2012 Toyota Prius c Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

The Prius c is fun to drive. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

The new Prius c offers proven hybrid technology in a smaller, less expensive and even more efficient package. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

The nicely appointed Prius c interior is well made. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Try EV mode for eking the most mileage out of a tank of gas. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

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Published on June 20, 2012

Plenty of room in back. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

The Prius c's cargo area is surprisingly accommodating. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 20, 2012

Published on June 20, 2012

Ever since I drove the original first-generation Prius in right-hand drive Japanese market trim, I liked it. It was unique, cool in a techy way, and fabulously thrifty. That was way back in 2000 during the very first new car program I attended, and the Prius was the newest, most advanced technology on the road. Twelve years later and the Prius remains one of the most advanced hybrids available, or should I say four of the most advanced hybrids.

Yes, the Japanese automaker has spun the Prius nameplate into its own sub-brand. Toyota badges can still be found in all the usual places, but a new larger Prius v crossover is now available for those that haul more stuff, and a plug-in version of the regular Prius is about to become available to the masses. The Prius c is Toyota's entry-level hybrid, starting at just $22,510 including destination, and that my friends makes it the lowest priced hybrid in existence.

It's also the most economical day in and day out. The Prius c is rated at an estimated 3.5 L/100km city, 4.0 highway, and 3.7 combined, using regular unleaded, and my real-world results weren't too far off that mark at about 4.5 L/100km combined, and take into consideration that the area around my house is quite hilly.

It's an easy car to drive with a nice tight 9.6-metre (31.4-foot) turning circle, and a particularly fun car too. It's light for a hybrid at only 1,132 kilos (2,500 lbs), which makes it enjoyable to throw into the corners. Toyota loaned me one in Premium trim so it benefited from larger 16-inch alloys on 195/50R16 all-season rubber that gripped the tarmac quite well, while I found its electric powered rack and pinion steering quite responsive. Also, its hybrid drivetrain puts out more torque than most subcompact cars with 125 lb-ft at the front wheels, much of which is derived from the electric motor and therefore comes into play almost immediately. I found power output more than ample for my needs, even when loaded with kids and cargo.

Like all Prius models that have come before the little c uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to "shift gears," and it works flawlessly with very little energy lost to internal friction. Toyota includes its Drive Mode Select system with EV Mode and ECO Mode, although no Power Mode capability like the regular Prius. While the Power Mode can be handy to dart across a busy intersection or sneak past a slower vehicle in an abbreviated passing lane, I don't tend to use it a lot when testing the regular Prius and therefore never missed it in the Prius c. Really, I was more entertained by leaving it in EV Mode and trying to eke out as much mileage as possible.

There's other ways the Prius c entertains too, like a good 6-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with standard USB for plugging in personal tunes. I like that Toyota doesn't charge more for something most of us want, just like it doesn't charge extra for Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity or any other safety device. Yes, the Prius c comes loaded with safety features, including traction and stability control, ABS, hill-start assist so you won't roll back when taking off from steep inclines, and a brake override system that automatically idles the engine if the throttle is accidentally pressed during hard braking, driver error proven to be the most common cause of unintended acceleration. Of course it has all the usual airbags too, plus the unusual yet welcome inclusion of a driver's knee airbag.

Standard features are too many to list, but suffice to say it has much more than what comes standard with your average subcompact hatchback. Most everything is powered, the climate control is automatic, the steering wheel features audio and HVAC controls, the brake lights use fast reacting LEDs, and the list goes on and on. My tester wore Premium trim as mentioned, so along with Premium items such as nice leather-like SofTex seating surfaces with heated front cushions, a powered moonroof, fog lamps, and the aforementioned 16-inch rims, it also included the Technology package's touch tracer steering wheel controls, XM satellite radio, 6.1-inch infotainment screen with navigation, proximity sensing access and push-button start/stop, and more, making its as-tested price of $26,900 including destination seem quite reasonable.

I suppose that's why I'm seeing so many Prius c's around. The price is good and the car is great. It gives you all the usual hybrid benefits, like fabulous fuel economy and super low emissions, without asking you to compromise. Truly, its cargo area is so accommodating I was able to take home a large Ikea TV/media bench with the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks dropped flat. Believe me, there are compact SUVs that couldn't haul this piece of furniture.

Like all Prius models, Toyota backs this new one with its regular new car warranty as well as an extra long 8-year or 160,000 km warranty on hybrid components, so living with the Prius c is a worry free experience.

After 12 years of driving Toyota's Prius in its varying, evolving forms, the new Prius c is my favourite. Its combination of good looks, great road manners, fully loaded features, impressive practicality and stingy economy is hard to beat.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hatchback, Hybrid, HEV, Toyota, 2012, Prius c, $20,000 - $29,999, Subcompact,

Organizations: Toyota

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