I’m not sure if you’re aware of this terribly specific bit of automotive minutia, but it seems that the third generation Toyota Prius, built from 2009 to 2015, had a unique glove compartment shape that seems to have been designed to hold a full-sized wine bottle just perfectly. This has been noted all over the internet over the years, but it’s never been adequately explained if this was an intentional design decision or not. This all made me quite curious, so I reached out to Toyota and just asked.
Before I reveal what Toyota said, let’s just take a look at the glove box in question and note the peculiarity:
It’s worth noting that this generation of Prius actually had two glove boxes, an upper and lower one (probably known as a “main” and “mezzanine”), but it’s the smaller upper one we’re interested in. Specifically, we’re interested in this little bit of volume here:
I’m just calling it “the notch” because, well, it’s a notch. And this notch is present in both the left- and right-hand drive versions of the car, which are just mirror images of one another:
The notch is a peculiar little volume; I applaud any carmaker for making every little bit of available storage usable for the owner, but this little extra alcove is a puzzling one. What, exactly, would you put in that little open-faced bit of space? A lone meatball? An Airpods case (which didn’t exist at the time this was designed)? A stress ball? A spare glass eye? A dumpling? There’s not that much I can think of that you’d want in a glove box and would use that space well.
Of course, what people did discover is that the notch made the glovebox absolutely ideal for carrying a standard, full-sized wine bottle:
— ゲスコ (@gesukosu) March 20, 2019
I mean, look at that! It does fit a wine bottle strangely perfectly. Like perfectly perfectly. It really does look like it was made for just this purpose! And it would be fitting, demographically, I’d think: the Venn diagram of Prius buyers and wine buyers has to be pretty close to a lone circle, or at least a Garfield’s-eyes-level of overlap. But, then again, would a mainstream automaker like Toyota really endorse the carrying of an alcoholic beverage container right in the dash of a car?
Could there be a technical reason? We can see behind the glove box inner tub and see what sort of HVAC and other equipment lurks back there via this video that shows exactly what we want to see:
Here’s a still frame of the area in question:
I mean, I guess there’s some extra space on the left there, but it also looks like that plastic support panel could have been designed to allow more room below or block it off entirely with minimal changes to anything. I’d say this is inconclusive at best. So, it’s time to just ask the source; I reached out to Toyota product communications, who reached out to some designers and engineers, and this was the statement I got back:
“The glove box design is the result of a need to offer passengers storage while also accommodating vehicle components like electrical and HVAC. The unique fit of this bottle is purely coincidental.”
So, according to Toyota, this isn’t intentional. At least that’s the official company line. Personally, I think whomever designed this had to have had a bottle in mind when carving out that volume of space. It all lines up just too well and the notch is too useless in other contexts for this to make sense. So, while I believe that officially this was not the intent, I personally believe the designer who chose this three-dimensional volume of space did so with the understanding that the addition of that notch would at least make transporting a wine bottle possible, where it would not have been had that notch not existed.
It’s clever. Even if Toyota won’t acknowledge it, I salute you, Prius glove box designer, wherever you are.