Just recently introduced this spring, the 2012 Toyota Prius c is an all-new model, and the “c” stands for city. At 53 mpg, the Prius c should be the ideal city car as it offers the highest city mpg rating of any vehicle without a plug-in. Toyota says the Prius c is “designed to function as an urban-friendly vehicle with an engaging driving experience.” The new subcompact not only gets good fuel mileage but also comes with an attractive price. The c comes with hybrid technology and a MSRP below $19,000 for the base model.
The 2012 Prius c comes in a smaller package than its Prius sibling and is more than 19 inches shorter, 500 pounds lighter, and at least $5,000 less, making the five-door hatchback a “gateway product” into the Prius family. Young buyers will find the Prius c a favorable choice as a city commuter that offers a wide array of convenience features and electronics.
The Prius c has no direct competitors in the subcompact hybrid segment, and at similar pricing, a Honda Fit, Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, or Volkswagen Golf diesel would be the alternatives. But the Prius c beats all of them in city fuel mileage.
The Prius c comes with the latest technology and features
This week we are testing the top of the lineup Prius c Four model ($23,230). Younger buyers will be most interested in the long list of advanced in-car electronics that the Prius c has to offer, including a standard 3.5-in. full-color TFT multi-information display, hands-free phone capability, and USB port with iPod connectivity.
Other notable standard features on the Four include a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio, climate, display and Bluetooth controls, variable intermittent front wipers, navigation, and Entune (telematics with Bing, Pandora, voice recognition, real-time traffic, weather, fuel prices, and three-year complimentary subscription) with 6.1-inch touch-screen, voice command controls on steering wheel, XM radio, smart key entry, and pushbutton start, and touch-tracer display.
Prius c Four also comes with color-keyed heated power mirrors, alloy wheels, SofTex upholstery, heated front seats, and fog lamps. Options include 16-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tires and a moonroof ($1,150).
Inside the Prius c, materials are mostly plastic with a few padded soft-touch panels, and the SofTex upholstery is not up to the quality you find in similarly priced subcompacts. The cabin is well designed and everything is where you would expect it to be. The cabin is small but is functional with the five-door hatchback design. The rear seat folds flat to increase cargo area, and has a 60/40 split for flexibility.
Prius C utilizes Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive
The basics of the hybrid system parallel those of the Prius, just on a smaller scale. Power is generated from a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine coupled with a pair of electric motors and a 144-volt, 0.87-kilowatt-hour battery pack for a maximum of 99 total horsepower. While fuel efficiency is the priority for the Prius c, performance is surprisingly good due to the light-weight design. In traffic, the subcompact never lacked the power to keep up comfortably.
The 2012 Prius c will run up to 1.5 miles on battery alone while staying under 25 mph as long as the driver has a light foot. The hybrid system is mated to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) for optimum fuel-mileage. It doesn’t work exactly like most CVTs, but the results are similar. At full-throttle, the CVT still sounds like a speedboat winding up. But CVT’s are all about efficiency and the Prius c gets an EPA estimated mileage of 53/46 mpg city/highway, or 50 mpg combined.
Overall, the Prius c gets the best city fuel mileage of any subcompact without a plug-in, while offering the latest electronics available to appeal to younger buyers. It offers very good city commuting maneuverability and at a low price point. The eco-friendly 2012 Prius c hybrid is a good choice for those who want an efficient commuter and don’t need a large amount of cargo or passenger room.