2012 Toyota Prius C Three 4-dr Hatchback (1.5L 4-cyl. Hybrid CVT Automatic)
Driven On 10/2/2012
This rating has been carried forward from a prior year because the newer model has no substantial differences.
Outstanding mpg in a small package that rides bigger than it looks.
PerformanceVery solid and reassuring, but not exactly sporty. Still, there's more to like here than you'd expect for something that can exceed 50 mpg.
The Prius C is not speedy, but it gets up to freeway speed adequately and holds its own in city traffic. Besides, if 50 mpg is your goal you won't be flogging it anyway.
The brake pedal comes across as reassuring in most situations. In light use there's a faint whine as the hybrid system turns braking energy into electricity for the battery.
Generally, the steering is responsive and direct. Smaller tires and wheels allow the I, II and III to make much tighter U-turns than the top-of-the-line IV model.
The Prius C is well-balanced and agile, but its fuel-saving low rolling resistance tires don't have lots of ultimate grip. Unsurprisingly, this isn't a high-performance machine.
Toyota's hybrids are built around a stepless continuously variable transmission that's butter smooth. It sometimes doesn't sound that way as the motor cycles on and off, though.
ComfortThe Prius C is a small car that rides bigger than you'd guess by looking at it.
Although they don't come across as plush, the seats are comfortable in that they don't call attention to themselves after long hours behind the wheel.
A longer wheelbase settles the ride and makes the C feel one class bigger. It even seems more settled and less up on tiptoes than its older brother, the original Prius.
At or slightly above the class average in terms of wind and road noise. On the other hand the hybrid system emits characteristic noises at unpredictable intervals.
InteriorSimple, well-placed controls make the C easy to live with, and its long wheelbase opens up usable cabin room for occupants. Trunk space starts off modest, but with seats folded the hatchback adds versatility.
Unlike other Prius models, the C's shifter is conventional. The automatic climate controls are elegant and easy, and there are numerous useful steering wheel buttons.
The front doors open wide and there are no obstructions. The rear is similar, but not as well suited for those over 6 feet tall.
Plenty of front seat space for tall guys, and the steering wheel tilts and telescopes for the proper fit. Rear-seat space is a bit tighter, though.
Slender pillars and lots of glass add up to good forward and rear side visibility. The C-pillar is thick and the rear window is small; a back-up camera would be nice here.
There's space enough behind the rear seats for groceries, and a large suitcase just fits. Fold down the rear seats and this small hatchback becomes fairly voluminous.
ValueThe Prius C costs thousands less than the original Prius, yet it's mpg is equally remarkable. Also, it feels more substantial than cheaper non-hybrids in the same size class, enough so that the hybrid premium doesn't seem excessive.
Build Quality (vs. $)
Hybrids are more expensive than their conventional counterparts, but Toyota hasn't scrimped to offset the hybrid premium.
It feels more premium than a typical subcompact: automatic climate control and interactive driver coaching are standard, as are height adjustable seats and a telescopic wheel.
As hybrids go this one is priced quite low, especially considering its 50 mpg combined rating and 50+ mpg potential.
It doesn't get any better than this. Its 50 mpg EPA combined rating is the best, bar none, for a gasoline-powered car that has no EV range limitation and no exhorbitant EV price.
The hybrid components and battery enjoy a long warranty (8 years/100k miles), but it would be nice if Toyota's general warranty was better than 3 years/36k miles.
Fuel costs are nil, and oil changes and tire rotations are covered by Toyota for the first 2 years. The engine has no belts to change. There's little to go wrong.
Fun To DriveFun isn't really the right word unless you get jazzed about driving past gas pumps. Perhaps satisfying is a better word. And the interactive driver feedback can turn fuel saving into a game if you're so inclined to play along.
This isn't a driver's car unless saving fuel and bragging about mpg is your thing. To that end the Prius C has engaging driver feedback that turns saving fuel into a game.
It's a subcomapct with a purpose, but its stealthier than the overtly quirky original Prius.