I would like to start off this review by saying one thing: I am not a huge fan of the Toyota Prius. Yes, I understand the reasoning behind such a vehicle, but like most other auto journalists, I like things to be a little bit more powerful, and well alluring. I've been dreaming of a Prius, said no kid ever. No, this review will not be a Prius bashing session, as it does have some better qualities to it. The Toyota Prius c adds all of the good bits of the Prius most people are used to, but shrinks it down, and that creates problems all by itself. With this being said, lets take a look at the Toyota Prius c.
When you look at the Prius c, you might think of the Yaris. This is for a good reason. The Prius c, is for lack of better words, a hybrid Yaris. However, the Prius c is a little bit easier on the eyes, with more soft curves, instead of the sharp egdes that the Yaris uses. This tester, a 2012 model, was equipped with the Alloy Wheel package, which gives you 16” inch alloy wheels, which do a great job of dressing up the otherwise somewhat plain looking car.
There are, however, a character line or two, that also dress up the sides of the car. Walking around to the rear of the car, you will almost instantly notice the clear tailight lenses. This is more than just a style thing. With clear lenses, it seems that the tailights glow a touch brighter when illuminated. The Prius c is a hatchback, which is to say it is somewhat versatile as to how much you can carry with it, but more on that in a bit. While some hatchbacks don't have a lot of appeal, when most people saw the car, they liked the general look of it. Now that we have covered the outside, let's move onto the inside, where it goes from ok, to bad in the matter of minutes.
Overall, Toyota could have done a much better job of making the inside of the car a much more appealing space, but I understand that cost was a major issue, as the Prius c starts at around $20k, which is one of the cheapest hybrids on the market today. When you first sit in the vehicle, the seats feel pretty good. They offer loads of support, and the cushion amount is almost perfect. This is in the beginning, mind you. After you have done some extended periods of driving, this will all change. The seats will feel like a rock, and the feeling of support is all but lost. Tip of the day, don't buy this car if you drive more than an hour each way for work, and you will be ok in this area.
Moving onto the dash. The dash is made of every auto journalists' worst nightmare: super hard plastic. This is great for cutting costs, but it leaves a lot to be desired in the asthetics department. The graining of the plastic is about its only saving grace. Now for the instrument cluster. Just like the last generation Yaris, the gauge cluster is center mounted, not right infront of the driver. This is a little on the unconventional side, but works well, as the cluster is bright, and easy to read. The panel is split up into 3 seperate sections: Speedometer/gas gauge, Vehicle Information, and Reminder Lights.
For a car the size of the Prius c, it certain tries to make you think it is larger. With an impressive 17.1 cu.-ft of cargo space, you will certainly have enough room for that weekend trip to Home Depot, or IKEA. With all that space, you can even comfortably seat 4 people, but 5 in a pinch if it's just around the block. On a side note, when looking over your shoulders, there are very small blindspots, but nothing that can't be lived with, unlike some vehicles. Now let's move onto the worst part about this car, it's performance.
Performance has long been something that hybrids aren't usually good at. With the Prius c, this is still very true. This is partly to blame because of the 1.5 liter, 4 cylinder engine that produces a frown-inducing 99 horsepower. The engine is coupled to a CVT-type transmission, which doesn't give it any performance credentials,either. Acceleration is well, in one word, bad. William Brinley in a Hoverround would beat a Prius c in a drag race. However, it is almost enough for everyday driving. If you like to pass other cars a lot, you will have to plan way, way in advance.
Braking is something the Prius c does rather well. (See, I told you there were some things that were good about the car.) With the Toyota hybrid system, the energy that is typically lost in the braking process is instead used to charge the battery on the car, which can propel the vehicle for a short distance in EV mode. The turning radius is also rather small, at 31.4 ft. That number jumps up to 37.4 ft. when the vehicle is equipped with the alloy wheel package. Handling, on the other hand, is not a strong point of the Prius c. When going around certain turns, you feel like you might go off into the ditch, or just not make the turn at all and keep on going. Also, Safety Note here, the Prius c is not good in the snow, as this was when the vehicle was tested. Grip was in seriously short supply, even when it was just a light dusting. For an added point of comparison, the Beetle Convertible that I jumped into after this vehicle did much better in the snow.
Safety is, however, one of the best things about this car, aside from its price, as well as its amazing gas mileage, which is rated at 53 city/46 highway/50 combined. That alone is enough to make up for most of the shortcomings of the car. But back to safety. Toyota has included as standard, their Star Safety System, which includes such things like VSC, ABS, and SST. Also standard are 9 airbags, which is more than some larger cars on the market today. At the time of testing, the safety ratings were not out, and thus cant be published in this review. However, rest assured that Toyota won't be selling you a vehicle that wouldn't protect your family in the unfortunate event that an accident does happen.
Overall, considering the downsides that the vehicle has, it is barely a 2 star car. This is because of things like very poor acceleration, and very cheap feeling, and looking interior materials. The redeeming things like low base price, and gas mileage can make up for a lot of those things, depending upon what you find important in a vehicle. Is every car perfect? Simply put, no. Is this car worthy of a test drive if you are in the market for a small hybrid? Yes, because you as a consumer owe it to yourself to make sure that you are spending your very hard earned money in the best possible way that you can. Like always, that is only a choice that you, the reader, can make.