2012 Toyota Prius C Long Term Road Test - Performance

2012 Toyota Prius C Long-Term Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (2)
  • Comparison
  • Long-Term

2012 Toyota Prius C: Logging Some Last Miles

June 13, 2013

2012 Toyota Prius C

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.

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: These Wheels Are Simple for a Reason

June 6, 2013

2012 Toyota Prius C

Most people don't realize how much time and energy manufacturers go through when it comes to selecting wheels and tires for a car. Appearance is way down the priority list after more important things like strength, durability, price, ride quality and noise.

Clearly, the wheels on our Prius C were selected for their cost (steel) and aerodynamic properties (relatively smooth plastic wheel covers) while the tires were all about durability, minimal rolling resistance and noise. They're not a pretty combination, but this car is about maximum efficiency right?

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Can You Tow It Behind a Motorhome?

June 5, 2013

2012 Toyota Prius C

You can tow any car behind a motorhome if you strap it on a trailer. But motorhome aficionados rightly consider trailers to be a pain in the butt because they represent extra towed weight and a storage problem. They'd much rather tow the car on its on wheels with a simple tow bar in so-called four-down or "dingy" fashion.

Easy is the keyword here. This is, after all, a recreational activity. Upon arrival, a dinghy can be quickly unhooked and driven around on side trips while the motorhome sits parked with its awnings unfurled and its sliders popped out in full relaxation mode.

Of course there are mechanical implications for the car involved.

Can the 2012 Toyota Prius C join this club? Can you tow a Prius C behind a motorhome?

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Tight Turning Circle, or Maybe Not

May 31, 2013

2012 Toyota Prius C

I've driven a couple of examples of the 2012 Toyota Prius C. The first was a loaded 2012 Prius C Four. I took it out on our One Lap of Orange County suburban fuel economy loop and coaxed 58.2 mpg out of it without much coaxing. It loves city traffic.

For all that, this high-mpg city runabout couldn't flip a U-turn to save its life. It failed miserably in front of my house, and my street isn't all that narrow.

At 37.4 feet its turning circle was simply dismal. By contrast, our long-term 2013 Lexus GS 350 F-sport cleared the curb comfortably.

Today, our 2012 Toyota Prius C Three long-term test car flipped around with even more room to spare than the Lexus. This result makes more sense. A small car optimized for urban environs should run circles around a big Lexus, even if that Lexus has a trick 4-wheel steering system.

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Beyond Squishy

May 20, 2013

2012 Toyota Prius C

My brother drives a 2012 Toyota Prius V and loves it except for one thing: the driving experience is "squishy." By that he means the soft suspension and the disconnected feeling of the CVT. My brother says the squishy feeling doesn't bother him because he's getting amazing fuel economy.

I took our Prius C to reacquaint myself with the driving experience of this little hybrid and here's my open email to my brother.

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Abysmal Low-Speed Braking

May 9, 2013

2012 Toyota Prius C

The low-speed braking tendencies of our 2012 Toyota Prius C long-term hybrid are annoying.

I found this out as I was driving slowly at the test track, dropping slalom cones out the driver's door into their respective painted squares. Just a little before I wanted to stop each time to drop the cone, the braking force would suddenly increase and cause the Prius C to jerk to a stop.

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: And Then I Went to San Diego

March 26, 2013

2012 Toyota Prius C

Days after I returned from Arizona spring training, our long-term 2012 Toyota Prius C and I hit the road again for San Diego. It's a much shorter drive, but would our hybrid hatchback wear out its welcome after two road trips in a week?

Not really.

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Road Trip to Arizona Spring Training

March 14, 2013

2012 Toyota Prius C

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.

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Prius Brand Is Easy to Explain

February 21, 2013

2012 Toyota Prius C

"What car is that?"

"Oh, that's the small Prius."

That's what I heard myself saying when I pulled up in our 2012 Toyota Prius C at a non-car person's house. It just seemed more natural to explain it that way rather than go into an extended explanation about how it uses a modified version of the B-segment Yaris platform architecture but has a hybrid drivetrain. She instantly knew what I meant: It's a little green car that gets great mpg and comes in a cuter color (with "cuter" open to interpretation).

