Fourteen years ago, Toyota introduced the Prius, a fuel-efficient small gasoline-electric hybrid that has become the best selling vehicle in its category. Now, Toyota is expanding the Prius lineup with the introduction of a plug-in Prius, the utility-focused Prius v and this urban runabout, the Prius c. The c is a five-door subcompact based on the Yaris. It’s lightweight, affordable and very economical.
The regular Prius is not a large vehicle, but the Prius c is shorter overall by 19 inches. And while the rear seat offers more functionality that the tiny space offered by a microcar like the Scion iQ, it’s really a spot for children or, with adult passengers, a short jaunt. A low roofline means six-footers will likely feel squeezed even in the driver’s seat, but the Prius c is comfortable for this 5′-7″ driver. That said, small dimensions contribute to a curb weight of 2,500 lbs, 500 lbs less than the standard Prius.
And of course, light weight is a big contributor to good fuel economy. With the help of Toyota’s top-notch hybrid system that starts and stops the gasoline engine as needed and can provide low-speed electric-only operation, the Prius c is EPA rated at 53 mpg city and 46 mpg highway. Toyota says its the most fuel-efficient car available without a plug. While plug-in vehicles generally offer more electric-only driving range and can operate at higher speeds without using gas, they’re also relatively expensive. The Prius c is not. It starts just under $20,000, including an $840 destination charge.
The test vehicle is the base model, but even without a single factory-installed option, it’s decently equipped for its class. Aside from the hybrid setup and a small, color display that communicates a range of information about how the Prius c uses energy, it comes with automatic climate control, power windows and locks, keyless entry, Bluetooth handsfree and a 4-speaker audio system with USB and aux inputs.
Quick Specs: 2012 Toyota Prius c
|body type||5-door, 5-passenger hatchback|
|engine size/configuration||1.5-liter inline-4|
|horsepower/torque (hp/lb-ft)||73/82 (total system output w/ electric motor: 99 hp)|
|EPA city fuel economy rating (mpg)||53|
|EPA highway fuel economy rating (mpg)||46|