By Bob Nagy
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
Toyota intends to fully leverage the potential market appeal of the Prius name with this new newest member of the family. The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price ranges from just over $19,700 for a Prius C One to just under $24,000 for a Prius C Four, and even a fully loaded top-line Four will barely crack the $25,000 mark. Those opening numbers position it about $4,000 below comparable members of the Prius "Classic" liftback sedan lineup. While it's certainly possible to buy a gasoline-powered competitor for less, nothing on the market without plug-in capability can touch the Prius C's stellar fuel economy figures. Depending on your tendency to rack up miles, that fact can serve as a very enticing advantage, particularly if the price of gasoline rises beyond the $4/gallon level. KBB.com has not yet issued residual value figures for the Prius C, but the existing Prius has held its own versus other hybrid offerings and that seems likely to be the case with this scaled-down variation on the theme.
By Proudface (MD) on Saturday, October 26, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 18,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "great gas mileage, dependable"
Cons: "slow, no bells and whistles"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This car has been great for getting all of the small parking spaces that others can't get in the city. It is fast when it needs to be but about 50mpg. It is super quiet like other hybrids. Doesn't have all of the bells and whistles, but it has blue tooth. Looks very sporty. Back seat is small, but not as small as the IQ, smart car, fiat, or other cars of its type."
By WelcomeHomeChrisCars (NM) on Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 9,800overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Saving Planet. Design, Economy, Versatile, Cute!"
Cons: "Not a Ferrari"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I am a Realtor and of course I do a lot of city, stop and go, and short trip driving. When I went shopping for a hybrid or other high mpg (fuel efficient) car I started out looking at used hybrids or new, small econ cars. I really wanted to keep it below $20,000 AND have incredible gas mileage. After several weeks of test driving and frustration I discovered the Prius C - What a great value compared to the standard Prius! I estimate that I am saving about $150 a month in gas expense vs my (Turbo)Subaru. Years down the road when my car payment is done this will make a huge difference in my quality of life - that extra $150 to $200 a month! For maximum fuel efficiency, the acceleration takes some getting used to, physically and psychologically. I had an Audi A4 years ago, and then a Subaru with a turbo. So, I was used to having power and superior handling at my fingertips. There is enough power, when needed, in this vehicle - but the whole dynamic is different and a driver needs to anticipate acceleration when possible. However, cluing in to the gauges and learning how to get maximum efficiency has, in general, changed my driving style. It's fun to challenge myself and try to get 59 mgp on the flat, short trips. Long down-hills, like coming out of the mountains or off the foothills, it's WAY FUN to see the trip meter read at 78 to 99 mpg. The handling of the "C" class I found far superior to the older, (used), regular Prius versions. (I test drove several) and the turning radius, control, and steering is GREAT in this car. Aside from lacking pure, raw acceleration this baby DOES drive like a little sports car at city street speeds (15-45). It's not so impressive on the highway but performed better than several Honda's (stiff, bumpy ride), the Ford Fiesta, anything from Kia or Hyundai. Cabin design and the split-seat hatchback are incredibly versatile, and I've been able to get all kinds of large or bulky items into my Prius C with no problem at all. I even moved a medium size piece of antique furniture! Overall, I am happy with the Toyota Prius C - but the proof will be in the pudding long term. If I am still praising the quality in 5-10 years, and watching my gas dollars go farther than anyone else as gas approaches $5 a gallon again (it will), I expect my satisfaction with this vehicle to only grow from here."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Mike (FL) on Wednesday, October 16, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great gas mileage, reliable, easy to maintain"
Cons: "Sluggish, uncomfortable seats"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"If you are looking for basic, reliable and economic transportation look no further, if you want a sports car look elsewhere. Gas mileage in the city (Miami) averages around 50 mpg. On long highway trips I get about 46 - 50 mpg depending on speed an AC usage. The care seems very reliable and is easy to work on (oil changes, plugs, brakes, etc.). The seats are not the most comfortable. The layout is good, roomy interior, enough leg room. The engine is a bit sluggish when you really need acceleration but that's to be expected."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Lee (NC) on Thursday, October 10, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Saving in fuel fantastic. Loaded with options."
Cons: "Leg space in back if front seats all way back."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Good value for small comfortable riding vehicle. Back seating a little cramped if long legged people in front seats. For short trips (8 hours or less) the vehicle is great for the trip. I haven't gone longer but don't see a problem. West Virginia Mountain traveling, the MPG goes to 48-50 MPG. Plenty of power to climb the mountain highways."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By zoe (CA) on Wednesday, October 09, 2013
I don't own this caroverall rating 7 of 10rating details
Cons: "Hard seat"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"I rented this car for a trip from San Diego to Tucson and back, a distance of about 450 miles. It took ONE tank of gas to get to Tucson, the light was flashing at me when I drove into town. The trip back took more. The car had 22,000 miles on it, and there was quite a bit of wind noise and rattles. Without stopping to read the owner's manual, it took me until I was almost home to find the gauge with the outside temperature. It is located by the shifter, and I was looking on the mirror, window, and dash which seems more logical. Also, I never did find a direction indicator. The seat was very uncomfortable for a long drive, something this car should shine at. There is nothing plush or upscale or cushy about the interior, it is bare-bones."
By Epic Red (CA) on Thursday, August 08, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fuel mileage, fun to drive, great technology"
Cons: "no auto headlights and no rear view camera"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"2013 Prius C version 3. Car is a dream to drive with gas mileage that's unbelievable even over my previous vehicle, the Corolla. Averaging about 55 mpg combined, usually over 60 in the city. Model 3 has the on screen navigation and Etunes. There may be too much tech on this car as I'm often distracted by it. Two options I wish it had and can't understand why Toyota didn't include is automatic headlines (the Corolla had this standard), and a rear backing camera which I guess the Australian versions had."
8 people out of 9 found this review helpful