By on April 23, 2012

In the geek world we have “Moore’s law” which states the number of transistors in ICs will double every two years. In the automotive world we have the bloat law. Every generation of a vehicle will get more powerful, heavier and physically larger than its predecessor, ultimately requiring the manufacturer to design an entirely new, smaller car to fill the void left by the original.

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Back in 2001, the original Prius cost $19,995, weighed 2,765lbs and delivered 52/45MPG. Three generations later it costs $24,000, tips the scales at 3,050lbs, yields 51/48MPG and is far more practical for a family of four. Listing for $1,000 less than the original Prius and weighing a svelte 2,500lbs, the baby Prius delivers 53/46MPG of hatchback hybrid love. More important than the weight loss routine is the fact that this new Prius is “only” $4,835 more expensive than the Toyota’s Yaris (the cheapest 5-door economy car in their US lineup.) That might sound like a big chunk of change, but back in 2001, the Prius was $6,591 dearer. We can thank this price difference to Toyota’s continuing efforts to downsize their hybrid system’s footprint and price tag. Speaking of that footprint, the Prius c manages to weigh only 185lbs more than the 5-door Yaris L while the original Prius was 700lbs heavier than the Echo of the era. For once downsizing is progress.

Interior

If you’ve been inside a Prius, the interior will be “déjà vu all over again.” While the shapes look familiar,  few parts are actually shared as the Prii models share the same style sheet but share few major interior trim parts. Personally, I found the traditional shifter and the high-resolution LCD in the dash a significant step-up from the Prius liftback’s low-rent display and awkward joystick. Strangely enough, the Prius c also shares little with the Yaris on which it is based, aside from a passion for hard plastics. Shoppers should know that while all Yaris models have token soft touch bits on the dash, only the top-end Prius c “four” gets some pleather dash yumminess. While some may complain about the hardness of the  surfaces, the fit and finish is above average in the segment (if you exclude the Germans) and the style is less controversial than the Prius liftback.

Infotainment

Being positioned for younger and greener buyers, Toyota offers three different audio systems all with standard Bluetooth phone integration/music streaming and iPod/USB connectivity. The Prius c “one” gets a basic head unit with a small display and four speakers while the Prius c “two” uses the same radio but adds two tweeters up front. As you would expect, browsing an iPhone/iPod with 4,000+ songs on it was a royal pain. Stepping up to the Prius c “three” buys you Toyota’s 6.1-inch unit which Toyota confusingly calls “Display Audio with Navigation and Entune.” Long names aside, the Entune navigation system is an interesting blend of a decent audio head unit and integrated flash-based navigation system with smartphone data and smartphone app integration. While systems like MyFord Touch, or even Toyota’s own higher end nav systems use Sirius or XM satellite radio to deliver data content, the base Entune system pulls this data right off your smartphone using your own data plan. As a result, there’s no need for an XM or Sirius subscription like in other systems. The downside? You can’t access these services without a smartphone, so if you haven’t joined the 21st century and are still using a Motorola StarTac, you won’t be able Bing or OpenTable while you roll.

Drivetrain

Harkening back to the Prius origins isn’t just something I wax poetic about, Toyota did as well resurrecting the original 1.5L engine from the first generation Prius. While the engine is essentially the same it now produces 73HP and 82b-ft of torque, up 3HP due mostly to the removal of all the belt driven accessories including the water pump. Rather than lifting the old Hybrid Synergy Drive from the first gen Prius or borrowing the liftback’s larger transaxle, Toyota designed an all-new unit with smaller motors and considerably smaller packaging. Total system horsepower is rated at 99HP and around 125lb-ft of torque. Thanks to the Prius c’s low curb weight, the power reduction compared to the liftback isn’t obvious, with the Prius c scooting to 60 in just under 11 seconds.

Economy

If you have a Jaguar XFR, you end up flooring the car all the time to listen to the engine snarl. If you have a Prius, you hypermile. Why? Because the whole reason for the Prius’ existence is outstanding fuel economy. On my 53-mile one-way commute, my best observed fuel economy was 66MPG. This was achieved by limiting myself to 62MPH, being gentle with the pedals and keeping my road rage in check. While I may have annoyed myself at the beginning, a courteous driver keeping to just below the speed limit is unlikely to offend anyone else.

