New & Used Toyota Prius C: In Depth
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The Prius is no longer a single model; it's a lineup of compact and subcompact cars, each with a slightly different purpose. Among them, the Toyota Prius C is the smallest and least expensive. It's also the most affordable hybrid that Toyota sells, and it returns about the same fuel economy—50 mpg combined—as the larger and pricier Prius Liftback model, aka the "Prius Classic."
As a compact hatchback—or subcompact by many distinctions—the Prius C is considerably more fun to drive than the Liftback, not to mention more agile and easier to maneuver than the larger Prius. It competes against both mainstream subcompacts like the Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Sonic, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, and Hyundai Accent, and more specialized mild-hybrid subcompacts, notably the Honda Insight (which has been canceled after the 2014 model year).
For a more detailed look at the Prius C, see the full review of the 2014 Toyota Prius C, including options, prices, gas-mileage ratings, and specifications. You can also see the Prius C vs. its competitors.While the lines of the Prius C are far less distinctive than the traditional Prius--to us, it looks like a mass-market model that might slot between the Yaris and the Matrix--it's actually a unique, hybrid-only body style. The rather ordinary five-door hatchback layout offers as much space up front as the standard Prius, though rather less in back, thanks to more upright seats. Cargo space with the rear seats up and in place is enough for a load of groceries, and the seatbacks fold forward to expand the cargo hold--it makes an excellent car for two people, with tolerable space for three or four in a pinch. Toyota managed to locate both the gas tank and the battery pack under the rear seat, meaning that unlike the Insight, the Prius C has a full-depth load deck.
From the driver's seat, the instrument-panel layout borrows some minor controls from the Yaris but shares the central gauges and readouts of the rest of the Prius lineup. There's a fair amount of interior noise, and the trims and materials are clearly a step down in quality compared to the Prius, but that's to be expected given the bargain price.
Because the C is smaller than its Prius kin, it can make do with a smaller powertrain. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder makes just 73 horsepower. It's paired to a small electric motor in the same layout as the other Priuses models, and uses a 0.9-kWh battery pack. The layout and function of the system are the same as in Toyota's other hybrids, although the Prius C uses a more traditional gear selector in place of the blue nub found in its brethren.
While it ends up at the same 50-mpg EPA combined mileage rating as the larger Prius Liftback, the details follow a different path. We've seen a bit lower in real-world drives, but found that it's considerably more nimble and maneuverable than any other Prius—although hardly sporty. We've found the best way to keep up with traffic is to work the little Prius hard--which didn't seem to affect gas mileage at all.
For less than $20,000, you'll make some tradeoffs to get the sophisticated hybrid powertrain. Just four trim levels are offered (Prius C One, Prius C Two, Prius C Three, and Prius C Four), though even the least pricey Prius One model includes automatic climate control, power accessories, keyless entry, and USB/iPod connectivity. A navigation system and Toyota's Entune infotainment system come in the Prius C Three, while Prius C Four models get heated seats, alloy wheels, and fog lamps.