Consumer Reports 'Can't Recommend the Prius c'

Can you say ouch? If Toyota were to take to heart Consumer Reports’ appraisal of its newly launched Prius c – now selling like gangbusters here, and in Japan badged as the Aqua – that could be what it might say.

“In the end, you get what you pay for,” said Consumer Reports at the beginning of a video review that goes on to point a critical finger at a laundry list of the car’s features that in its view fall short.

While noting fuel economy is terrific as promised, that plus civil lower speed driving is about all you get, says CR.

As you can see in the video, the consumer watchdog publication otherwise nicks the Prius c for “dead” steering feedback, a “busy and choppy” ride, intrusive wind and road noise, insufficient rearward visibility, anemic power necessitating keeping the revs up, cheap interior and more.

“We can’t recommend the Prius c,” Consumer Reports also said on its Web site “because it scores too low in our tests. We do expect it to have very good reliability.”

It will presumably give “very good reliability” because CR sums up Toyota’s newest value-leading hybrid as a sized-down version of the reliable regular Prius Liftback – albeit executed with too much corner-cutting in order to serve up a look-at-me price point starting at $18,950.

“In the end the Prius c is a cheap car with an expensive drivetrain,” Consumer Reports said.

Consumer Reports paid just shy of $21,000 for its c as equipped. Its recommendation is prospective hybrid buyers would be better served if they found a clean, used regular Prius for this kind of money, rather than paying for a new c off the dealer’s lot.

Consumer Reports did find the c got “excellent” fuel economy of 43 mpg and 37 mpg in city, representing a pinnacle among all cars it’s tested, it said – but a far cry below the U.S. EPA’s ratings of 46 highway, 53 city, 50 combined.

In all, CR scored it 1 point below the Honda Insight with a total of 53 points out of 100 possible which – if this were a school report card – would basically mean the “c” gets an “F.”


  • Daun Bansall

    Just bought a Prius C. Getting52 mpg overall. Got 60 MPG on a 80 mile drive on a 55-65 mph drive. Goes to 100 MPH in a flash. Drives Beautifully. Consumer Reports is nuts although I have subscribed to it for the last 20 years. This shakes my faith in them and their Engineers. Must have replaced evaluators with Race Car Drivers.

  • simon@syd

    It does seem a little undertone compared to the V, but in principle is there anytHong wrong with a cheap car with an expensive drive train? That’s surely a good part to spend money on.

  • Mike Mccorkle

    CR is way off on there mpg estimate . I have a Prius c and it averages 51 mpg easy . I Love this car drive. I drives great and is comfortable to ride in. Great purchase.

  • Van

    I googled the CR evaluation of the Yaris and this article seems like a copy and paste. So it is a hit job full of subjective complaints and bogus numbers ( the C gets at least 5 MPG more than falsely claimed in the article based on both EPA and other evaluations.)

  • Tegan

    It seems like consumer reports has lost the point to the c part of this car. The people it apeals to are not highway drivers, they are short commute city drives which make most of this review null.

  • RKL

    When Toyota announced in 2009 it was working on a less expensive version of the Prius which would have the same body size and engine size I became interested. I want at least 40 MPG in the city. I am looking for a new car to replace my 21 year old Accord that is about to die. Prius C, Hyundai Elantra and the Accent and the Mazda 3 are cars I intend to test drive. CR’s review is very sobering.
    I would wait for the hybrid Jetta in the fall to come to showrooms but Volkswagen have a reputation for high maintenance. The 2013 Fusion Hybrid is too big a car even though its very interesting.