Driving the Prius c like a “normal” car (speeds up to 73MPH on the highway, keeping up with traffic and occasionally passing) made my commute average fall to a still respectable 52MPG. Over a full week and  831 miles, my 51MPG average came in just a hair above the EPA’s combined 50MPG score.

While 51MPG may sound “old hat,” the impressive thing the the Prius c maintained this high average while commuting over a 2,200ft mountain pass daily. Your mileage will obviously vary depending on your commute, your driving style and how much you use the A/C. Numbers are worthless without comparison, so here we go. The Prius c delivered 5-10 more MPGs than the Prius liftback on the same commute despite having essentially the same EPA scores (Prius 51/48MPG, Prius c 53/46MPG).

Pricing

Like the Prius, the c comes in numbered packages. “One” is obviously the price leader at $18,950, achieved by “decontetning” niceties like cruise control, cargo area lights, adjustable front headrests, the center armrest and tonneau cover. The $19,900 “Two” adds extra speakers, variable intermittent wipers, 60/40 folding rear seat, cruise control, center armrest and an engine immobilizer-style key. “Three” lists for $21,635 and adds Toyota’s Entune Navigation radio with 6.1-inch touchscreen , XM and HD radio, and “Entune App” capability (Pandora, Bing, etc), keyless entry and keyless go and a telescoping steering wheel. The top-of-the-line “Four” brings 15 inch 8-spoke alloys to the party, “Softex” seats, heated front seats, fog lamps and turn signals in the side mirrors for $23,230. The “Four” can also be equipped with the $850 moonroof and an optional 16-inch alloy wheel and sport steering package for $300 (or $1150 when combined with the sunroof) topping the Prius c out at $24,380 or about the same as a base Prius liftback.

Drive/Handling

The Prius c’s road manners are almost entirely defined by weight and dimensions. To put these factors in perspective, the Prius c is 8 inches shorter than a VW Golf and 235lbs lighter than a Mini coupe (or the same as a soft-top Mazda Miata.) The Prius c’s suspension provides a solid ride that that approaches, but thankfully misses, “bouncy” – unless you buy the optional larger wheels. Unless you plan on being the only person to Autocross your hybrid, steer clear of the 16-inch wheels, as they destroy the ride and significantly enlarge the car’s turning circle from a tight 31.4, to a Buick-like 37.4 feet. With low rolling resistance tires on hand the Prius c isn’t exactly a corner carver, but thanks to the low curb weight it easily holds its own against the 40MPG compacts. Unlike those other compacts however, the Prius c continues to deliver around 30MPG when working the hybrid system hard on mountain roads. The c’s road manners under braking are improved over the liftback, as is pedal feel. While there is still a different feel to the braking versus a non-hybrid vehicle, the system is by far the most natural of Toyota’s fuel sippers. With weight reduction being king, sound isolation was a secondary concern. The Prius c’s cabin isn’t quite as noisy as the Honda Insight or Civic Hybrid, but it isn’t as quiet as some of the non-hybrid competition.

Competition

Toyota is the first to create a five-door hybrid hatchback and as a result competition is somewhat indirect. The Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta SFE, Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Accent, and Chevrolet Sonic are the main fuel efficient hatchback competition for the baby Prius.  In a more traditional shape, but similar price point, is the Honda Insight. Because fuel efficiency is the Prius’ game let’s look at the cost of purchase and gasoline (at California prices of $4.20/gallon) over 5 years. In this light, the Hyundai Accent is barely the cheapest to own at $26,095. The Yaris comes in second at $26,100, just $50 less than the Prius c two. How about the others? The Versa would be $2,840 more expensive, the Sonic $3,355 more, and the Insight narrows the gap to $1,500 more over 5 years. (These numbers are based on EPA 2008 scores and a mixture of 45% city driving, 55% highway driving, 15,000 annual miles a year and $4.20/gallon gasoline.) 

