The 2012 Toyota Prius v is a Prius that's all grown up. The engine bay's contents may be the same-the Prius v borrows the regular Prius's 1.8-liter hybrid powertrain-but the Prius v is really a different vehicle altogether. Longer, wider, and considerably taller than a regular Prius, the two-row Prius v is basically a third-row seat away from being the world's first hybrid minivan. While there are lots of reasons why these changes are for the better, we've narrowed down our list to the following five.

1. Big, Versatile Back Seat

No one ever accused the regular Prius of having an inadequate back seat, but there's always room for improvement. Witness the Prius v's back seat, which will make you wonder how you lived with the regular Prius's compromised rear quarters for so long. The Prius v's secret is twofold. First, like the front seats, the back seat is elevated, so taller passengers get more support under their thighs. Second, the Prius v's back seat back and forth, and the seatbacks recline, so rear passengers get to adjust their seats just like those in front.

2. More Cargo Space

The regular Prius hatchback is already a handy vehicle, but some owners told Toyota that they wanted more cargo space. And Toyota obliged with the Prius v. If you slide the back seat all the way forward, there's 40.2 cubic feet of space in the cargo bay-that's more than the regular Prius's maximum capacity with the rear seatbacks folded down. If you fold those seatbacks down in the Prius v, you've got 67.3 cubic feet. A lot of crossover SUVs wish they could carry this much stuff.

3. Commanding Driving Position

Another SUV-like feature is the Prius v's elevated driving position. Like the back seat, the front seats have been moved skyward to take advantage of the v's taller roof, and the standard height-adjustable driver's seat lets you go even higher if you want. We like how the regular Prius feels like a futuristic space pod from behind the wheel, but the Prius v is a refreshing change with its commanding sightlines and airy cabin. It's like driving a crossover without the penalty at the pump.

4. Upscale Interior

We've always felt the Prius had a pretty nice interior considering that it's basically an economy car. But the Prius v costs a little more, so Toyota decided that it ought to have a nicer cabin, too. From the rich dashboard materials to the relatively conservative style of the control layout, it's clear that Toyota went for a more upscale vibe with the Prius v. Folks who pony up for one will certainly feel like they got their money's worth when they look around inside.

5. Still Gets Great Fuel Economy

You didn't think we could do an entire Prius article without mentioning fuel economy, did you? The Prius v isn't as wildly fuel-efficient as the regular Prius, but considering its added utility, we think the Prius v's EPA ratings of 44 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway are pretty amazing. In fact, that makes the Prius v slightly more fuel-efficient than the Camry Hybrid-and the "v" is more practical, too.

We've got more reasons where those came from-we like the v a lot more than we expected to-but we'll leave them for you to discover when you take a Prius v for a test drive.

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Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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