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As the entry-level model, the 2013 Toyota Prius C represents a more responsive and affordable Prius. It has some drawbacks, but for top fuel economy on a budget, you won't do any better.
Stellar fuel economy; favorable pricing; roomy interior; fairly sporty for a hybrid.
Ride can be stiff over some roads; poor interior materials quality; noticeable wind noise; slow acceleration.
Available Prius c Hatchback Models
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Besides some upper trim interior materials making their way into the lower trim levels, the Toyota Prius C returns unchanged for 2013.
When it comes to all-out high-mpg cars, you can't overlook the venerable Toyota Prius. With four models to choose from, there's a good chance one might fit your needs. The smallest of the Prii, the 2013 Toyota Prius C, manages to distinguish itself on a number of levels.
As the entry-level Prius, the C model undercuts the standard Prius liftback's price by a considerable margin. In exchange, you'll have to sacrifice some refinement in terms of ride quality and interior materials, but we don't consider either of these deal breakers. On the plus side, the Prius C gains a bit more agility and responsiveness via its smaller dimensions and lighter weight.
Of course, the Prius C performs when it comes to fuel economy, too. With an EPA-estimated 50 mpg in combined driving conditions, there is simply no other subcompact hatchback that even comes close. In our long-term experience, the Prius C nearly meets that estimate.
Overall, we give the Prius C high marks, but we would advise a closer look at some features and options during the decision process. In particular, the 16-inch wheels and sportier steering has the unfortunate side effect of increasing the turning radius by a significant 6 feet. We'd also recommend trying out the "SofTex" faux leather seat upholstery beforehand, as it feels nowhere close to a material found in nature. If heated seats are a priority for you, however, there's no escaping this odd vinyl covering.
But even with these faults, we have no hesitation recommending the 2013 Toyota Prius C over its closest (but still distant) competitors. The 2013 Honda Insight is similarly priced, but is handily beat when it comes to miles per gallon. The same goes for the 2013 Honda CR-Z, which only seats two, though it does feature a sportier image. If power and acceleration are secondary concerns, we'd even suggest the Prius C to those shopping conventional gas-only-powered hatchbacks; it's that hard to overlook.
The 2013 Toyota Prius C is offered in numbered trim levels from One to Four. The base Prius C One comes with 15-inch steel wheels, automatic climate control, full power accessories, a folding rear seat, a 3.5-inch multifunction display, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and a USB/iPod interface.
The Prius C Two adds cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a center console storage bin and armrest, 60/40-split-folding rear seats, a faux leather dash panel, a cargo cover and a six-speaker sound system. Upgrading to the Prius C Three gets you navigation with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, keyless ignition/entry, satellite radio and voice control. Also included is Toyota's Entune smartphone integration system that adds Bing search functions, streaming Internet audio and traffic, sports and stock information. Alloy wheels are available as an option.
The range-topping Four adds alloy wheels, heated mirrors, foglights, a faux-leather-wrapped steering wheel and seat upholstery and heated front seats. Options for the Four include 16-inch wheels and quicker-ratio steering. A sunroof is available on both the Three and Four.
The 2013 Toyota Prius C is powered by a similar but smaller hybrid powertrain than its bigger Prius siblings. A 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine produces 73 horsepower and 82 pound-feet of torque, while a pair of electric motor/generators supplies an additional 60 hp. The gas engine acts as a main propulsion source as well as a generator to charge the nickel-metal hydride batteries. The electric motors also contribute to propulsion and charge the battery pack under deceleration. Combined power output comes to 99 hp and is sent to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
In Edmunds performance testing, the Prius C needed 11.3 seconds to reach 60 mph, which is quite slow even for a subcompact car.
Of course with any Prius, the most important numbers relate to fuel economy, and the Prius C does not disappoint. EPA-estimated mileage stands at 53 mpg city/46 mpg highway and 50 mpg in combined driving, making it the most economical non-plug-in hybrid on the market.
Standard safety features on all 2013 Toyota Prius C models include stability control, traction control, antilock brakes (front discs, rear drums), hill start assist, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and unique front seat cushion airbags that help prevent occupants from sliding under the seatbelts in the event of a collision. In Edmunds brake testing, a Prius C came to a stop from 60 mph in a better-than-average 118 feet.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Prius C the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Inside, the Prius C features a sleek, modern design with a mix of the familiar as well as the unconventional. Centrally located gauges are mounted high atop the dashboard, which can be a bit odd at first, but makes for easier reading. To its detriment, the cabin's plastics are several steps below the materials you'll find in other subcompacts like the Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent. The cloth seat upholstery is nothing special, but it's certainly preferable to the optional "faux leather." The latter may be made from eco-friendly materials, but it's probably the cheapest-feeling material we've sat on in quite some time.
In terms of comfort, the Prius C presents a mixed bag, particularly for taller passengers. The driving position is slightly compromised by the lack of enough extension for the steering wheel's telescoping function, and the tall, upright dash can be hard to peer over. The front passenger may also take issue with the glovebox that intrudes into the footwell. Backseat occupants will likely fare better, as there's ample head- and legroom for adults, and the fully flat floor allows for even more flexibility.
The base Prius C One's rear seat folds down as one piece, but Two and above feature a 60/40 split for greater passenger/cargo versatility. With all the seats in use, cargo capacity stands at 17.1 cubic feet, which is about what you'd expect from a hatchback in this class.
The Prius liftback has never been described as fun or engaging from behind the wheel, but the 2013 Toyota Prius C manages to liven things up. Its smaller footprint and more advantageous positioning of hybrid components allow for a bit more nimbleness, though it's still a far cry from conventional hatchbacks. Acceleration is comparatively slow, but power is perfectly acceptable for around-town driving and getting up to highway speeds.
As expected, fuel economy is outstanding. Outside of a plug-in hybrid, you're not going to do better than a Prius C. An unfortunate downside to the economy-focused mission, however, is a noticeable degradation in ride quality. More severe road imperfections are met with an uncharacteristic harshness and, combined with noticeable wind noise at higher freeway speeds, give the Prius C a budget-car feel.
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