The Prius c may be the smallest and cheapest member of the Prius family, but it may also be the best. It preserves the funkiness of the center mount cluster while giving up some quirkiness to convention. Not to mention, excellent fuel economy is addictive. While I may not be willing to get out of my SUV for 30 or 40MPG, 50+ MPG makes the trade something else entirely. It also makes the Yaris redundant. I can’t honestly think of a single reason to get the Yaris over the Prius c, considering that the difference in cost would be made up over the car’s life.  I am frequently asked what my favorite car is, and I don’t know if I have one – but the Prius c, for its reasonable price and high fuel economy, is certainly on the very short list of cars that I would buy myself.

 Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

Battery charged

0-30: 3.5 Seconds

0-60: 10.78 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 18 Seconds @ 75MPH

Battery discharged

0-30: 4.05 Seconds

0-60: 13.02 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 19.05 @ 72MPH

Average fuel economy: 51.6 over 831 miles

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111 Comments on “Review: 2012 Toyota Prius c...”


  • avatar
    Philosophil

    It sounds like a great little car. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this eventually outsold the Prius.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      The Prius excels in it’s versatility. I’m not a Toyota fan, and I find the Prius god awful ugly, but the V is pretty impressively sized in person considering the mileage, and the C is a great idea. I wish they bumped up the interior materials (I find the Yaris’ interior ugly and low-quality) but I can see why they left it alone for cost reasons. Great idea, especially when a regular Prius can hit $30k very quickly with options.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      I got to drive a Prius C3 for a little over a week recently.

      The commute was about 15 miles each way, most of it south-bay suburban roads at rush hour with an occasional jump on the 280 for a couple of exits. Speed limits on the commute were typically about 25-40mph, and actual speed on the short freeway stretch was about 50mph.

      For what it is worth, I averaged 63mpg for the duration _without_ any hypermiling antics. The trip meter indicated an average speed of 23mph. Considering this was a total of about 350 miles (less than a tankful), it may not be entirely representative but I figured I would throw it in there for people who don’t have to hump over Highway 17 everyday.

      For comparison, on the same commute in my own regular whip, the 2010 Prius 3 liftback runs around 55mpg, with about the same average speed.

      • 0 avatar
        tuffjuff

        This is a great comparison/real world example, thanks for sharing!

        I think the idea of being able to choose what type of fuel you use (electric versus gasoline, ala Volt) is a great idea, but you have to admit it’s pretty difficult to look at a $34-40,000+ Volt when you can get a Prius C for half the price and overall probably use the same amount of energy.

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      The problem with the Prius C (at least here in Oregon) is that you can only buy the upscale, loaded-with-options versions (the C-2 and C-3). Most Prius C will go out the door at $24K or more, which means the Yaris is LOTS cheaper (in real world prices) than the baby Prius. And of course, a conventional Yaris won’t have the worries of a battery replacement or the complexity of two drive systems. For the same money (and more fun) we decided on the Mini instead.

  • avatar
    Johann

    Alex: perhaps do a spell check before you hit POST next time? FIVE errors just in the last paragraph!

    smalelst
    teh
    quickiness
    somehting
    iof

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    From all the reviews I’ve read, Toyota seems to have another winner in the hybrid market.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    ‘teh’ is not a misspelling…

  • avatar
    redav

    Why would anyone want to use Bing while driving?

    Or maybe better: Why would anyone want to use Bing at all?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      It’s not like using the full version of Bing on your phone, it is more like the POI selection you would get on a normal Nav system, except Bing is the database. So you Bing for “Staples Center” and it comes back with results but the results are essentially a photo, map location, phone number and address.

      • 0 avatar
        tallnikita

        and even for that limited purpose, bing sucks.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Gawd, I hate this kind of branding. They could say what they mean, instead of trying so hard to make “Bing” into a verb.

        The term “Bing” really means “Microsoft’s johnny-come-lately search engine that is mostly good for finding promotional materials, rather than what I was actually looking for.” I guess it’s a decent shorthand for that, though.

