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 Mabs on Friday, February 21, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 9,700overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great mpg"
Cons: "Very sluggish acceleration; seats not supportive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"Having owned a Gen 2 Prius, tried the new sibling of the Prius family, the Prius C ~ which has been noted to have exceptional gas mileage of 48-50mpg. My experience ~ 50% gridlock Boston traffic and 50% highway (driving fast - not conservative) - overall mpg of 43mpg. Definitely superior gas mileage, but not as expected.....spartan front dash is simple and easy to navigate...plenty of room with the back seats folded down (more than anticipated). However, acceleration is tortoise-like at best. Very slow. But gets up to speed on the highway and can easily cruise at 80pmh. For reliability and mpg, the Prius C can't be beat. But if you love to drive, and want a more comfortable ride (the front seats are adequate, but not supportive after an hour+ driving time - no lumbar support, and strains the neck)...there are plenty of other alternatives."
By Sheepdoc on Sunday, February 16, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 53,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "Feeling green."
Cons: "Poor cabin heat. Poor mpg in winter."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"This car gets great gas mileage in the summer - mid 50's on a 95% hwy drive of 126 miles daily. In the winter it gets in the high 30's. They tell me it's normal and because of winter mix gas. Also, when it is cold, the heater doesn't start until you have gone at least 5 miles. They tell me that is also normal. A plug in heated seat cushion is a life saver ($10 at Menards). The road noise is awful. I'm sure I'm damaging my hearing by cranking the radio up so far so I can hear it. I'm hoping a different brand of tires will help. I haven't had any mechanical problems but I hit a raccoon and that caused $1600 damage because it is so low to the ground. It is sluggish and I feel vulnerable driving on the freeway with semis."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Jimmy on Saturday, February 01, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 12,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "MPG, great turning circle, fun to drive"
Cons: "I'd like about 2 inches more leg room in the front"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"If you're looking for great MPG, look no further. Summer MPG: average 58+, winter MPG: average 44+ (exceptions: high humidity and below zero temperatures, which affect all cars' MPG...take 10 MPG off each). It's not as spacious as the original Prius (which I also owned), but it is comfortable, though tall (over 6 feet) people need not apply, and four adults and one small child can be accommodated. Highway speeds, though I do not condone speeding can be achieved, but MPG is reduced (less 10 MPG+ over 70 mph), and high winds will affect sway. Like most small cars noise can be excessive, but the radio can be heard. Owned this PriusC-2 for 19 months and no repairs have been needed. Rear seats fold down for extra room in back. Cruise control is very exact and the engine brake works well in slowing the car down, even from highway speeds."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By car guy on Wednesday, December 25, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Reliable as all toyotas are."
Cons: "A little pricy for a compact car."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Has plenty of power for a fuel efficient compact car. Tight fit and finish. Ride as expected for a compact car. Quiet highway ride and handles well on the highway."
By Proudface 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."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By WelcomeHomeChrisCars 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."
14 people out of 14 found this review helpful