2018 Prius c New Car Test Drive
Launched for the 2012 model year, the Prius c is Toyota's lowest-priced hybrid model. It's also the smaller member of the Toyota Prius family of hybrid (gasoline/electric) vehicles.
Bumpers and rocker panels were redesigned for the 2017 model year, along with the rear spoiler and new alloy wheels. Toyota also has made standard its Safety Sense suite of driver-assistance features, including a pre-collision system, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams.
Officially considered a subcompact, the Prius c is a bit longer than some competitive models, measuring 158.7 inches. Urbanites and commuters are the foremost prospects for a modestly priced, fuel-efficient little runabout like the Prius c. Toyota says c stands for city. We think of it as meaning cheap or compact. Roomier than expected, the interior shows evidence of cost-cutting measures, but it is a solidly built hatchback.
The hybrid powertrain combines a 60-horsepower electric motor with a 73-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a 19.3-kW (144-volt) nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Like most smaller hybrids, the Prius c uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT). System output totals 99 horsepower. Both the battery pack and the gasoline tank fit beneath the rear seat, which permits a full-depth cargo area.
Four logical trim levels are offered: One, Two, Three, and Four. Each version contains power windows, mirrors, and door locks, along with automatic climate control and remote keyless entry. A 6.1-inch touchscreen for the audio system includes a USB port and iPod connectivity.
Even when driving with zest, the Prius c is fuel-efficient. Normal mode is for everyday driving. EV mode, activated by a dashboard button, lets the Prius c run on electricity alone, but for less than a mile, below 25 mph. Eco mode curtails power output by controlling throttle operation and lowering climate-control settings, for even thriftier fuel usage. Painfully slow acceleration is the penalty for that level of thriftiness. And motorists behind may not appreciate it.
Safety scores in crash-testing aren't the best. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Prius c a four-star rating overall, and the same score for frontal and side-impact collisions. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given the hatchback Good crash scores, but only an Acceptable evaluation for that organization's small-overlap crash test. Nine airbags are standard, along with the newly standard Safety Sense suite.
Four trim levels are offered. Prices are MSRP and do not include the $885 destination charge.)
Prius c One ($20,150) includes 15-inch alloy wheels, 3.5-inch information display, cloth seat upholstery, a fold-down rear seat, automatic climate control, a tilt/telescopic steering column, remote keyless entry, power windows, and four-speaker audio with a USB port and iPad connectivity.
Prius c Two ($20,950) adds a rear spoiler, LED taillights, power mirrors with turn-signal indicators, daytime running lights, two-tone fabric front seats, six-way driver's seat, 60/40 split fold-down rear seat, six-speaker audio, cruise control, and a cargo cover.
Prius c Three ($22,375) gets a Smart Key system with pushbutton start, Touch Tracer display, and premium audio with navigation, an apps suite, satellite radio, and HD radio.
Prius c Four ($24,965) comes with LED foglamps, a rearview camera, heated power mirrors, moonroof, and SofTex-trimmed heated front seats.
Sixteen-inch wheels are optional.