The editors at Consumer Reports really do not think highly of the Prius c. Since a couple months ago when they said they “can’t recommend” it, the consumer watchdogs are sticking to their guns and have listed the car as one of “five popular cars to avoid.”

Isn’t that nearly an oxymoron? The cars are popular, but really shouldn’t be? … In any case, the smallest Prius others say gets great mileage and costs less than the Liftback is being panned yet again.

Following is the blurb CR used yesterday to explain its rationale:

It’s all the buzz: a less expensive Prius with great gas mileage. What more can you ask for? Plenty. Yes, this new subcompact gets a stingy 37 mpg in city driving and 43 mpg overall, 1 mpg shy of the larger Prius hatchback. But all-around quality really drops. Related to the lackluster Toyota Yaris, the Prius C suffers from a stiff ride, noisy cabin, slow acceleration, and cheap-looking interior trim. Though it can’t match the C’s stellar mpg, the Honda Fit scored much higher in our tests and costs thousands less.

In its testing procedure, it appears Consumer Reports does not get close to the EPA’s mileage estimates. In fact, the above says the little c fell short of its EPA-rated 53 mpg city by 30 whole percent – 16 mpg less than 53, or just 37 mpg.

The 43 mpg overall CR says it got also falls short by 7 mpg compared to the EPA rating of 50 mpg combined. The EPA also says the car gets 46 mpg on the highway, but CR does not mention that figure.

And here we thought judicious driving can actually net an increase over the EPA’s estimates. Do any of you or someone you know with a Pius c experience such lackluster results as well?

As for Consumer Reports’ repeat of precautions against the c, including admonishments against its allegedly poor ride quality and cheap materials, it would seem its editors are sure.

So, if you still want a Prius, they do recommend the Prius Liftback – even a used one could be preferable, they have said.

What other popular cars ought you avoid? These, says CR, would be the Honda Civic, Jeep Liberty, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Ford Edge (V6).

Consumer Reports