  • Jetzun

    I have a 2005 Prius with 300k miles. It’s still going strong. And the Porches and BMWs have trouble keeping up with it in the hills and curves. Not that they can’t blow me away. They have burn a lot of fuel and make a lot of noise and effort to do it.
    I have a hard time believing the article.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    When I sat in it at the car show I couldn’t believe how cheap it felt inside.. Get a 1 year old Prius…

    MrEnergyCzar

  • guy

    it make no sense to purchase an used prius with an aged battery in place of a new car with new battery even if this car looks cheap.
    many drivers give priority to mechanicals and not on the look of a car;

  • trenda

    How did they manage to get such bad gas mileage? I own a C and average 47 around the city -that’s with climbing steep hills in Seattle. If I drive in flatter areas I get 60 mph. Yes, the car isn’t powerful. That is the whole point. It’s for city driving. If you go to Fuelly.com and check you will see that Prius C drivers get fantastic mph. We don’t care that it’s not a fancy car. The trade off is an affordable Prius with great gas mileage that’s easy to maneuver and park in the city.

  • KenC

    Any “review” of anything has to be biased somewhat to the likes & dislike of the reviewer. I have a Toyota Echo, the precursor of the Yaris. I’m absolutely certain that a “review” by CR would be TERRIBLE! But I happen to love the car. I expect that I would also like the Prius C, and will probably be taling a look at one.

  • Lou C. Geusy

    “The people it appeals to are not highway drivers”

    It appeals to students. Or retired people. Or for a family needing a second car. Or anybody with a commute that costs them as much as 2 hours pay each day. Or …

    The C is brilliant. Fantastic mileage in a $20,000 vehicle that is very safe and will probably have a useful life of 150,000 miles or more. What could CR possibly be thinking?

  • dutchinchicago

    I think that the problem is that these reviews are generally done by people who are really into cars. More and more people are starting to see cars as a tool to get where you want rather than a status symbol.

  • Greg

    I find CR puts too much weight on some subjective criteria while ignoring others. I’ve had my Prius C since April and love it. I have averaged 58 mpg overall and on most days I get 60+ mpg on my 17 mile commute. Low price (for a new car), great mileage and good reliability are huge pluses in my book. And, for the record, I have no problems with the way it drives. Also, despite what CR says, I would have spent $3,000-$5,000 more for a lightly used Prius – and that’s a pretty big factor, at least to me.
    In short, if you want a small, efficient car, try the Prius C. Maybe you’ll agree with CR’s subjective “negatives.” My guess is you won’t.

  • Shines

    Consumer Reports doesn’t recommend the Honda Insight nor the Civic either. Pretty much for the same reasons: too noisy, poor driving characteristics and cheap materials. However, for a relatively inexpensive very high mileage, very reliable car – it is probably worth it.

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  • Bonnie G

    I totally agree-makes me wonder which car they were driving! I LOVE this car, One of the best cars I’ve owned!

  • Anonymous

    Mine gets 55 mpg easy, often much better, especially when you don’t use the air conditioning. Great car, great price. I have no complaints.

  • Generic

    I’ve been researching this car for months now and I test drove one.

    CR couldn’t be more wrong about the review they gave this car. If I didn’t know any better, it would seem they have some sort of vendetta against the car. Go to youtube.com and look at all the other reviews. CR is the ONLY negative one.

    It drives very well and in a way the car is better then the standard Prius (if you don’t need the extra space). The weight is way down and the batteries are under the rear seats and the car has a lower center of gravity making it (dare I say) more sporty. Many other reviews suggest it is the most fun Prius to drive. I can’t compare, I only drove the C, but the C is the best looking Prius ever.

    The interior plastics don’t bother me and while they might not be high end, they have extremely tight tolerances like all Toyota’s have. It would be nice to get a real leather wrap steering wheel option though.

    Most owners are also reporting well above EPA fuel economy numbers too.

    About the only negative thing I can say about it, is Toyota puts some very low quality tires on their lower cars from the factory. Not sure why. Maybe to make them feel like less of a car because all modern chassis are very safe and stiff. Upgrade the tires and the car will be even better. Read the OE tire survey at tirerack.com and then compare them to other low resistant tires. The OE tires are some of the worst test reviews I’ve ever seen on a tire before.

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  • TZX4

    I have seen two different tires on the Prius c. Bridgestone and Goodyears. The Goodyears garner way better crowd sourced ratings on the Tire Rack website. WhenIi (most likely ) go looiking to buy, I will do my best to get one with Goodyears.