2012 Toyota Prius C: Prius Brand Is Easy to Explain
February 21, 2013
"What car is that?"
"Oh, that's the small Prius."
That's what I heard myself saying when I pulled up in our 2012 Toyota Prius C at a non-car person's house. It just seemed more natural to explain it that way rather than go into an extended explanation about how it uses a modified version of the B-segment Yaris platform architecture but has a hybrid drivetrain. She instantly knew what I meant: It's a little green car that gets great mpg and comes in a cuter color (with "cuter" open to interpretation).
Frankly, I think of our Prius C as a Prius (well, a Prius and a subcompact, as I wrote a few days back) first and a Toyota second the whole time I'm driving it. Oh, I know it uses different architecture than the regular Prius, V and plug-in. But just look at the car's face: It has the same do-gooder expression as the other cars.
Then, there's the driving experience. Like the others, it's not quick and is at its best when scooting along in slow traffic in electric mode. Ask for more and the 1.5-liter engine (versus a 1.8-liter in the bigger Prii) feels thin on grunt and makes a racket, but dutifully gets you up to 70 mph. Fuel consumption is comparable, too.
In other respects, the Prius C is more likeable than the rest of the family. The steering is more precise, and there's a touch more feel to it on center and off. The freeway ride is harder, but I'll gladly give up some of the original Prius's isolation in exchange for the C's more buttoned down feel.
Also, I'm always struck by how much better the seating position is in the junior Prius. You would think this would be the worst Prius to commute to work in, but for me, it's the comfiest. A redesign for the standard Prius will come in a couple of years, and I hope Toyota will make its cockpit feel more like the C's.
The more miles I put on it, the more the Prius C appeals to me as a total package. There's no one thing I love about it, yet I find it agreeable on the whole. That strengthens the case for a Prius brand (hybrid hatchbacks, big mpg ratings, angelic image, mostly tolerable to drive). And indeed, I now find the Prius family easier to explain than the Scion brand, which, um, is for kids under 40?
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 11,303 miles