you ask me, yet I’ll reserve judgement until we see the mpg numbers.

      -Tim

  9. toyrulz says:

    Dealer lent me a Prius when my Corolla was in for some work. I was surprised by the back seat room – better than Corolla for getting baby seat in and out. Was wowed by the fuel economy and the proximity fob automatically locking and unlocking doors. Was odd to learn the start up sequence and rear view with camera, didn’t have it long enough to get used to it. At work we have them in our fleet, doing good. I think they are better made of higher quality than Yaris and Corolla, sort of an econo-compact-Lexus…

    Mom-in-law has Yaris, after Corolla, not as well made or nice (but afforded her some options she would have had to go without).

    Corolla is the better bang for buck of the 3 and best for most – where Yaris keeps initial cost lower and may be better for the lower mile younger thinner city folk, and Prius for those who can spare some bucks up front to make a statement.

  10. mk says:

    I guess I shouldn’t talk as I too have bought a 249cc scooter dirt cheap last year thus achieving 63 avg mpg all for 1 grand purchase price. I figure in 3-4 years more of driving I will have paid the 1K back in gas savings. Hey, don’t laugh, this year I passed 3 HD’s puttzing at 55 mph.

  11. toyotadave says:

    Hey Mickey, simply buying a Harley just simply will not cut it here in North Dakota. I would find much entertainment in seeing someone riding a motorcycle in -25F ambient temp. and snow/ice covered roads. Motorcycles are just not an option during the winter months in the north-land. Sorry. I’ll stick with a vehicle for winter, besides if I’m going to purchase a cycle, it won’t be a Harley. Maybe Honda?!!

  12. Mickey says:

    Dave,

    I understand and agree. Right now when it’s cold I won’t ride either. I have the luxury of the Tundra to use when I need to. My first bike was a Honda 350 back in 75-77. I like the Honda’s also but the cost for a cruiser. I just happened to luck out and found this 2009 Electric Glide Ultra Glide with 25,000 miles on it and all maintenance done with a 2 1/2 year warranty still on it. It was just transferred to my name. The guy wanted a trike and wanted to get rid of it. I got it for $15k. Brand new $24k and blue book value $19k. Bank lady asked me what’s wrong with the bike being so cheap of a price? I said it runs great so I have no idea other than he dropped $1k right after bike week when he got no nibbles. Needless to say Dave I went with what everybody else had. 4 of my neighbor have Harleys, and my church group all have Harleys. So I just join with them. Also Brother-in-law has a Softtail. I do respect your opinion on Honda’s.

  13. classicprius2011 says:

    FYI, the reason there is no power seat adjuster option is because the assembly is heavy, so they didn’t include it in the design in order to reduce the weight of the car and therefore increase fuel efficiency. I don’t have a source to link, but it’s what the “Prius expert” guy at the Toyota dealership told me when I bought my 2011 Prius.

  14. […] about trucks, but I also write about all other vehicles as well. Apparently, you didn’t catch my Prius V review?? In order to truly understand trucks and what automakers are thinking, you need to branch out. For […]

  15. […] about trucks, but I also write about all other vehicles as well. Apparently, you didn’t catch my Prius V review?? In order to truly understand trucks and what automakers are thinking, you need to branch out. For […]

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