2012 marks the 15th year since the Toyota Prius began its effort to champion the future of motoring. A unique automotive legend would start in late 1997 as the concept of an electric motor supporting a gasoline engine entered production for the Japanese marketplace. Premiering in a very niche market of gasoline-electric vehicles that did not exist, Toyota brought the Prius to North American in 2001. After long attempting the attract a market, the market came to the Toyota Prius when rising fuel prices and the culture of environmentalism erupted in the United States. With other Toyota and Lexus products incorporating the same powertrain configuration trademarked as Hybrid Synergy Drive, a series of milestones (including the 3-millionth Toyota hybrid vehicle produced last year) has earned unparallel praise for the Prius. At the 2011 North American International Auto Show, Toyota’s spot to expand the Prius to a new family of vehicles represented a moment that firmly sent a message to those who opposed gasoline-electric hybrid motoring.
Debuting in production form at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the subcompact Toyota Prius c is launching this year as a hybrid for the younger, first-time new car buyer. Promising average fuel economy of 50 miles per gallon, the Prius c will be the most efficient vehicle sold in the United States powered primarily by gasoline. Set to provide a generous standard equipment vehicle featuring automatic climate control, vehicle stability control, Smart Stop Technology and Bluetooth hands-free with every 2012 Prius c, Toyota has announced pricing for the new economy car will start just under $19,000.
Arriving to showrooms in four trim levels (One, Two, Three and Four), the 2012 Toyota Prius c One will cost a thrifty $18,950. As the basic model, the Prius One offers remote keyless entry and a tilt-telescoping steering column. For an extra $950, buyers of the Toyota Prius c can upgrade to the Two trim level. A six-speaker stereo, cargo tonneau cover and cruise control are highlight features for the Prius c Two that is priced just below $20,000 less taxes, delivery and other dealership costs. At a $21,635 price point, the 2012 Prius c progresses with a standard stash of electronic goodies under the Three trim level. HD Radio, Sirius XM Satellite Radio and Toyota’s Entune system featuring a 6.1-inch touchscreen is key features for the Prius c Three. At the highest end of the trim scale, the Toyota Prius c Four comes with all of the top features from the previous trim level but also adds heated front seats and heated mirror with turn signals. The 2012 Toyota Prius c Four will be well equipped for $23,230 with options such as moonroof and 16-inch wheels.
Since its debut, the Toyota Prius has begun throwing cold water on sceptics of the advanced gasoline-electric vehicles. Disputing many aspects of hybrid vehicles, one of the main critical points regarded the technology’s cost-effectiveness. Since the Toyota Prius was a hybrid-only offering, other cars such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Civic showed hybrid powertrains have resulted in a several thousand-dollar price premium over conventional gasoline-only vehicles. With many analysts doing the math early on hybrid vehicles, it was believed that many owners of electric-assisted cars would never experience enough savings in fuel to warrant spending extra for the hybrid electric hardware. Thanks to Toyota’s environmentally friendly work with hybrid powertrains, the business case for electric assistance in motoring has become an economical choice. While the Toyota Prius c will not be the cheapest hybrid car available (the 2012 Honda Insight retails at $18,350), the 50-mile per gallon economy hatchback will be in position to influence even entry-level car buyers.
When the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf premiered on the auto show circuit, crowds once surrounding these electrified vehicles as marvels of engineering were later repelled by near obscene vehicle prices. The release of the 2012 Toyota Prius c will be a welcomed change in perception for electric-assisted vehicles.
Information and photo source: Toyota Motor Corporation