2012 Toyota Prius C Long-Term Road Test - Wrap-Up

2012 Toyota Prius C Long-Term Road Test

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  • Pricing & Specs
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Read the introduction of the 2012 Toyota Prius C to our long-term fleet.

See all of the 2012 Toyota Prius C long-term updates.

What We Got
We set our sights on a 2012 Toyota Prius C Four, which was the top of the four trim levels offered. Since there weren't any in California in our preferred Summer Rain Metallica paint color, we shifted to the Prius C Three.

Carson Toyota had a Prius C Three in our color. It sold us the car for $22,701 after some negotiation. This price landed us the standard 1.5-liter, 73-horsepower Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder and a 144-volt nickel-hydride battery pack. With its two electric motors, the overall system was rated at 99 hp. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) was standard along with keyless ignition, satellite radio, navigation and Entune. Optional equipment was limited to the moonroof ($850) and floor and cargo mats ($225).

2012 Toyota Prius C

Our Impressions

  • "I finally got some freeway time in our Prius C.... This little hybrid is quite the wanderer on the highway.... 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 matters 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. It has a decent seat, simple controls and good visibility. It's about what you would think a stripped-down Prius would be." — Ed Hellwig

  • "I made a couple two-and-a-half-hour drives in our long-term Prius C. And strangely, the cloth seats in our Three model proved quite comfortable. There's a plush layer of cushioning on top of each seat but also enough structure underneath that to give you some support. I do put the seat all the way back on its track, but for me (a 5-foot-10 adult), it's not maxed out and I can still use the seat height adjuster to improve the view over the dash without causing the seat-bottom cushion to angle too far forward. Bottom line: If you find the driver seat/seating position in the regular Toyota Prius uncomfortable, don't assume it'll be the same story in the Prius C. For me, the smaller Prius is actually better." — Erin Riches

  • "Before the C left the rotation, I took it for a mini road trip, just out to Palm Springs, a 200-mile round trip.... 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." — Dan Frio

  • "Mind you, we've complained before that the Prius C rides harshly over really rough and broken pavement. But most highways and interstates aren't that bad, including California Highway 60, Interstates 10 and 17, and Arizona's Loop 101 and 202 freeways. We drove 'em all, and I never got annoyed with the Prius C's ride. It soaked up most impacts, yet never felt floaty. On the contrary, it feels buttoned-down and there's enough steering feel that you have the confidence to stay on the throttle through the fun freeway interchanges." — Erin Riches

  • "The amount of wind noise that comes into the Toyota's cabin almost offsets the lack of engine noise. This does get annoying, because the audio system really isn't good enough to overcome it when you're listening to talk radio or a podcast. Ultimately, though, I think this is a trade most people (not necessarily most car people) would be willing to make." — Erin Riches

  • 2012 Toyota Prius C

  • "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. It's completely nonintuitive, difficult to modulate and hard to get used to. I noticed the same type of sudden increased braking force later in the day in stop-and-go traffic, and when pulling slowly up to a stoplight. It's this kind of poor drivability that can make hybrids frustrating." — Mike Monticello

  • "I averaged 44.5 mpg, easily the best I've ever managed on this drive [to Las Vegas], and it only cost $25 to get there. That's like one hand of blackjack. It's hard to argue with that." — Mike Magrath

  • "The bill showed a normal cost of $91.55 for this service (it calls for synthetic oil) but 'No Charge' was stamped across it. Yep, it cost us zippo, as the Prius C came with two years/25,000 miles worth of free maintenance." — John DiPietro

  • "[Our Prius C] has Toyota's Entune interface for smartphones.... Several editors have commented that the setup process requires too many steps and that the apps themselves add minimal functionality. I can't say I disagree... but the reality is if you want traffic data to show up on our Three model's standard navigation system's maps, you have to set up Entune. I wouldn't suggest that this traffic data is as accurate as that provided by the Inrix app on my phone, but there's still something to be said for having it on a larger screen embedded in the dash." — Erin Riches

  • "I wish the Bluetooth in all cars worked as well as it does in our long-term Toyota Prius C. Pairing my phone to the Toyota is quick and simple and the sound quality is wonderful, maybe even better than the sound quality in the Bentley Mulsanne I also drove last week." — Scott Oldham

  • "I'm a serial over-packer in the best of times, and I've heard that a suit will be called for during this trip. So of course I'm using one of those large international suitcases. It just fits behind the rear seats and beneath the cargo cover, with just enough space for my laptop case to slide alongside." — Dan Edmunds

Maintenance & Repairs

Regular Maintenance:
Routine service on the Prius C was as simple as it gets. The ToyotaCare free maintenance program covers two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. We did not pay a dime for service at the prescribed 5,000-, 10,000- and 15,000-mile intervals.

2012 Toyota Prius C

Service Campaigns:
There were no recalls or TSBs issued during our test.

Fuel Economy and Resale Value

Observed Fuel Economy:
The EPA rated our 2012 Toyota Prius C at 53 city/46 highway and 50 mpg combined. Our lifetime average fell below expectations, at 45 mpg. We did have a handful of 50 mpg fill-ups, however. The farthest we traveled on a single tank was 473 miles.

Resale and Depreciation:
We purchased the 2012 Toyota Prius C for $22,701 one year ago. With 16,664 miles on the odometer, Edmunds' TMV® Calculator valued it at $19,500 based on a private-party sale. This figure was so close to the price of new Cs that we didn't expect many takers. When CarMax offered us $18,000 we couldn't resist. This sales price marked 21 percent depreciation and can be considered slightly above average.

Summing Up

Pros: We averaged 45 mpg over 16,000 miles, zero maintenance costs, hatchback utility, comfortable front seats, simple cabin layout, not a single issue over the course of a year.

Cons: Barely tolerable level of power, considerable road noise, follows grooves in the highway, touchy brakes.

Bottom Line: Come to terms with the inherent power deficiencies of its hybrid platform and don't look back. The 2012 Toyota Prius C offers a lot of value for those seeking a practical 45 mpg subcompact.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs: None (over 12 months)
Additional Maintenance Costs: None
Warranty Repairs: None
Non-Warranty Repairs: None
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 3
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: None
Days Out of Service: None
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Best Fuel Economy: 56.2 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 29.0 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 45.3 mpg
True Market Value at service end: $19,500 (private-party sale)
What it Sold for: $18,000
Depreciation: $4,701 (21% of paid price)
Final Odometer Reading: 16,664 miles

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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