By Clint Williams
Green Right Now

The high-mileage Toyota Prius is the best-selling hybrid on the road, but it’s not a car for everybody. It can fit four in reasonable comfort, as long as they travel light. While that makes it a great second car for long commutes or the principal ride of eco-conscious empty-nesters, it’s not really a family car – unless your family consists of a couple of dogs smaller than a football.

Finally, a Prius for families.

The 2012 Prius v, however, offers a mash-up of hybrid technology and station wagon roominess to serve as the family’s primary vehicle. Unless you’re Kate Gosselin.

The Prius v – Toyota says it’s “v” as in versatility – is six inches longer and three inches taller than the regular Prius. Bigger car means more cargo room. The regular Prius offers 21.6 cubic feet behind the passenger seats. The Prius v has 34 cubic feet – more than some compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V and nearly as much as the Ford Escape Hybrid. The rear seats slide forward, giving you more room for stuff and fold flat to give you more than 67 cubic feet for cargo. There is also room for emergency gear and such in the “basement storage” under the rear cargo platform.

And you still get 44 miles per gallon in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway, according to EPA estimates.

The cabin is comfortable and family-friendly with plenty of storage nooks: dual glove boxes, a center console utility tray and a center console that Toyota says hold 23 CD cases. We didn’t test that claim, but it is pretty big. There are five cup holders.

The ride is quieter than you might expect. Use of textured materials – almost fuzzy to the touch – gives the dash and interior a nice look.

Back seat passengers have ample legroom and can slide the seats back and forth. The rear seats also recline – a nice feature for long road trips.

The Prius v shares the same drivetrain as its smaller sibling. The gas-electric combo generates 134 horsepower channel by an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission.

The array of safety features includes electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, brake assist and seven airbags.

The top trim level – the Five Model – includes a navigation system with a rearview camera, satellite radio and HD radio, automatic LED headlights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and SofTex upholstery, a faux leather that has a manufacturing process with approximately 99 percent fewer volatile organic compounds than conventional synthetic leather.

The sticker price on the test car, which included a $5,580 Advance Technology Package, is $36,622.

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