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2012 Toyota Prius v aims for family-friendly buyers

Toyota's 2012 Prius v (v for versatility) goes on sale this fall as the consummate fuel-efficient midsize hybrid, with room for five people.

The new v not only is expected to deliver 44 miles per gallon when performing at peak efficiency, but also will be roomy enough to serve up more cargo space than three-quarters of the SUVs out there.

Um, yeah, and it's got a moonroof and push-button start, too. Forget the key. That's so old school.

The v hopes to capture the attention of families on the go.

A Toyota spokesman said the price for the Prius v would be determined in a few months, but by way of comparsion, other new Prius models start at just under $24,000. Auto critics have speculated in published articles that the car will go for between $25,000 and $39,000.

The Prius v, which comes with five cupholders and as a silly amenity offers room in the back to store umbrellas, uses a Hybrid Synergy Drive function to get its amazing mpgs. The system gives the car outstanding mileage, low emissions and no need for recharging.

Toyota considers the car a value-driven option for discerning buyers.

“The Prius v brings leading-edge hybrid technology to customers who need more room,” said Bob Carter, general manager of Toyota. “It produces 66 percent fewer smog-forming emissions than the average new vehicle and will have the best mileage ratings of any SUV, crossover or wagon sold in America” when it hits showrooms in August.

The Hybrid Synergy Drive system uses two high-output motors – an 80 horsepower unit for the transaxle and a smaller motor that is the vehicle's electric power source. Power sourcing is part of the v's charm. Energy can come from one motor or the other, or a mix of both. An internal computer controls where the power comes from, based on driver need.

The 2012 Toyota Prius v comes with a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that generates systemwide horsepower of 134. The engine is as quiet as a church mouse, as is usually the case with Priuses that have been road tested over the years.

The Prius name has been around for 14 years, with more than 2 million cars sold. Safety has always been a strong point and the Prius v is no exception.

There are seven airbags on the v. And the car's platform uses steel, used in strategic ways to increase occupant safety. This bolsters strength without adding weight.

Safety features also include vehicle stability control, traction control, an anti-lock braking system and Brake Assist. The 2012 Toyota Prius v also features a Smart Stop Technology brake-override system and electronic tire pressure-monitoring system, standard.

Family-friendly elements are best underscored by Toyota's use of SofTex material for its seats. It's more lightweight than previous materials that have been used on Prius models, and it's easy to clean up things that might spill.

You can reach's Hawke Fracassa at [email protected].