KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 12/31/2012
The 2013 Prius C is the smallest vehicle in Toyota's family of hybrids. With a starting price under $20,000, this 5-passenger hatchback also represents the least expensive way to get into a Toyota hybrid. Yet like its bigger Prius brother, there's another number that's sure to impress: 50. That's the combined miles-per-gallon rating for the Prius C, which attains an even loftier 53 mpg in the city – the area for which this hybrid gets its "C" designation. The Prius C isn't the least expensive or most fun-to-drive subcompact out there, but its sterling mpg figures stand well beyond even traditional fuel misers in this segment such as the Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Sonic, Mini Cooper Hardtop, and Hyundai Accent.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you're seeking superb fuel economy at an affordable price, the Prius C is hard to beat. And with its hatchback design and tech offerings, Toyota's smallest hybrid won't penalize you when it comes to versatility or creature comforts.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Though the Prius C is competitively priced for a hybrid, some buyers may find a conventional alternative such as the Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic or Hyundai Accent a better return on their investment, especially if they don't drive many miles. Those wanting a subcompact with a bit more scoot might prefer a Mini Cooper Hardtop or Honda Fit.
What's New for 2013
Since it was just introduced last year, changes are minimal for the Prius C in 2013. All but the base model receive upgraded material for the dash, while the steering wheels in top-line trims are now wrapped in SofTex, a leather-like material.
While the Prius C is based on the Toyota Yaris, the hybrid has improved handling dynamics over its value-obsessed sibling. Credit for this goes to a reinforced body, optimally positioned battery and powertrain components, and a specially tuned suspension. But don't get the wrong idea: The Prius C is still about high mpg, not high mph. With a 0-60 mph of 11.5 seconds, this hybrid isn't agonizingly slow, but you will need to use discretion when engaging in any dramatic overtaking maneuvers. Meanwhile, cornering grip is acceptable and the electric power steering has a surprisingly positive feel, as does the C's regenerative disc/drum antilock braking system. Ride quality overall is on the firm side and can be a bit harsh on rough roads, especially in models with upgraded wheels and tires.
TOUCHSCREEN MULTIMEDIA SYSTEM
Upper trims of the 2013 Prius C come with a Display Audio system with a built-in navigation system that features real-time traffic/weather/sports/stocks/fuel prices. In addition to the usual audio and nav functions, the 6.1-inch touchscreen acts as a command center for downloadable apps, such as Pandora, that are part of Toyota's Entune infotainment technology.
That's the EPA combined city/highway fuel economy rating for the 2013 Prius C. With its "city" rating even higher at 53 mpg, you'd have to buy a plug-in vehicle to outperform the Prius C's fuel economy.
The C's Prius family resemblance is evident inside the hybrid's surprisingly spacious cabin. The most notable ties are in the offset positioning of the main gauge display and the multifunction steering wheel that carries over directly from the larger Prius liftback sedan. Up front, the Prius C has comfortable and supportive bucket seats. In back is a rear bench that can accommodate a pair of average-size adults or three kids. The rear seat folds to nearly double the capacity of the hatchback's already generous 17.1-cubic-foot cargo bay. Top-line models have leather-like SofTex seating, while the others feature fabric.
Though based on the Yaris platform, the Toyota Prius C has its own identity and exterior traits that define it as a member of the Prius family, albeit one that's over a foot and a half shorter than the standard Prius liftback. Among those visual cues are sweeping headlights, long and vertical taillights, and window design that includes a stylish boomerang shape within the rear doors. The 2013 Prius C comes with 15-inch wheels, with One, Two, and Three trims shod with steel wheels and wheel covers. Top-line Four models wear 8-spoke alloy wheels and further distinguish themselves with fog lights up front.
Notable Standard Equipment
The 2013 Prius C comes in four trims, simply named One, Two, Three, and Four. Even the sub-$20,000 One model is quite well-equipped with automatic climate control, a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD audio unit with auxiliary and USB inputs and Bluetooth streaming, and keyless entry. Prius C Two models add cruise control, 60/40 split folding rear seats in lieu of a one-piece design, a 6-speaker audio system, and a cargo cover. Prius C Three trims include Display Audio navigation unit with the Entune infotainment system, and top-line Four models have aluminum-alloy wheels, fog lights, SofTex-trimmed upholstery, and heated front seats.
Notable Optional Equipment
The 2013 Prius C is essentially preconfigured in four equipment-specific trims, so options are minimal and confined to the upper two trim levels. Among the extras that can be had in Prius C Three and Four models are a power moonroof and upgraded wheels. For the latter, the Three model can be fitted with 15-inch, 8-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels, while the Four model can be upgraded with 16-inch versions.
Under the Hood
The Prius C is powered by a similar but smaller version of the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive system used in the larger Prius liftback. The Prius C teams a 73-horsepower/1.5-liter Atkinson Cycle 4-cylinder gasoline engine with a smaller, lighter 60-horsepower drive motor energized by a compact nickel-metal hydride battery located beneath the rear seat. In total, the gas/electric pairing supplies an adequate 99 horsepower. All Prius C models have a CVT automatic transmission, are front-wheel drive, and use regular unleaded gasoline. The Prius C offers three drive modes: Normal, Eco, and EV. Eco mode adjusts throttle response and climate control to maximize efficiency, while EV mode allows you to drive short distances (less than a mile) at speeds below 25 mph on electric power alone.
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
With a starting price of just under $20,000, the 2013 Toyota Prius C is a high-mileage hybrid that doesn't cost much more than a comparably equipped economy-car. Even a loaded Prius C Four only reaches around $25,000. The Prius C's starting price is about $5,000 less than that of the traditional Prius liftback sedan. While it's certainly possible to buy a gasoline-powered competitor such as a Hyundai Accent, Ford Fiesta, or Mazda2 for less, nothing on the market without plug-in capability can touch the Prius C's fuel economy. Depending on how many miles you rack up and if gasoline rises above the $4/gallon level, that can pencil out to an advantage over the years, never mind the good mood that getting 50 mpg can foster. Like others in Toyota's family of hybrids, the Prius C is expected to hold its value well in the years ahead.