Capitalizing on the success of the original Prius, the Toyota Prius C is a smaller and more urban-friendly variant. The Prius C's smaller dimensions allow for a downsized hybrid powertrain and a lighter curb weight. These, in turn, result in improved driving dynamics while returning nearly identical fuel economy figures to its larger sibling. As further enticement, a new Prius C rings in several thousand dollars less than the standard Prius liftback.
Sacrifices made in the name of pricing are few, and are generally limited to ride and interior refinement. Considering the Prius C's strengths of unmatched fuel economy, nimble handling (for a hybrid) and hatchback versatility, we think it's a pretty smart choice for an affordable economy car, hybrid or not.
Current Toyota Prius C
The Toyota Prius C debuted in the 2012 model year as a smaller, entry-level alternative to the standard Prius liftback. The smaller size places it in the four-door subcompact segment. As one would expect, the Prius C is powered by a smaller, less powerful version of the hybrid powertrain used in its larger stablemates.
A 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine is paired with two electric motor/generators that combine to produce 99 horsepower. The gas engine both drives the wheels and charges the nickel-metal hydride batteries, while the electric motors augment propulsion and charge the battery under deceleration. Power is sent through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to the front wheels. The Prius C obviously won't provide much in the way of excitement, but its performance is adequate, and owners will likely find satisfaction with an EPA-estimated 53 mpg city/46 mpg highway and 50 mpg in combined driving.
The Toyota Prius C is available in trim levels that are numbered from One to Four. Standard feature highlights for the Prius C One include 15-inch wheels, automatic climate control, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and a USB/iPod interface. The Prius C Two adds cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split-folding rear seats and an upgraded sound system. The Prius C Three is further enhanced with navigation, keyless ignition/entry, Toyota's Entune smartphone integration system and satellite radio. Finally, the Four adds alloy wheels, heated mirrors, faux leather upholstery and heated front seats. Sixteen-inch wheels and quicker-ratio steering are optional on the Four, while a sunroof is available on both the Three and Four.
While the Toyota Prius C is pretty similar to other Prius vehicles, there are a few distinct differences to be aware of. Taller drivers may find it hard to be comfortable due to a lack of steering wheel adjustment range, while the front passenger's footwell is limited by an intruding glovebox. Backseat adult passengers, by contrast, will enjoy ample head- and legroom. The cabin suffers from an overabundance of hard plastic surfaces, which give the Prius C a decidedly cut-rate feel.
Hybrid vehicles in general, and the Prius lineup in particular, tend to be rather dull and uninspiring to drive. The Prius C, with its more compact dimensions, manages to inject a little liveliness into the mix, with more responsive steering and composed handling. Unfortunately, this added athleticism results in some ride harshness. But considering the Toyota Prius C's miserly fuel consumption and its favorable pricing, these faults are pretty easily forgiven.
Used Toyota Prius C Models
The Toyota Prius C debuted in 2012. Since then, changes have been very minor.