Full 2014 Toyota Prius c Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Toyota Prius C is essentially unchanged.
Setting: Dagobah. Luke is resting after another round of whining to Yoda about how learning the force is just too hard. Making small talk, he asks Yoda what kind of car he should buy to replace his X-Wing, which is now inconveniently buried cowl deep in the swamp. The wizened Yoda cocks his head and replies: "If ultimate fuel efficiency is what you seek, then the 2014 Toyota Prius C should be at the top of your list, mmm?"
Hey, it could happen.
The smallest and lowest priced of the Prius family, the hybrid Prius C earns an astounding EPA-estimated 50 mpg in combined driving conditions. We had a long-term Prius C, and even with our lead-footed staff, it averaged 45 mpg. Truly, you'll find no better combination if affordability and fuel economy are priorities. But as any Jedi master can tell you, there's also a dark side to the Prius C.
For one, Toyota, in its quest for making the cheapest Prius yet, chose to cut back on refinement. As a result, the C can seem like less of a car for what you paid, at least in the way it drives. It's kind of loud, it's slow, and the ride quality can be harsh. There are other factors as well. Inside, hard plastics abound and even though the top trim level comes with "SofTex," a faux leather upholstery, it feels nothing like supple cow hide. And if you want heated seats, you'll have to live with the SofTex as well.
Overall, though, we don't consider these to be deal breakers given this car's chief mission. And thanks to its lighter weight and smaller dimensions, the Prius C boasts more agility and responsiveness compared to its larger Prii siblings. As a complete fuel-sipping package deal, there's really nothing else that can touch it. The 2014 Honda Insight is similarly priced, but the Prius C beats it in fuel economy and rear seat room. Honda's 2014 CR-Z is sportier, but seats only two and gets even lower fuel mileage than the Insight.
The Prius C: it's no X-Wing, but for an affordable car with out-of-this galaxy fuel economy, there is no other.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Toyota Prius C is a four-door, subcompact hatchback offered in four trim levels named One through Four.
The 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 connectivity 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 cargo cover and a six-speaker sound system.
Upgrading to the Prius C Three gets you keyless ignition/entry, a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, a navigation system, smartphone app integration (Entune), satellite radio and voice controls. Alloy wheels are available as an option.
The range-topping Four adds alloy wheels, heated mirrors, foglights, faux-leather seat upholstery and heated front seats. A sunroof is available on both the Three and Four. The Four can also be optioned with 16-inch wheels.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Toyota Prius C is powered by a hybrid powertrain that consists of a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor that's fed by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Combined power output comes to 99 horsepower, and it is sent to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
In Edmunds performance testing, the Prius C needed 11.3 seconds to reach 60 mph, which is quite slow for either a hybrid or even a subcompact car.
As with any Prius, however, the most important numbers relate to fuel economy, and the Prius C does not disappoint. EPA-estimated mileage stands at 50 mpg combined (53 city/46 highway), making it one of the most economical non-plug-in hybrids on the market.
Standard safety features on all 2014 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.
In government crash testing, the Prius C received four stars out of a possible five for overall crash protection, with four stars for total frontal impact protection and four stars for side-impact protection. The government also posted a "safety concern" about rear passenger protection, although that concern is not reflected in the ratings.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Prius C the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. In the small-overlap frontal offset test, however, the Toyota got the lowest score of "Poor". The Prius C's seat/head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the Prius C features a sleek, modern design with a mix of the familiar as well as the unconventional. Gauges are mounted up high and in the center of the dash, which can be a bit odd at first, but actually makes for easier reading. Sadly, the cabin's plastics are several steps below what 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 cheap-feeling leatherette found elsewhere in the segment.
The C's top-of the-line audio system also features a suite of smartphone-connected services that include the Bing search engine, Pandora streaming radio and real-time sports and stock information. Getting started with the smartphone integration system can be a hassle, though, since you have to install an app on your phone and register for an account, plus you always need an active data connection to use it.
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 for shorter folks 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 completely flat floor allows for even more flexibility.
The base Prius C One's rear seat folds down as one piece, but Two and above trims feature a 60/40 split seat 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 2014 Toyota Prius C feels a little more sprightly when driving through city turns than other Prius models thanks to its smaller footprint and lower overall weight. It's also quite easy to park in small spaces (although watch out for the optional 16-inch wheels, as they significantly increase the car's turning radius). However, ultimate grip and agility and road feel through the steering wheel are notably missing when compared to some conventional hatchbacks. Acceleration is comparatively slow as well, but as long as you keep your expectations in check, the C's power should be perfectly acceptable for around-town driving and getting up to highway speeds.
Naturally, 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 C, however, is its poor ride quality over broken pavement. Severe road imperfections cause uncharacteristic harshness and, combined with noticeable wind noise at higher freeway speeds, give the Prius C a budget-car feel.