When Toyota introduced the Prius C back in 2012, it served two purposes. It was the entry-level model for then growing Prius family (Prius, Prius Plug-In, and Prius V). Plus, it was part of a small group of vehicles that could achieve almost 50 mpg if driven efficiently. But Toyota really hasn’t made any changes to the Prius C since it was launched, only making minor changes to the feature set for the past few years. Meanwhile, the rest of the Prius lineup has undergone significant changes with models either being dropped (Prius V) or being redesigned (Prius).
For 2018, Toyota has decided to take the Prius C out of its deep freeze and make some changes. But is that enough considering larger hybrid models return higher fuel economy figures, and are slightly more expensive? The answer is no.
- Toyota has given the Prius C a much needed exterior update with a revised front end (new hood shape and slimmer grille), crossover-esq design touches (black wheel arches, faux skid plates, and a set of roof rails), and a set of 15-inch alloy wheels. The Prius C is one of the few Toyota models that come in a number of vibrant colors like the Tangerine Orange on this tester. It did make it look like a giant Jack-O-Lantern, but it also gave this small model some personality.
- The Prius C’s interior design is a bit odd. While it lacks some of the craziness found in the standard Prius (see the Storm Trooper inspired center console and stack), there are some decisions that left me scratching my head. For example, there is a storage shelf behind the steering wheel. I not sure what you can put in there aside from spare change or snacks to eat while on the move.
- Almost all of the materials used in the Prius C are hard plastics. Usually, I would be giving this pass considering it is a subcompact vehicle and this one of the sacrifices needed to meet the low price. But this particular Prius C has an as-tested price of $26,479. For that price, I do wish Toyota had stuck some soft-touch material to ease some of the pain on the wallet.
- The manual adjustments weren’t the smoothest and it took me a few days to find a position that didn’t have me constantly fidgeting around. This is disappointing considering the seat itself is nice to sit on with soft padding and decent support for long trips.
- In the back seat, headroom is surprisingly good due to the tall height of the roof. Like other subcompacts, the Prius C’s rear legroom is on the tight side.
- All Prius Cs come with a 6.1-inch touchscreen with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. Higher end models like my Four tester come with navigation. The screen is a bit on the small side, which makes it hard to hit some of the touchscreen buttons. At least the screen is easy to read and bright. One slight disappointment is the slowness of the system. Compared to other hybrid vehicles, Entune is a few ticks slower when going through the various screens.
- The Prius C’s hybrid powertrain is comprised of a 1.5L Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder, 45 kW electric motor, Nickel-Metal Hydride battery pack, and a CVT. Total output is rated at 99 horsepower.
- If your driving takes place mostly in urban areas, then the Prius C is a fine car. At speeds under 45 mph, the powertrain gets the vehicle moving a decent clip. But there is a fair amount of buzzing coming from the engine and CVT. On rural roads and highways, the limited performance of hybrid powertrain makes itself known as the model records a 0-60 mph of over 12 seconds. Passing is best done when there are no vehicles appearing in your eyesight.
- EPA fuel economy figures for the Prius C are 48 City/43 Highway/46 Combined. The figures are disappointing when you consider the likes of the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Ioniq return higher figures - 54/50/52 for the Prius and 55/54/55 in the Ioniq. My average for the Prius C was 49.6 mpg, very disappointing when compared to the 60 mpg in the Prius and 62 mpg in the Ioniq Blue I have reviewed previously.
- The reason for the poor fuel economy showing in the Prius C comes down Toyota not making any changes to the powertrain since its launch in 2012.
- Handling in the Prius C is quite surprising with excellent body control and feeling quite nimble around the corners. The low-rolling resistance tires will complain if you decide to push it. Where the Prius C shines is in an urban area where the compact size and tight turning radius make it easy to navigate tight spots.
- Ride quality is about average with most bumps being smoothed over. One item to be aware of is the abundance of road and wind noise. Be prepared to crank the radio up to drown out most of the road noise.
- We come now to the Prius C’s big problem. The base C One begins at $20,630. My Four tester begins at $24,965, which already makes it a tough sell when you consider that the larger Prius Two is only $280 less and returns higher fuel economy figures. With a couple of options and destination, the as-tested price came to $26,479. Again, you can get into larger Prius or the Hyundai Ioniq that not only offer better fuel economy figures but more features for a similar price.
Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Prius C, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Model: Prius C
Engine: Hybrid Synergy Drive: 1.5L DOHC 16-Valve VVT-i, Electric Motor, Sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride Battery Pack
Driveline: eCVT, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 73 @ 4,800 (Gas); 60 @ 0 (Electric)
Torque @ RPM: 82 @ 4,000 (Gas); 125 @ 0 (Electric)
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 48/43/46
Curb Weight: 2,530 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Isawa, Iwate, Japan
Base Price: $24,965
As Tested Price: $26,479 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
Special Color - $395.00
Carpet Floor Mats/Cargo Mat - $224.00