2012 Toyota Prius C: Reminds Me of Other Subcompacts
February 18, 2013
Honestly, I could take or leave the hybrid drivetrain in our long-term 2012 Toyota Prius C. But the combination of a 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder and a front-drive electric motor powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack provides adequate acceleration most of the time.
And that's how it is in other subcompacts I've liked: The Honda Fit and Mazda 2 come to mind. Performance was never more than OK in those cars. The only difference was I felt like I had more control over it because they both had a five-speed manual gearbox.
Why bother declaring that three inexpensive hatchbacks are adequate? Well, our long-term Prius C is maybe the only hybrid I've ever driven that truly feels like one of the gang. Ours weighed in at 2,562 pounds, which is only 50 pounds heavier than our long-term 2009 Fit.
And so like the Honda, the Toyota goes down the road with a minimum of fuss and unwanted ballast. It feels pretty light and there's a directness to its responses, even if it's not sporty. Driving the Prius C doesn't feel like a game (and indeed I don't watch the efficiency displays much), it just feels like driving.
Of course, you still have batteries on-board, but at least they're packaged underneath the backseat (along with fuel tank), so that you can still fold the rear seat-backs down. Of course, the Prius C's rear seats won't fold every which way like the Fit's, but it's certainly as useful for light hauling jobs as other subcompacts, including the Mazda.
It's hard to imagine myself buying a Toyota Prius C, simply because I can get a Fit or Mazda 2 or Fiesta and shift my own gears. I really like shifting my own gears.
However, if I were going to get a subcompact with an automatic (or a simulated automatic), the Prius C would be on my short list. Most of the conventional automatic transmissions in this class don't shift when and how I want them to, and the fuel economy isn't so good that I'm willing to put up with that. But with the Prius C, I'd be getting a planetary-type CVT that doesn't annoy me any more than those automatics, and I can break 40 mpg every single tank. That's worth something to me.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 11,148 miles