The practical, economical compact hatchback is a staple of Toyota's lineup — just ask anyone who grew up in the back seat of a Tercel. This latest iteration of the formula, first launched in 2012, might not be as cheap as a Tercel, but it's still one of the most affordable ways to get into a hybrid.
While the Prius C lacks Toyota's latest hybrid powertrain technology (it's used in the newest version of the regular Prius), the C is still reliably frugal and should surpass its EPA-estimated 46 mpg combined in real-world driving. It's also a maneuverable little car that's a breeze to park, making it an ideal city runabout for people who prize efficiency. You can also factor in Toyota's reputation for reliability and low running costs as advantages.
Of course it's still an entry-level vehicle. In spite of the recently updated infotainment system and additional safety features, the Prius C is a pretty basic car. The interior is full of hard plastics and doesn't offer much in the way of sound insulation. The ride quality is often harsh. And with just 99 horsepower on tap, the Prius C is one of the slower cars on the road. But overall we think the Prius C's advantages outweigh the compromises.
trim levels & features
Every trim comes standard with a limited version of Toyota's Safety Sense. In the Prius C, this system includes forward collision alert with automatic braking, lane departure warning and automatic high beams.
Beyond this safety equipment, the Prius C One comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera, LED headlights and taillights, power mirrors, keyless entry, automatic climate control, cloth seats with a folding rear bench, and a tilting-and-telescoping adjustable steering wheel. Entertainment duties are handles by a 6.1-inch touchscreen system with voice commands, Bluetooth, a USB port and a four-speaker stereo. Frontal collision warning with automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning are also included.
The Prius C Two upgrades the rear seats to a 60/40-split folding bench and adds two-tone fabric upholstery, a center armrest with a storage compartment, a height-adjustable driver seat, cruise control and two additional speakers for the stereo.
With the Three, buyers get proximity entry with push-button start and an upgraded infotainment system. The Three retains the 6.1-inch screen, but adds navigation, satellite radio and Toyota's Entune app suite. A sunroof is available as an optional extra.
The range-topping Prius C Four adds LED foglights, heated power mirrors, the sunroof and simulated leather upholstery. Sixteen-inch alloy wheels are also available.
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 C Three (1.5L inline-4 hybrid | CVT automatic | FWD). This rating has been carried forward from a prior year because the current model has no substantial differences.
NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Toyota Prius C has received some revisions, including upgraded infotainment and active safety technology, and a cosmetic refresh. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's Toyota Prius C, however.
noise & vibration
ease of use
getting in/getting out
audio & navigation
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.