2012 Toyota Prius c: First drive review
It's an affordable fuel saver. But that's it.
Toyota beefed up the engine and hybrid system when it redesigned the Prius in 2010, and buyers benefitted from both improved power and greater efficiency. They were much-needed improvements, and made the Prius feel more like a car than simply an appliance.
You'd think the Prius c would benefit from these upgrades, right? Wrong. The new Prius c is smaller than the original Prius, some 19 inches shorter. The tighter space means Toyota has had to downsize the engine and hybrid components, thus losing the efficiencies and the minimal fun-to-drive factor gained by the 2010 upgrade of the standard Prius. The result is a car that's no more efficient than the world's best-selling hybrid, although it is more agile and affordable.
But would we recommend it?
Reviews: Find expert and user reviews
The 2012 Toyota Prius c is offered in four trim levels — One, Two, Three and Four--with prices ranging from $18,950 to $23,230. The One comes with the basics, such as power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, and 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, but it also has Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port and a multi-information display. The Two trim adds cruise control, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and more driver's seat adjustments. Three has Toyota's Display Audio system with navigation, Entune and push-button start. The Four comes with SofTex seat upholstery, heated front seats and alloy wheels.
A la carte options are few, consisting only of 16-inch alloy wheels and a sunroof.
Under the Hood
The 2012 Toyota Prius c is powered by a downsized version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system. It makes less power while delivering the same overall fuel economy as the liftback. The system consists of a 1.5-liter 73-horsepower 4-cylinder engine aided by a two electric motors, a 42.4 kW (56 horsepower) motor that acts as a generator and a 45 kW (60 horsepower) motor that supplies motive power. The nickel-metal-hydride battery puts out a peak 25.9 horsepower for a total output of 99 horses.
Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy ratings are mixed. The city rating is up 3 mpg to 53 mpg, but the highway number is down from 49 mpg to 46 mpg. The total combined rating of 50 mpg is the same as the larger liftback. Puzzling, no?
Like its siblings, the Prius c has a 3.5-inch color screen in a hooded multi-information display below the windshield, but this one has more functionality than the others. Some owners will find it to be the most fun aspect of the car. In addition to screens that display power flow and fuel economy, there is an Eco Score screen. It has a graph that provides real-time feedback on driving style as well as an eco-score on a 100-point scale based acceleration, cruising and stopping techniques.
An Eco Savings screen provides the cost of fuel consumed for a trip taken or the dollar savings for a trip versus a previously chosen comparison car. Yet another screen shows an Eco Savings record. It can display the fuel cost or fuel-cost savings versus a comparison car for the current month, the past three months, or the same month a year ago. Finally, a Past Record screen shows the top three best trips for fuel economy along with the current ranking, and the fuel-economy average, for the month, the last three months, and the same month a year earlier. All of these screens are easily controlled through a couple of buttons on the steering wheel.
The Prius c Three and Four trims have a Display Audio system with navigation and Toyota's Entune multimedia system. Entune pairs with your smartphone to provide access to the Bing local search and Pandora mobile apps. This summer, it will add OpenTable dining reservations, movietickets.com, and iHeartRadio.