When Toyota dropped off the Barcelona Red Prius Five, I was a bit confused that I wasn’t going to be driving the Prius V. “I thought you were dropping off the van one,” I said to the driver. “You know which one I’m talking about? The Prius ‘V’?”
“That’s what the last guy (who drove it) said, too!” he chuckled.
So, here we are. Instead of the still relatively new-and-different Prius V people-mover, we have a 2015 Toyota Prius. A nice car, but a nice car which- apart from snazzier headlights and some swoopier sheetmetal- didn’t seem to be all that different from the wife’s 2nd-gen Prius.
Or, was it?
Inside the 2015 Toyota Prius Five
The biggest visual difference between the 2nd-generation Prius and the newest 2015 model is in the dashboard. New for 2010, the third-generation Prius introduced the more organic, “swept” look for Toyota interiors (above) that has since influenced the designs of the new-for-2014 Corolla, 2015 Camry, and the upcoming 2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car. Comparing the 2015 car to the 2nd-gen, then, would be tough. Luckily, my mother-in-law’s 2012 Prius was also handy- and it was here, with a visually similar interior, that the improved plastics, textures, and leather seating materials of the Prius Five really stood out.
In the 2015 Five, the dash and door plastics have a sort of “wave” pattern etched into them. The effect is almost invisible at a casual glance, but is tactilely rewarding to the touch and gives the whole interior a very artsy, Japanese sort of feel.
Also worth noting was the LATCH-placement in the rear seats of the third-generation car. For some, non-obvious reason, these easily accepted my daughter’s rear-facing Recaro seat, which is something that the second-generation car simply won’t do.
Driving the 2015 Toyota Prius Five
Despite the many detail improvements over the 2nd generation Prius, the 2015 Toyota Prius Five still drives like a golf cart. An under-powered golf cart, in fact, and not in the same sort of giddy fun way that the Chevy Spark feels like a golf cart. In EV mode, the Prius leaves the line slowly. It gets up to speed slowly, too, without any hint of the “on demand torque” that EV enthusiasts (myself, included) often cite as the best thing about driving an electric vehicle.
That’s not to say that the Prius is a bad car. Sure, it’s a slow car, but the Prius effectively took my family all over the Chicagoland area for some early holiday shopping in reasonably-spacious, climate-controlled comfort. So, while the performance was a bit of a let down, that’s forgivable in a car that is definitely not about performance.
What wasn’t forgivable, in my case, was the Prius’ fuel economy- since I never got close to the car’s claimed 51/48 MPG figures (according to the car’s “ECO Savings Record” dash function).
We never took a trip- even around town- that returned better than 46 MPG. That was surprising, given that the last high-MPG Toyota products we tested (here, here, and here) all exceeded the manufacturer’s claimed fuel economy figures in my real-world testing (as much as Oak Park is the real world, anyway).
Final Thoughts on the 2015 Toyota Prius Five
If you put a sporty-car enthusiast behind the wheel of a new Prius for a few days, then ask him/her what they thought of it, they’d report a miserable, slow, and insipid driving experience. This isn’t a car for enthusiasts- and that’s OK, because enthusiasts (and journalists) don’t buy new cars.
The people who do buy new cars- the people who matter to Toyota, in other words- can’t get enough of the Prius. Further, the sales manager at my local Toyota dealer told me that the pricey, top-of-the-line Five model was the fastest-selling version of Prius. “We can’t keep them on the lot,” he said, more-or-less confirming that people who buy Prii don’t necessarily do so to save money.
So, the big question: should you buy a 2015 or wait for the new 2016 model? As for us, when it came time to buy her next car, the wife picked out one of the new, AWD Volvo wagons for its all-wheel-drive, bigger cargo capacity, and its superior performance and horsepower. So, make of that what you will.
Original content from Gas 2; photos courtesy Toyota.