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Reminds Me of Other Subcompacts

February 18, 2013

2012 Toyota Prius C

Honestly, I could take or leave the hybrid drivetrain in our long-term 2012 Toyota Prius C. But the combination of a 1.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder and a front-drive electric motor powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack provides adequate acceleration most of the time.

And that's how it is in other subcompacts I've liked: The Honda Fit and Mazda 2 come to mind. Performance was never more than OK in those cars. The only difference was I felt like I had more control over it because they both had a five-speed manual gearbox.

Why bother declaring that three inexpensive hatchbacks are adequate? Well, our long-term Prius C is maybe the only hybrid I've ever driven that truly feels like one of the gang. Ours weighed in at 2,562 pounds, which is only 50 pounds heavier than our long-term 2009 Fit.

And so like the Honda, the Toyota goes down the road with a minimum of fuss and unwanted ballast. It feels pretty light and there's a directness to its responses, even if it's not sporty. Driving the Prius C doesn't feel like a game (and indeed I don't watch the efficiency displays much), it just feels like driving.

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: The Kit Fits

January 9, 2013

2012 Toyota Prius C

I got invited to bring my drums to a little jam session this past weekend. The father of one of my kid's classmates is new in town and he plays guitar. He heard I play drums, so it was one of those deals. The older I get, the lazier I get about hauling around the drums. I'd rather buy 10 drumkits off Craigslist and spread them around at all my useless musician friend's houses. Since I had the Prius C, I figured I'd only take the bare minimum: a kick drum, a snare drum, some hi-hats, and the hardware.

To its credit, the Prius C could've handled the full kit and more hardware. There was room for at least two more drums (toms), maybe three, while the front seat remained available. I only had to remove the cargo cover and one of the headrests. I was pretty surprised. And the car performed better than you'd expect, laden with the extra weight. Acceleration didn't feel much different. Still slow, but that initial EV twist helps get that mass up to momentum quicker than you think.

A drummer buddy of mine plays professionally in New York and hauls his gear between the city and his Jersey home in a Focus wagon. He loves it, but I think even he'd appreciate the Prius C. I'd say it's a solid New York/LA/Chicago or any big-city musician's car. Small footprint, easy to park, enough space to haul gear for most rock/jazz gigs. Pretty impressive.

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Count to 10

January 7, 2013

2012 Toyota Prius C

I've read the manual, quickly checked some forum postings, and I'm still left wondering: what the hell is the Prius C's EV mode useful for exactly? It shuts off at 10 mph. Apparently, the regular Prius, or earlier generations of, could run up to almost 45 in EV mode (say some forum posters). But 10 mph? Even stop-n-go traffic pokes ebbs and flows at around 20 mph. I guess you could argue that EV mode is helpful when trawling the parking lot at the local big box.

The Prius C manual says that it's possible to drive 1.3 miles if driving at a speed of about 25 mph or less. I'd like to first know how I can get to 25 mph. Maybe this section of the manual has been copied and pasted across the Prius lineup. Anyway, it's quaint to have the EV mode button there. But what else does the mode that it activates do exactly?

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ 10,533 miles

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Some Days Bridgestone Turanzas Have Their Place

November 30, 2012


Suffice to say the Bridgestone Turanza EL400-02 is not an aspirational tire -- especially not in the barely-there P175/65R15 84H size on our Toyota Prius C Three. But at the end of the day, this is an economy car that just happens to have an unusually elaborate and expensive drivetrain to help you get 50 mpg on the way to work. It doesn't have awesome tires and it doesn't need them.

But so far, I'm liking the wet weather grip of these Turanzas. We're in the midst of the first sustained winter storm in Southern California. It has been raining for a couple days, and the roads are saturated and in some cases flooded. It took me two hours to get to the office this morning. There was ample opportunity for slipping and hydroplaning, but the tires never checked out on me. A quick glance at the treads reveals dozens upon dozens of grooves for channeling water. Of course, my drive to work wasn't anything like the fun Magrath's going to have in the BRZ, but it was safe, predictable and comforting like a hot bowl of cream of wheat.

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Used As Intended

November 29, 2012


Ordinarily, my commute is not really suited to the 2012 Toyota Prius C's personality. I live a pretty good distance from the office and I make the journey at off-peak hours to maximize my average speed. Of course, the Prius C (like the regular Prius) gets by fine at fast freeway speeds, but stop-and-go traffic is what it really prefers.

