By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.9
Taking Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) technology down to its smallest size yet, the 2012 Toyota Prius C - for "City" – arrives on the scene as the latest and most fuel-efficient member of the automaker's ever-expanding Prius family. With a starting price below $20,000, this subcompact 5-door hatchback also is the most affordable. It should prove particularly appealing to those leaning toward conventional rivals like the Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, and even the Toyota Yaris.
Anyone seeking a scaled-down sustainable transportation solution that matches practicality, versatility and a surprising level of affordability with outstanding fuel economy will be well served by the new Toyota Prius C.
While the Prius C is attractively priced for a hybrid, some buyers may find that a more affordable conventional alternative – like the Ford Fiesta SFE, Honda Fit or Hyundai Accent – may deliver a better long-term total return on their investment.
Aimed at young, value-oriented consumers, the 2012 Prius C is coupled with four trim levels – named One, Two, Three and Four. An outstanding roster of standard features and a 50-mpg EPA combined rating endows the new Prius C with a grand slam of character traits that should endear it to budget-conscious buyers of all ages.
Driving Impressions A strategically reinforced body and optimally positioned battery and powertrain elements coupled with purpose-tuned suspension bits elevate handling dynamics of the new Prius C well beyond the Toyota Yaris on...which it's based. Although low-rolling resistance tires limit cornering grip to acceptably modest levels, body roll is impressively controlled and the column-mounted electric power steering offers surprisingly positive feel and decent feedback in standard form as well as with the quicker-ratio setup that accompanies the 16-inch wheel/tire package. The same holds true of the Prius C's well-regulated regenerative disc/drum antilock brake system. Ride quality skews towards the firm side in all models and can be somewhat harsh on rough road surfaces, particularly on the C Four with the wheel/tire upgrade. While fully capable of dealing with urban commuting and freeway cruising duties, the Prius C's 11.5 second 0-60 mph time does encourage a bit of driver discretion prior to engaging in any dramatic overtaking maneuvers.
Display Audio System
Standard in Prius C Three/C Four trim grades, the 6-speaker Display Audio System with Navigation and Entune multimedia includes a 6.1-inch LED touchscreen, voice recognition capability, HD Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio with Real Time traffic/weather/sports/stocks/fuel prices, plus a smartphone interface that allows access to various downloadable apps, including Bing and Pandora.
Enhanced Multi-mode Eco Display
The Prius C is the first of Toyota's HSD clan to be fitted with an upgraded Multi-information Display that offers even more Eco Savings-related data-logging features – including the ability to calculate actual mpg and fuel-cost savings over various time/distance intervals as well as present relative cost comparisons versus other vehicles.
Prius family values are clearly evident inside of the Prius C's surprisingly spacious and well-finished passenger compartment. The commonality is clearest in the offset positioning of the hatchback's main gauge display and the design of its multifunction steering wheel, which carries directly from the Prius liftback sedan. Well-formed bucket seats provide a good combination of comfort and support up front while the Prius C's rear bench – which features a 60/40 split back in all but the C One model - can accommodate a pair of average-size adults or three kids. It easily folds flat to virtually doubles the capacity of the Prius C's already generous 17.4-cubic-foot cargo bay.Exterior
While based on the Toyota Yaris platform, a comprehensive recasting endows the 2012 Prius C with the distinctive "Triangle Silhouette" design motif seen in other members of the Prius family. Aerodynamically optimized front/rear exterior treatments and the jaunty sweep of its C-pillar and body side contouring add visual interest to this diminutive newcomer while helping mask the fact that it is over a foot and a half shorter than the standard Prius liftback. Prius C One/Two/Three variants wear 175/65 low-rolling resistance tires on 15-inch steel wheels while the C4 gets standard aluminum rims and offers optional 16-inch alloys and 195/50 rubber.
Offered in four distinct variants, all Prius C models are impressively equipped and include automatic climate control, an enhanced Multi-Information Display, remote keyless entry, seven airbags and the comprehensive Toyota STAR Safety system. Even the baseline audio system offers AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA capability plus AUX/USB/iPod inputs and Bluetooth connectively. The C Two adds things like premium 2-tone fabric trim, a tilt/telescoping steering column, cruise control and a 6-way driver's seat, while the Prius C Three and Four models gain a Display Audio/Navigation/Entune multimedia package, Touch Tracer display and push-button starting. The primo C Four also features leather-like and eco-friendly SofTex upholstery, heated front bucket seats and fog lights.
The Prius C is essentially configured in four different equipment-specific trim grades, and consequently, the extras list is minimal. Save for a choice of nine exterior colors and various dealer-installed accessory items, there are no options for either the Prius C One or C Two models. The Prius C Three can be fitted with a power tilt/slide moonroof and 15-inch alloy wheels, while C Four buyers can opt for the moonroof as well as a 16-inch alloy wheel upgrade that also nets quicker-ratio electric power steering.
Sole powertrain for the Prius C is a new, downsized but upgraded version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system that teams a 73-horsepower/1.5-liter Atkinson Cycle 4-cylinder gasoline engine with a new smaller, lighter hybrid transaxle that contains a 60-hp drive motor energized by a compact nickel-metal hydride battery that's located beneath the rear seat. Collectively, this gas/electric pairing makes 99 quite serviceable horsepower and works in concert with an equally new, slimmer and trimmer Power Control Unit. The Prius C offers the choice of Normal, Eco and EV modes, with the latter delivering up to one mile of zero-emissions travel at up to a 25-mph pace. However, the more meaningful upside is the Prius C's real-world fuel economy, pegged by the EPA at an estimated 53/46 mpg city/highway.
1.5-liter inline-4 + 45-kilowatt Electric Motor and 0.87kWh battery pack
73 horsepower @ 4,800 rpm/60 horsepower (99 net system horsepower)
82 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm/125 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 53/46 mpg
By markk on Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 8,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fuel economy. Practical. Sporty. Tech marvel."
Cons: "Small storage space"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The car is a little small but it is comfortable. Acceleration will not blow you away but it is more than acceptable when going from stop light to stop light. Lots of gadgets for the tech savy. Nice to complete a trip to the store and see you got 76 mpg. Nice to cruise in the neighborhood on electric alone. Comfortable ... rather sporty. I would buy it again."
4 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Sandi on Wednesday, June 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,635overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "price, fun to drive (geek factor)"
Cons: "people will bug you to trade it in"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love everything about this car except the height of the driver's seat. I got the c2 and it is not adjustable. I have learned to live with it. I average 63mpg over the whole year. I do not run the heat or air-conditioning whenever possible---it uses fuel for heat and NiMH-storage for the AC. I use the "B" like a jake-brake is used in a tractor-trailer and it fills in for slowing down to a stop before (or perhaps not having to) apply the brakes. It is less wear and tear on the brakes and the "B" function adds more juice to the storage battery. I don't give a fig for "tearing out" of places or passing people on the streets or highway. I drive the speed limit or slightly under and let all the crazies who want the stress of passing me to go ahead and have that stress. I got this c2 for the price of a c1 as a c1 was not available where I live. Of the 3 extra dumb things that I didn't want to pay for in a c2, I use one: the tonneau top for the hatch opening. But, I could just as easily live without it. I plan to never trade this baby in. :-)"
5 people out of 11 found this review helpful
By About it on Tuesday, May 13, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Price, Value & MPG"
Cons: "Seats & acceleration."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I'm rather picky on what I call nice, because I've sold Cars before. For what I paid for the car, it is way more bang for your buck than buying a full Prius. Now I've drove a standard Prius as a demo car for about a week & loved it, it was a fully loaded Prius 3. Going from a standard Prius to a Prius C is a big change. you lose a lot of what was considered Prius only character. The Prius C looks more like a Toyota Yaris than its big brother Prius. With the price you get a great value but loose some comfort & styling. however you'll keep the famous Prius MPG & acceleration, only at a cut in Quality. I would Recommend it to almost anyone who always leaves in a timely manner & doesn't need to speed."
12 people out of 16 found this review helpful
By Bonaparte on Sunday, May 11, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 500overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "fuel economy, price"
Cons: "acceleration from 40 to 65, goofy stock look"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"This is a rating for a model 1. Coming from someone who owned much faster cars before, the Prius C is a humbling experience. It will force humility if you have none while trying to get onto highways. It goes from 0-35 or so just fine but getting it to the next level is an exercise in patience. This car definitely feels much more comfortable on the street. I'd rate this car on the street 10/10 when considering fuel mileage but highway 2/10. It's that much of a difference. If you're ever entering a highway where you're immediately tossed on the runway, do not try to out-speed anyone. The much vaunted fuel mileage is what this car is all about. After slamming the car to see what it could do for about 400 miles, finally got to the point where I needed to fill up around 450 with a mixture of street and highway driving. I'm now at 500 driving like a human being and still with a full tank. It is also a small tank, 9.5 gallons to fill so all your gas price fears evaporate instantly upon purchase. Aesthetically this car is underwhelming but definitely has mod potential, which is why I went for the cheapest model so I can make my own adjustments for the right price. A 16 inch light weight alloy wheel and a drop of about a few inches would make a world of difference and not effect gas mileage since standard rims are heavy fuel efficient steal. The blue tooth hooked up beautifully with my iphone with no issues. Speakers don't have much bite at level 1 though. Might get something aftermarket. If you're used to cruise control, don't think about buying this car without it. I'm a man on the taller side (6ft) and the gas pedal is very small! Smaller than any car I've ever been in, covers about half my foot and feels funny pressing down or holding any speed. Never been a cruise control guy but the small pedal almost makes me wish I got the feature. All in all, great car. Every gripe I've had cannot compare with the fuel economy and the price I paid for it. Haggle a bit, you should at least get 1000 off the MSRP. If you don't, walk out! They'll change their tune. :)"
16 people out of 18 found this review helpful
By Martin on Wednesday, May 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 11,350overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent MPG, Sporty, Many Utility Uses"
Cons: "No PHEV option available yet"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The real world average mpg of the Prius C is equivalent to the original liftback Prius. The price tag, however, is significantly lower. The base model comes standard with cloth seats which require care to avoid dirt/stains. It will be nice if future generations of the Prius C plug in like the PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) Prius. Overall, the Prius C is a Ridiculously Good Value!"
5 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Lyssa on Tuesday, April 08, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "MPG!!!, easy to park, feels really solid for size"
Cons: "No love on the freeway"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"We bought this car brand new Sept. 2013 and we love it so far. Owned it about 7 months and my husband does heavy driving on this car for work. We've put close to 11,000 miles on it already. He averages around 48mpg highway and street driving combined. It only takes about $32 to fill up the tank and lasts him all week. I have no complaints when it comes to the savings we have with gas. We got the two year complimentary toyotacare so it has cost us nothing to maintain the car either. We have the c4 so we have the navigation. It works for us, but the screen is a little dim and small. We also wish Toyota didn't add the weird lines all over the car cause it just looks like someone scratched the interior and the seats. It's a design flaw. The back head rests are also a little big for the car and becomes a blindspot. Overall though, love love love this little car."
10 people out of 13 found this review helpful