PRO’s: Great mileage / economy, nicely styled.
CON’s: Simply adequate power, performance and handling.
FINAL THOUGHT: A decent hybrid that you’ll enjoy as long as you’re not a rabid automobile enthusiast.
Believe it or not but the Toyota Prius has been around for 15 long years. It debuted in Japan in 1997 and since that time it’s been the go-to hybrid for those looking to be a bit more environmentally friendly. Now by this time we know all the cars in the Prius family get good fuel economy, but the real question is – are they any good to drive? I was recently given a 2012 Toyota Prius C, the baby of the Prius family and although yes, the mileage is great, the car itself is simply “OK” in my opinion.
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area the Toyota Prius is one of the more dominant cars on the road. Now if you think about it, it makes perfect sense for the Prius to be here. I mean San Francisco gave birth to the great American Hippie, city-wide recycling and the legalization of marijuana, so why not a cool hip hybrid that seeks to appeal to a younger audience.
Now as we know the Prius C is a hybrid, which means that it can be operated by either gasoline or electric power. It’s got an ultra low drag coefficient of around 0.25 and rolls on low resistance tires. Being the “C” (which stands for “city”) the Prius is also now being marketed to a younger and dare I say, hipper audience. The “C” has a smaller wheelbase than the regular Prius by about 6 inches, has roughly 4.5 cubic feet less storage capacity, and is down 25 hp and 23 lb.-ft. of torque from its gas engine. Subsequently it also loses 35 hp (electric power) as compared to its older brother as well.
This means that you’ve got a car that will get an estimated 50 mpg as long as you don’t go very quickly. An electronic scoreboard on the dash keeps track of how economically you drive. Keep your foot off the pedal and your score goes up, push it down however and you will get penalized. Well, not really penalized per-say but you will get an EXCESSIVE SPEED warning light that comes on. This first came on at a brisk 11 mph, however since I was trying to get the car to move and thus had the accelerator pressed, the Prius determined that this was poor driving and decided to warn me.
Silence is another issue with this car I simply don’t care for. Climb in, hit the starter button and, nothing. Not a peep, beep or anything to signify that the Prius is running. Understand now that I’m all for a quiet automobile, but this unfortunately borders on unsafe in my opinion as it’s as equally quiet on the outside as it is on the inside. I live in a residential area and when I have neighbors commenting on the quietness of this car, and that it could be dangerous as children may not hear it coming, well, I have to agree.
From a performance standpoint the Prius C is adequate at best, as its little inline-4 only puts out 73 hp and 83 lb.-ft of torque. Combine that with its two electric generators and output goes up to 99 hp. Not stellar by any means and downright scary if you’re trying to pass someone at freeway speeds. 0-60 mph takes around 11-seconds, so if you do own a Prius C and want to pass someone at speed, my suggestion is to plan ahead. Handling and braking are on par with the cars acceleration which means that they too are adequate. This is a car for mileage and economy, not performance.
Step inside the 2012 Prius C and you’ll be treated to a sea of hard plastic, a cool in-dash display screen and a stereo/navigation system that is actually quite good. In fact from an electronics standpoint I was actually pleased. The navigation unit is intuitive and easy to use with a great display and thanks to a well laid out screen, everything is presented in a clear and concise fashion.
Legroom is also plentiful, especially for a car that sits on what is basically a Toyota Yaris chassis. My 6’4″ frame fit in the Prius C just fine and surprisingly I had loads of head and leg room as well. The backseat is another story entirely. Yes it’s usable, but its definitely cramped back there so I’d warn potential passengers ahead of time.
Frontal and side visibility is fine, however one glance in your rear view mirror will tell you that you must remove the rear headrests as they block a large amount of your rear view. Storage is minimal, but there’s enough room for a few duffel bags just in case you want to get in the “C” and ditch the city.
Depending on what options you choose, the Prius C will set you back anywhere from $22,000-$25,000. Not crazy money, but then again you’re not getting a crazy car. Existing Prius owners will love the new 2012 Prius C. They’ll like it’s small stature, it’s great mileage and the fact they’ve now got another car in the Prius family.
Enthusiasts however will hate this thing. They’ll hate the lack of power, mundane handling and performance and the fact that it’s devoid of anything that resembles enjoyable motoring.
For basic hybrid transportation at a reasonable price, it’s a decent little car. For anything beyond that though, I’d look elsewhere.