Well, this week, I've spent most of my time in downtown Los Angeles covering the 2012 L.A. Auto Show, and the Prius C has been in its element. I've always liked its smaller size and its reasonably precise electric power steering -- it just feels more wieldy than the standard-size Prius.

At city speeds, the blending of its gasoline and electric power sources feels smooth and refined -- you don't really think about the transitions because the gas engine doesn't have to work that hard and doesn't command your attention as a result. I've been leaving the car in Eco mode and that has provided adequate throttle response for scooting away from stoplights.

Braking feels pretty natural, too -- well, maybe not natural, but normal for a hybrid car with regenerative braking -- but I think about it a lot, mainly because the car's Eco Score coaching display grades you on braking efficiency, plus starting and coasting. I do OK at braking, by the car's measure, but I'm better at starting.

About the only thing a Prius C owner might complain about in this environment is ride quality. It's decently smooth, but a lot of our surface streets are crumbling and it can be a little punishing over seams and broken pavement.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 10,151 miles

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: To Riverside and Back

November 16, 2012

prius aaa.jpg

I'm working on a story about conversion vans for mobility-challenged drivers. Doing research for the feature required me to visit a couple of relatively far-flung mobility-conversion dealerships -- Better Life Mobility in Riverside, and Mobility Works in Van Nuys.

My vehicle of choice was the Prius C, and in all, I put more than 250 miles on the odo over the past two days. Some driving impressions follow after the jump.

The Prius C feels bouncy on uneven stretches of highway. There was a lot of vibration going on over a particularly rough stretch of the 405. And on surface streets, this refinement deficit was even more jarring. Coming back from lunch at Govinda's, I hit a patch of uneven pavement on Bagley, and it wasn't pretty. For me, not a deal breaker. But we get emails every day from readers seeking cars with a serene ride. If that's one of your key priorities, this isn't the choice for you.

Also, this isn't a car that just allows you to weave in and out of openings in traffic without a care in the world. While power is adequate for most situations, it's not abundant, so passing maneuvers, for example, require some forethought. It definitely forces you to interact with traffic in a different way than you would if you were behind the wheel of car with a stronger engine.

However, criticisms aside, the ride to and from these dealerships was pretty pleasant. And I'd easily recommend the Prius C to buyers, for one primary reason: gas mileage. I got a very real, very tangible sense of satisfaction from checking out the fuel-economy gauge as I cruised past traffic on the 60.

Exact mileage figures from my trip will follow in my next post.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Track Test

October 11, 2012

As with all of our Long Term cars, we took our 2012 Toyota Prius C to the track. How'd it do?

2012 Toyota Prius C Track Test

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Braking Bad

October 4, 2012

I got in the Prius C last night for the first time in a long time, and thought, ?Where are the brakes?!?

Hybrid regenerative brakes never used to bother me much, but lately I?ve been immediately annoyed by nearly all of them.

Either I?m getting awfully sensitive in my old age, or I?ve just been driving some really great non-hybrid cars lately. Sure, the Prius C's binders work eventually and all, but the way they feel does not give me any confidence in them.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 7,577 miles

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Demands Attention

August 09, 2012


I finally got some freeway time in our Prius C and I'll I can say is that I agree with Dan Frio . He noted that this little hybrid is quite the wanderer on the highway. I figured it would demand a little more attention than usual, but it's really a handful, at least on our poorly surfaced local freeways.

Don't get me wrong, though, it's not some darty little death trap. It's just a small, lightweight car with hard tires, so it tends to follow grooves when it finds them. The fact that the steering isn't particularly responsive doesn't help matter much. I guess that's the price you pay for big mileage numbers.

Apart from the vague highway handling, it's surprisingly comfortable for such a small car. Decent seat, simple controls and good visibility. It's about what you would think a stripped down Prius would be.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Inside Line

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Cheap Is OK With Me

July 13, 2012


A couple weeks ago I read another publication's review of the Toyota Prius C. It was not a favorable review, The crux of the article was that Toyota's single-minded attempt at cost reduction for the C results in an absolutely dreary car to drive.

I understand the author's point, particularly in regards to the C's cheapo interior and brittle ride quality. But I like the Prius C anyway, and maybe even because of its faults.

