Making its official first appearance in Detroit, the 2012 Toyota Prius C — for City — will become the smallest and most affordable member of the automaker's ultra-successful Hybrid line when it goes on sale in March. This subcompact five-door hatch mated its Hybrid Synergy Drive system to a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine instead of the 1.8-liter used in all other Prius models sold here. That change helps earn the Prius C a stellar 53 mpg EPA city rating, which will make it the most fuel efficient non-plug-in hybrid vehicle sold in America.
While the production variant has lost a bit of the dramatic detailing seen on the Prius C Concept first presented in Detroit last year, it does retain the same basic lines and proportions. Roughly a foot and a half shorter than a standard Prius sedan, the new Toyota Prius C Hybrid is also about two inches lower, two inches narrower and rides on a six-inch shorter wheelbase. However, Toyota sources indicate it has a sportier and more dynamic character than any of its current siblings.
Its diminutive scale notwithstanding, the new Prius C will arrive in Toyota showrooms with a full-size feature set. Confirmed standards include a comprehensive roster of power assists, multifunction steering wheel controls, Smart Key with push-button starting, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and nine standard airbags for starters. Recognizing the increasing importance of enhanced connectivity -- especially to younger buyers that Toyota hopes will find much to like in its latest hybrid offering - the Prius C also will be available with Toyota's new Entune multimedia infotainment system as well as SiriusXM Satellite Radio. One standard feature that stands to bode particularly well for the 2012 Toyota Prius C is its extremely attractive pricing. While comprehensive information won’t be released until closer to its on-sale date, Toyota has confirmed that the base model Prius C it will start below $19,000.