2017 Prius C

2017 Toyota Prius c Review

Same Herculean fuel-efficiency feats as larger Prius models in a slimmer, city-friendly package.
3.5 / 5
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Dan Frio
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

Think of the 2017 Toyota Prius C as the skinny latte of the Prius family. It still seats five, has four doors and performs the same Herculean fuel-efficiency feats as the larger Prius and Prius V wagon, but in a slimmer, city-friendly package. This is a car that embraces its life's purpose as a fuel-sipping, easy-to-park and practical little hatchback, a conclusion we reached after spending a year with one.

The smallest of Toyota's hybrid lineup, the Prius C is 19 inches shorter than the standard compact sedan Prius. It's also the lowest-priced of the family and one of the least expensive ways to get into a hybrid. It's no watered-down hybrid, either. Its EPA-estimated fuel economy is 50 mpg combined, although our yearlong test revealed that number to be a tad optimistic (we averaged 45 mpg combined over 16,000 miles but did achieve a handful of 50 mpg fill-ups). In addition to great fuel efficiency, the C's diminutive size and lighter weight make it more agile and a snap to park.

The downside is that the C's entry-level status is pretty evident. The ride quality can be harsh at times, and the interior is full of uninviting hard plastics. The Prius C is also loud inside and slow compared to its competition. But given its high-mpg mission, we don't consider those deal-breakers. Compromises and annoyances, yes, but not deal-breakers. And given Toyota's rock-solid reputation for reliability and low running costs, there's really no other hybrid out there that compares. To get the best fuel economy on a budget, the Prius C is your car.



What's new for 2017

For 2017, the formerly optional Safety Sense package (which includes some advanced driver's aids) is now standard on all Prius C trims.

We recommend

The One is indeed very basic, but Bluetooth and USB cover your phone and music connections, a folding seatback aids cargo flexibility, and LED headlights and auto climate control are nice touches. We think the Two is the best combination of price and features as it 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.



Trim levels & features

The 2017 Toyota Prius C is a four-door subcompact hatchback offered in four trim levels: One, Two, Three, and Four. The One is pretty basic, but it offers the essentials and a measure of creature comforts. The Two adds a few more conveniences to the mix, while the Three and Four increase the tech and some cabin comforts (heated seats, imitation leather upholstery). All 2017 Prius C trims come standard with forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and intervention, and automatic high beams.

The One comes with 15-inch steel wheels, LED headlights, taillights and brake lights, automatic climate control, power accessories, a folding rear seat, a multifunction display, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 6.1-inch touchscreen display, voice commands, and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and a USB-iPod interface.

The 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 Three adds keyless ignition and entry, a navigation system, smartphone app integration, satellite radio and voice controls. The range-topping Four adds alloy wheels, heated mirrors, foglights, a sunroof, imitation leather upholstery, a rearview camera and heated front seats.

Options are few. On the Three, you can get 15-inch alloy wheels and a sunroof. On the Four, 16-inch alloy wheels are optional.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions, although trim levels share many aspects. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2012 Toyota Prius Three (1.5L 4-cyl. hybrid; CVT automatic). This rating has been carried forward from a prior year because the current model has no substantial differences.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5

Driving

3.0 / 5

Acceleration2.5 / 5
Braking3.0 / 5
Steering3.5 / 5
Handling3.0 / 5
Drivability4.0 / 5

Comfort

3.0 / 5

Seat comfort3.5 / 5
Ride comfort3.5 / 5
Noise & vibration3.0 / 5

Interior

3.5 / 5

Ease of use4.0 / 5
Getting in/getting out3.0 / 5
Roominess3.5 / 5
Visibility3.0 / 5

Driving3.0

It's very solid and reassuring, but it's not exactly sporty. Still, there's more to like than you'd expect for something that can exceed 50 mpg.

Acceleration2.5

The Prius C is not speedy, but it gets up to freeway speed adequately and holds its own in city traffic. It's about what you would expect from a car that can deliver up to 50 mpg.

Braking3.0

The brake pedal comes across as reassuring thanks to a solid feel. In light use there's a faint whine as the hybrid system turns braking energy into electricity for the battery.

Steering3.5

Generally steering is responsive and direct. Smaller tires and wheels allow the One, Two and Three trims to make tighter U-turns than the top-of-the-line Four model.

Handling3.0

The Prius C is well-balanced and agile, but its fuel-saving low-rolling resistance tires don't have lots of grip. It's competent but rarely impressive in this area.

Drivability4.0

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.

Comfort3.0

The Prius C is a small car that rides bigger than you'd guess by looking at it. The seats are also surprisingly comfortable despite their basic adjustments and cloth upholstery.

Seat comfort3.5

They don't come across as plush, but the seats are comfortable enough for putting in long hours behind the wheel.

Ride comfort3.5

Better than you might expect from a small car with tires designed for mileage over comfort. At times, it even seems more settled and less up on tiptoes than its older brother, the regular Prius.

Noise & vibration3.0

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.

Climate control

It's a fairly spartan arrangement, with essentially one large dial for temperature control and a handful of buttons for mode, fan speed, recirculation and defrost functions. A pretty clean setup.

Interior3.5

The simple, 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.

Ease of use4.0

Unlike in 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.

Getting in/getting out3.0

The front doors open wide, and there are no obstructions. The rear is similar but not as well suited for those taller than 6 feet.

Roominess3.5

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.

Visibility3.0

Slender pillars and lots of glass add up to good forward and rear side visibility, but the rear roof pillar is thick and the rear window is small.

Quality

Hybrids are more expensive than their conventional counterparts, but Toyota hasn't scrimped to offset the hybrid premium. It feels more substantial than typical subcompacts and cheaper non-hybrids in the same size class.

Utility

The base model features a fold-down rear seatback, which is handy but not quite as handy as the 60/40-split folding rear seat on the Two trim level and above.

Small-item storage

It's a nice surprise to find a single cupholder that flips out from the back of the center console. Two or more rear seat passengers might need to fight over it, but it's there nonetheless.

Child safety seat accommodation3.0

There's enough space behind the rear seats for groceries (17.1 cubic feet), and a large suitcase just fits. Fold down the rear seats and this small hatchback becomes fairly voluminous.

Technology

The Prius C has one of the easier touchscreen interfaces to work with, and it's standard across the board. Intuitive functions and menu structure, crisp graphics. Even the base model comes with Bluetooth and voice commands.

Audio & navigation

The audio system tops out at six speakers. It's nothing memorable, but it does the job. An integrated navigation system comes at the Three and Four trim levels and works well.

Smartphone integration

Entune is Toyota's smartphone app package, offering the ability to connect with apps such as Pandora, Yelp and Facebook while on the go. Also aids navigation system with real-time traffic information and re-routing.

Driver aids

Toyota's Safety Sense package comes standard on all models, and includes forward collision mitigation, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and automatic high beams. It's a pretty generous and uncommon offering at this level.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.