Broward News

Prius V Test Drive: How Many Hippies and Bags of Manure Can This Thing Hold Anyway?

We don't do a whole lot of car reviews here at the Pulp. So when JM Family Enterprises asked if we'd be interested in test-driving a Prius V for the weekend, our initial reaction was simple: only if we could try stuffing it full of random stuff.

Last weekend, then, became a full-on effort to fill the Prius V, Toyota's new hybrid station wagon, with everything from dirty bags of mulch to dirty protesters. First up: manure.

Challenge One: Manure and Dirt and Things

They say the Prius V is six inches longer than the standard version of the car, meaning it's essentially a Prius with a wagon glued to the back. No doubt this is targeted as a mom mobile, so the first challenge here had to be to a big-box store. Maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond -- I don't know if we'll have enough time.

So, we loaded up a Home Depot cart full of two giant peace lillies, two big pots, eight bags of mulch, three bags of soil, eight liriopes, and yes, manure. In a secure plastic bag, thankfully. The whole process looked like we were reenacting a clown-car episode, subbing out mulch and live plants. The gordo Prius took it all, right down to the cow manure. Although a trip to Bed, Bath, & Beyond was definitely out.

Grade: A

Challenge Two: Thanksgiving Groceries

Like most station wagons and SUVs and dualies, the Prius V will surely spend its life as a grocery getter. This is an economical car to pick up Timmy from soccer practice and stuff his gear in the back with his old playpen that was supposed to go to Goodwill long ago. To simulate a day in the life of suburban Prius living, a Thanksgiving shopping trip seemed perfect.

So we loaded up a cart full of potatoes and stuffing fixings and gravy ingredients. Granted, the turkey is coming later from the Mediterranean Market. But our full Publix cart barely made a dent in the cavernous rear end. No doubt this Prius has junk in its trunk.

Grade: A

Challenge Three: The Dog

Looking in the endless back end of the Prius V, it seems a fine vehicle for big-dog owners. But not so much when driving. The back of the rear seats is covered in a hard plastic that turns into a skid pad. Take a turn and the dog is likely to smack into the passenger doors.

Sure, you could keep the rear seats up and give the dog the run of the leather interior, but most dog owners want to throw their dog-part-dirt-covered mutts into the storage area with the seats down, giving the dog a variable playground back there. If you're going to attempt that, be sure to roll up the back windows.

Grade: C

Challenge Four: Paddleboards

One big hurdle for paddleboard owners is shelling out a few hundred bucks for a good roof rack. If the Prius V storage area could hold them, this could become the paddleboarder's new favorite ride.

We took the wagon over to Precision Paddle Boards, winner of Best Paddleboards this year from New Times. An analysis of the rear room determined that at least one type of board could fit snugly in the back, with its nose jutting into the passenger seat. So in went a 7-foot-5-inch, bright-orange kid's board. This, then, would be the perfect paddleboarding car if kids could drive.

Grade: C-

Challenge Five: Hippies

For decades, the standard vehicle for tie-dyed and dreadlocked types has been the Volvo station wagon, a vehicle that spews enough toxic fumes to cancel out any attempts at green living. Here, then, is a station wagon that gets 45 mpg in the city (35 in our test) and has enough room for all sorts of water bongs.

At the Occupy Fort Lauderdale encampment in front of City Hall, the half-dozen protesters seemed rather disinterested when asked if the Prius V could be the progressives' new vehicle of choice. Finally, Anthony Naughton popped up from the signs he was scribbling to say: "I would hope it would, because we need to get off foreign oil."

He continued: "No longer can our government control the economy with jacked-up oil prices. It's about time we stop supporting the Saudi royal family."

OK, so we were off topic a bit. We asked if anyone would like to go for a ride or see if they could sprawl out in the back. A new Toyota sure would be a comfy way to protest big corporations. "Nah," said Naughton, who seemed to be speaking for the group, "I'm a Ford guy."

It was hard to gain interest among Occupy protesters in a new Prius V, no doubt. But give them a few years, when rust collects in the underbody, add some patchouli to the carpeted floor mats, hang a dreamcatcher from the satellite navigation interface, and you've got yourself a hippie mobile.

Grade: B

Overall, the Prius V earned high marks in our rare Pulp test drive for grocery getting and manure hauling. Dog owners ought to stick with their Subarus, and hippies, wait a few years and this very well might be your new ride.

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Eric Barton
Contact: Eric Barton