2012 Toyota Prius C: Logging Some Last Miles
June 13, 2013
The Prius C has left our fleet. It never got a ton of love around here. Or rather, never a ton of miles. I liked it well enough. A tool of some limited use, but for what it was designed for, short-range hops and running around town, I liked it. I liked that you could get in, press the button and put it in gear, and glide out. It was easy and erased some of the dread from doing local errands. You knew it would drive easy and it wouldn't be hard to park. A VW Golf is also easy to drive, but a Golf doesn't get you 46 combined mpg.
Before the C left the rotation, I took it for a mini road trip, just out to Palm Springs, a 200-mile round trip. That hardly qualifies as road trip distance, but it was a chance to put on some miles and do a short MPG test. Both parts of the trip offered a period of stop-and-go congestion, wide-open highway, and twisting grades (the 60 highway through Moreno Valley being a minor driving highlight).
I realize now why no one chose the Prius C for longer trips. The CVT just isn't built for this kind of drive. In traffic, it wasn't bad. That nice little burst of electro-torque means you can maintain your position in traffic, keep a consistent following distance and not be the guy seizing up the accordion.
But when things opened up and we needed to pass trucks, RVs and drivers who seem too stoned to remember that Coachella ended a month ago, the C struggled. You have to mash it. Mashing it makes it bray, and braying is just no fun in a car as acoustically thin as the Prius C.
That said, the three of us were comfortable enough. The A/C blew strong even into 108-degree heat and we had plenty of room for our stuff (granted, not much for a short stay). We averaged 47.8 mpg.
My lady is a good barometer of ride quality, the kind of driver/passenger who believes a good car rides as quiet and controlled as a bullet train. She thought the C's ride was fine, but when it came time to pass a rig at full throttle, I got that look, the one that says "I'm glad this is part of your job."
The lesson here: Gentlemen, don't take your date to Palm Springs in a Prius C. Unless you're staying at Frank Sinatra's house and he's come back from the other side to perform a private set for you that evening. And serving wine from his collection and revealing who killed Jimmy Hoffa. Borrow your friend's F-150 if you must.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor