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Pondering Prius: Doing the Numbers on the 2013 Toyota Prius V

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Exterior rear 3/4 view of the 2013 Toyota Prius V

It may not be as tall as most crossover SUVs, but it’s got all the interior space, and in many cases, quite a bit better fuel economy. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

Toyota’s Prius V strikes me as a logical, fuel efficiency-minded substitute for a bevy of small and midsize crossover SUVs for those who don’t mind the hybrid powertrain’s quirks. Let’s crunch some numbers.

Suppose you’re shopping the hot-selling Ford Escape. A base Escape S stickers at $22,470. A base Prius V– known as the “Prius V Two”– will set you back $26,650. The $4,180 difference is nothing to sneeze at, but neither is the 9-MPG spread in highway fuel efficiency. Assuming 15,000 miles per year at a conservative (for these times) $3.50 per gallon, the payback time is…a not-so impressive 11 years.

Start loading up both vehicles with options, however, and the payback comes faster. Our test Prius V was an upscale “Five” model, with touchscreen Entune infotainment and navigation system, heated front seats, leather-like SofTex seating surfaces, a Smart Key system, and 17-inch alloy wheels. To get that level of equipment in an Escape, you’re looking at an SEL trim package, which includes leather-trimmed seating surfaces, SYNC with MyFord Touch infotainment and navigation system, and an available 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine that allows it to close the gap on fuel efficiency, netting a 33 MPG highway rating from the EPA. To get Ford’s Intelligent Access equivalent to Toyota’s Smart Key system, you have to pop for an extra $1,895 package that also includes a hands-free power liftgate. So equipped, our Prius V stickered at $30,295, and an Escape SEL would go for $30,710. Hello, zero payback time.

The cargo area of the 2013 Toyota Prius V

This is the cargo area of the Toyota Prius V. It’s every bit as big as most crossover SUVs, but has a lower liftover height and load floor, which is welcome when loading heavy and/or awkward things like baby strollers. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

Though we’ve made an example of the Escape in this case, you can play this game with just about any compact SUV on the market, and Toyota knows it. On its Prius V web page, Toyota mentions “more cargo space than that of most small SUVs” at 34.3 cubic feet of carrying capacity behind the rear seats. The Escape, since it has been serving as our example, has room for exactly the same amount of cargo behind its second row seats. Even in this circumstance of equally matched specifications, the Prius has an advantage in the form of a lower liftover height and load floor than the Escape– or for that matter, most any compact SUV on the market. Of course, the Prius V doesn’t have quite the high seating position of most crossovers, though it should be mentioned that the second row does sit higher than the front buckets in a pseud0-theatre style.

The Prius V may not be as engaging to drive as some compact SUVs (we’re looking at you, Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape), nor may it be as luxurious as some in the class, but we’d wager that for a lot of folks just looking for a commuter appliance that is easy on the wallet while offering all the passenger and cargo space of the aforementioned crossovers, Toyota’s largest Prius makes a lot of sense.

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