When it comes to hybrid technology, Toyota has been the busiest of flag-bearers. The brand has been in the hybrid game since the original Prius launched in 1997. In motoring terms, that’s a lifetime ago.
 
Unfortunately for Toyota, the late nineties wasn’t a time when lower consumption or lower emissions were as relevant as they are now, however, you’ve gotta start somewhere.
 
Now 1997 was one of those years where rational thought was hard to come by. Hanson and the Spice Girls were dominating the charts, need I say more?
 
The year wasn’t a total write off, on a brighter note, Pierce Brosnan cemented himself as a contemporary James Bond effectively reviving the franchise for a new generation.
 
The Prius was a car ahead of its time and like plenty of great ideas, it took some time to be fully appreciated. Upon its release, it was only the self-elected cultural elite who were keen to be seen piloting the Prius, however, it’s now carved out a slice of the wider market and has evolved into its fourth-generation.
 
We are now living in a time when a green wave has started to hit the transport industry meaning hybrid cars are about to come into their own.
 
Locally, Toyota Australia is putting some of its considerable muscle into expanding its hybrid portfolio. The new Corolla has already joined the Prius and Camry in the hybrid stable, while a hybrid version of the popular RAV4 is scheduled to arrive next year.
 
Hybrid versions of the Yaris, C-HR and Kluger are also available in some overseas markets and could head Down Under at some stage.
 
Toyota has sold more than 12 million hybrid models, all of which can be traced back to the first incarnation of the Prius.
 
The success of the Prius has spawned addition model lines such as the Prius c and Prius v, the latter is the model we will be spending the next three months getting to know.
 
The Prius v is arguably the most unique and versatile model to wear a Prius badge, yet very few people have heard of it.
 
This is a car that crosses over multiple segments. Ideally, it should be classed as a large hatch or MPV, either way, this is one for family buyers.
 
Aside from the promised efficiency of the hybrid drivetrain, what makes the Prius v unique is it has seven-seats. It’s worth noting, this is the cheapest seven-seater to wear a Toyota badge easily undercutting the Tarago, Kluger, Fortuner and Prado.
 
Toyota offers the Prius v in two trim levels, the standard variant which we have here costs a reasonable $37,590 plus on-road costs.
 
For the coin, it’s well equipped, keyless entry, push-button start, satellite navigation with SUNA live traffic updates, climate control air conditioning, rear-view camera, autonomous emergency braking and a head-up display are all standard.
 
Moving up to the range-topping i-Tech model adds auto-levelling Bi-LED headlights, a fixed panoramic sunroof, faux leather trim, heated front seats, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and intelligent park assist. The extra garnish pushes the price of the i-Tech to $45,380 plus on-road costs.
 
The hybrid system is identical in both variants, it consists of a naturally-aspirated 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with two electric motors and a lithium-ion battery pack. The system produces a combined output of 100kW. It’s matched with a CVT automatic that sends drive to the front wheels.
 
Easily the most eye-catching number on the spec sheet is the combined fuel consumption figure of 4.4L/100km. For a seven-seat family car to get anywhere near that will be impressive.
 
Over the coming months, we will examine the Prius v in detail and report back on all aspects of our time with the car. We will focus on how well the car handles family duties and the upcoming school holidays provides the perfect opportunity to put the Prius v through its paces. Stay tuned!