Carried forth with no major changes for 2013, and as the fourth “family” member in Toyota’s growing sub-brand of Prius hybrids, the c, has been well received despite some negative press.
The influential Consumer Reports did create waves when it panned the smallest and least expensive of the Prii as so sub-par and cheapened compared to a regular Prius Liftback, that it recommended buying a clean used Liftback instead of a new c.
This judgment, like every other it seems these days, was met with counterpoints, and to be sure the U.S. market voted its pocketbook in favor of the c. Since its launch in March 2012, the Prius c has been essentially the third best-selling of all hybrids. In 2012, it sold 35,733 in only three-quarters of a selling year. With a full 12 months of sales, the only other cars to top it were other Toyota hybrids – the v, the Camry and Liftback
The Prius c is motivated by a 1.5-liter four cylinder Atkinson cycle engine based on an updated version from the previous generation regular Prius. Compared to the new 1.8-liter in the Liftback, it gives up 25 horsepower totaling 73, with 82 pound-feet of torque.
This meager energy is of course augmented by a seamlessly integrated electric motor and fed through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Output for the total Hybrid Synergy Drive system is 99 horsepower for a vehicle weighing 500 pounds less.
The little c – with “c” standing for “city” – is essentially based on Toyota’s Yaris platform. The car is around four inches longer than the Yaris and dimensionally also quite similar to the original Prius.
Both have a 100.4-inch wheelbase, the same 66.7-inch width and employ a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. However, the Prius c is 12 inches shorter than the original Prius, and 265 pounds lighter.
While the c looks like an original Prius revisited in many respects, a big difference is fuel economy: The Prius c is EPA rated at 53 mpg city/46 highway and 50 combined compared to the first model’s 42/41/41 rating.
As for some of the issues Consumer Reports found issues with, the interior is indeed laden with inexpensive plastic, and does lag behind others in the subcompact class like the Ford Focus and Hyundai Accent.
The dash and layout are designed to appeal to that most elusive of consumer species: the so-called Millennial generation.
One of Toyota’s ad campaigns this year was a series called the Game of Life based on a game by Hasbro to appeal to the connected generation’s assumed general mindset.
On the road, the Prius c is within what one would expect of a Toyota city car. Of course it can be driven coast to coast if desired, and the car verges on being fun to drive, but it’s best suited as a local runner.
Its excellent fuel mileage returned is within range of the EPA estimate assuming one drives at a legal pace, avoiding jackrabbit starts, and keeps a steady hand.
The Prius c is not especially powerful however, and this is one area where those who feel they need more than the minimum daily allowance of horsepower supplementation will want to search for other alternatives.
Of course, if they do, they will be hard pressed to find a less expensive car offering such efficiency. So, it is a trade-off, and one which many feel is more than worth it.
The Prius c comes in several trim levels from One through Four.
Toyota announced the 2013 Prius c will be be offered with interior upgrades that now include a standard SofTex®-trimmed steering wheel on the Prius c Four, and a black SofTex dash panel on Prius c Two and Three models, matching the dash of the top-line Prius c Four.
Suggested retail prices will range from $19,080 for the Prius c One to $23,360 for the Prius c Four, an increase of $130 or 0.6 percent.
For more information, you can read our full 2012 review on what is essentially the same car.