I respect that frugal A-to-B focus. The C reminds me of the old Civic HFs and Geo Metros, commuter cars that could be enjoyable in an odd sort of way if you geeked out over the fuel economy you were getting. It's the same thing with the C. I like watching the display readouts and trying to maximize fuel economy for a car that's already the top-rated non-electric car in America for city fuel economy.

I suppose that arguement could also be applied to other cars. Like our Mitsubishi i, for instance. But the Prius C seems different. More approachable. Better resolved. It's basic transportation with great fuel economy. I like that.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Natural Habitat

June 27, 2012

Prius C in SM.jpg

My Mac abruptly decided to stop opening PDFs, so I made a Genius Bar appointment at the Santa Monica Apple Store, grabbed the keys to the Prius C and glided over there. I'm usually racing to beat traffic on the 405 to get home, so I don't hang out much in Santa Monica. But yesterday was different. Once Hoyt (who IS a genius) cured my computer, I went shopping, cruised trendy Montana Avenue and stopped for ice cream.

James has written that the Prius C did not fare well on pockmarked Wilshire Boulevard. Conversely, it is perfectly adapted to the traffic, parking and overall ambience of green-chic Santa Monica.

Like Brent and Donna, I didn't find the Prius C to be quite as good an experience under greater demands. Trying to pass a Guinness truck this morning on a freeway transition ramp nearly gave it an infarction. But for suburban/city driving, it was maneuverable in traffic and easy to park, both on the street and in busy lots teeming with hulking vehicles. If I was a Santa Monican mainly in need of a car for around-town trips, the Prius C would be worth a look.

As my colleague Jessica Caldwell points out, Southern Californians love their Prii. Prius is the fourth most registered vehicle for retail buyers in Los Angeles in 2012. I don't have registration data for Santa Monica, but I'd be willing to guess it's even higher here.

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @2,883 miles.

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Not Intended For Mountain Use

June 18, 2012


I did a five-hour freeway drive in our Prius C last week, which included going over the Tejon Pass (the "Grapevine") on I5 and its 4,160-foot elevation. As you can probably guess, the C was not exactly an ideal companion. With 99 combined peak horsepower (73 hp with just the 1.5-liter engine), there's just not a whole lot of oomph to keep the Prius C comfortably moving strong up long grades.

But that's not to say the Prius Can't handle it. Pin the throttle, keep up the momentum and you'll be OK. It's just not a very relaxing experience. The C lets in a fair amount of wind and road noise, too. On the upside, the driver seat felt pretty comfortable during the drive.

Given that the C has been idealized for city use, I'll cut it a lot of slack here. I've found the best way to approach drives like this is just accept you're underpowered (relative to the motoring norm) and just enjoy the scenery.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 1,744 miles

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Uphill Battle

June 04, 2012


I'm sure it will be no surprise to you that the Toyota Prius C has a difficult time climbing steep hills. All cars have to put in extra effort for this task but the Prius C sounded like it was going to die. In fact, it sounded like it wanted to die. My eco score on the information display dropped to 4 out of 100. It usually hovers in the 30s and 40s in normal driving, even on the freeway.

There is a particular hill near my home that I take almost every weekend to get to my favorite market. Because I drive it so often, I use it as a gauge to compare cars. I found it amusing this past weekend when I saw two horses crossing the street while I sat at the traffic light. Horse crossings are common on this road. I think with their one-horsepower each, they could have beat the Prius C up the hill in a race.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 1,115 miles

See full article and comment.

2012 Toyota Prius C: Wanderer

May 31, 2012

Prius C_wanderer.jpg

Behold this rare sight: Open freeway. Interstate 10, Westside Los Angeles, no less. But this unencumbered expanse also highlights one of the Prius C's less desirable traits. It's a wanderer. The Bridgestone 175 all-seasons skate distractedly on our grooved highways, and the numb electric steering isn't a particularly helpful partner. The only feedback you get is from keeping your eyes glued to the road ahead.

But the Prius C is still likeable. Not sure why. Maybe it's just a cute Prius. Or rather, a Prius with agreeable lines and dimensions. I don't have a problem with our sea foam color. Then again, I also like dolphins and blue frozen cocktails.

Maybe it's a little wayward, but the Prius C doesn't feel like Toyota completely phoned it in. It also told me I'd averaged 47.5 mpg over the course of a couple hundred miles.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

See full article and comment.

Leave a Comment

Past Long-Term Road Tests