2012 Toyota Prius C: Road Trip to Arizona Spring Training
March 14, 2013
Spring training games are some of the most enjoyable baseball games you'll ever watch in person. No, they don't count, but the stadiums are small, the weather is mild, the fans are friendly and every team is still in contention. Taking a page from James Riswick's playbook, my husband and I drove the long-term 2012 Toyota Prius C to Arizona for a pair of games.
Now, this might not strike you as a terribly compelling vehicle choice for a road trip. The Prius C makes a fine commuter car, but who would want to drive 1,000 miles in one over 48 hours?
Well, it turns out I would.
That's right, this subcompact hybrid gets a passing mark as a road trip car. A big reason for this is its ride quality. It's downright compliant over most pavement.
Mind you, we've complained before that the Prius C rides harshly over really rough and broken pavement. But most highways and interstates aren't that bad, including California Highway 60, Interstates 10 and 17, and Arizona's Loop 101 and 202 freeways. We drove 'em all, and I never got annoyed with the Prius C's ride. It soaked up most impacts yet never felt floaty. On the contrary, it feels buttoned down and there's enough steering feel that you have the confidence to stay on the throttle through the fun freeway interchanges.
In this regard, it is a better road trip car than every subcompact car I've ever road-tripped (both generations of the Honda Fit, Mazda 2, first-gen Nissan Versa, Suzuki SX4, stepdad's 1992 Civic VX, I could go on), save for maybe the Chevrolet Sonic and that's probably a tie.
Next, let's talk about noise levels. When you have to accelerate up a long grade in the Toyota Prius C, its 1.5-liter Atkinson Cycle four-cylinder works hard. And you hear it working hard. But that is the only time you really hear it. At a steady cruise on flat ground, there's enough NVH control between you and the engine compartment that you rarely notice it. Meanwhile, in other subcompacts like the Fit and Mazda 2, there's plenty of engine roar audible at a steady 75 mph (the speed limit on most Arizona interstates). This makes the Prius C more relaxing to be in on a road trip.
That said, the amount of wind noise that comes into the Toyota's cabin almost offsets the lack of engine noise. This does get annoying, because the audio system really isn't good enough to overcome it when you're listening to talk radio or a podcast. Ultimately, though, I think this is a trade most people (not necessarily most car people) would be willing to make.
Finally, the straight-line performance is totally livable, even though this is a car that runs a 10.8-second 0-60 and a 17.8-second quarter-mile. Sustained uphill grades remind you that it's really a slow car, but the rest of the time, it keeps up with the flow, no problem.
The blending of gasoline and electric power sources is handled so nicely by the planetary gearset-regulated CVT that you can't hold it against the car. At least I can't. Oh sure, compared to a Fit or Mazda 2 or Sonic, you've lost the opportunity to shift your own gears and interact with the car on a more personal level. So, I don't know, maybe I'm still not ready to go out and buy a Prius C, but I wouldn't hesitate to take a road trip in one. I'll share my fuel economy totals with you in my next installment.
By the way, we saw the Arizona Diamondbacks play the Oakland Athletics at historical Phoenix Muni Stadium (it's the oldest remaining spring training park in Arizona), and during the game, the great A's reliever Rollie Fingers wandered out on to our deck, handlebar mustache and all. The next day we sat above the visitor's dugout as my Dodgers took on the Milwaukee Brewers. Great times.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 12,651 miles