2018 Toyota Prius C

2018 Toyota Prius c Hatchback Review

The Toyota Prius C offers big hybrid efficiency in a little package.
3.5 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Will Kaufman
Edmunds Editor

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.



what's new

For 2018, alloy wheels are standard across the range.

we recommend

While the Prius C One has everything you absolutely need in a car, and not much less than even the highest trim, we'd opt for the Two. Little practicalities like the split-folding rear bench and center armrest with a storage compartment, not to mention cruise control, will make it more pleasant to live with in the long run.

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.

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 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.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5.0

Driving

3.0 / 5.0

Acceleration2.5 / 5.0
Braking3.0 / 5.0
Steering3.5 / 5.0
Handling3.0 / 5.0
Drivability4.0 / 5.0

Comfort

3.0 / 5.0

Seat comfort3.5 / 5.0
Ride comfort3.5 / 5.0
Noise & vibration3.0 / 5.0

Interior

3.5 / 5.0

Ease of use4.0 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out3.0 / 5.0
Roominess3.5 / 5.0
Visibility3.0 / 5.0

driving

edmunds rating
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.

acceleration

edmunds rating
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.

braking

edmunds rating
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.

steering

edmunds rating
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.

handling

edmunds rating
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.

drivability

edmunds rating
Toyota's hybrids are built around a stepless continuously variable automatic transmission that's butter-smooth. It sometimes doesn't sound that way as the motor cycles on and off, though.

comfort

edmunds rating
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 comfort

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

ride comfort

edmunds rating
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 & vibration

edmunds rating
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.

interior

edmunds rating
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 use

edmunds rating
Unlike 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 out

edmunds rating
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.

roominess

edmunds rating
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.

visibility

edmunds rating
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.

cargo space

edmunds rating
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. But it doesn't include Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

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.