    • 0 avatar
      cmoibenlepro

      It uses Bing maps instead of Google maps

    • 0 avatar
      John R

      Every time I see an advertisement for Bing have an uncontrollable urge to scream, “NARC!!!!”

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      redav: “Why would anyone want to use Bing while driving?
      Or maybe better: Why would anyone want to use Bing at all?”

      Because Bing map is more updated than Google map. My new house is built in a new area (easy to guess). Only Bing map has my street drawn there. Google map has nothing. So I have to create a Bing map link to send to my friends. If you know of a better map application, let me know.

      • 0 avatar

        I actually use Bing occasionally and it seems to hold its own for most searches compared to Google. The maps are far more up to date than Google and include hundreds of street names that the big G can’t be bothered to list. Their POI data is more outdated, though, so having it as the source in a car is not necessarily a good thing.

        Bing reminds me of Groundhog Day. Ned? Ned Ryerson?

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Somehow the shape of this is much more appealing to me than that of the “liftback.” How does this compare with the Scion iQ, which seems like it would be more competition than the Yaris? Or is the iQ yet another size class smaller, like, say, the Fiat 500 or the Ford Fiesta?

    Unabashedly a city car that one can drive on the freeway, which makes it a very useful gadget for a lot of people, especially folks who have a moderately long commute and are not well-served by public transit.

  • avatar
    Prado

    C2 has the telescoping wheel standard too. I like this car alot, but even if the hybrid premium pays for itself over time, it is still a hard pill to swallow because it is such a huge percent of the cost of the C.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    “The Prius c delivered 5-10 more MPGs than the Prius liftback on the same commute despite having essentially the same EPA scores (Prius 51/48MPG, Prius c 53/46MPG).”

    Score one for physics, zero for the EPA. The model used by the EPA’s dyno cycle, she’s a no good!

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Agreed. It seems like the cars that are light for their class tend to outdo the EPA numbers where the heavy cars of the class don’t.

    • 0 avatar

      His commute is hardly typical. Did you read “2,200ft mountain pass”? That is going to impact the mileage in hard to predict ways that may not affect all vehicles to the same degree.

      EPA city ratings are pretty good these days, after the recent changes. Highway mileage is still harder to count on (though driving at 55 – 60 like the tests does help). In reality, the main purpose of the EPA tests should be to establish a relative baseline. Your results will *certainly* vary.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The point is that it isn’t a relative baseline. Read comparison tests in magazines where they use similar cars under the same conditions and the correlation of real world results with EPA numbers is random. The test is flawed, so cars that are optimized for the test deliver worse mileage in the real world than ones that are optimized based on time proven science involving gearing chosen to complement torque characteristics of the engine rather than artificially low acceleration rates in a model that doesn’t seem to take real forces into consideration. That’s why the published results are adjusted downward: even the EPA knows their physics model is garbage.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        The problem is that any test will be gamed. There will always be at least one automaker that tweaks their product so that it gets artificially high scores on the test.

        Perhaps making the test more comprehensive would filter out more of that gamesmanship, but doing so would probably add time & expense meaning fewer real cars get tested & more scores are merely the honesty of the manufacturer.

        Given that individual results will vary, we know that there will be randomness & noise in the results. Thus, we can predict that cars with similar EPA numbers (e.g., Focus, Cruze, Elantra, Mazda3) will have seemingly random real-world comparisons, but comparing cars with dissimilar EPA numbers (Focus-Taurus, Cruze-Impala, Ranger-F-150) won’t.

        Basically, we have to realize that mileage is not an actual value but instead a random variable with a distribution. The EPA numbers are not the real value, but merely an estimate on a particular characteristic of that distribution. As an estimate, it has variance and uncertainty. That doesn’t make the estimates unusable, but it does help us predict their limitations.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        redav,

        The problem is that people are far more likely to care how cars within a segment compare than they are to care how a minivan measures up to a minicompact, and the EPA ratings are flat useless for providing an indication of that. One primary reason that the EPA test doesn’t apply is because it is based on acceleration rates that emissions strangled VW Super Beetles could achieve. 0-35 mph in 29 seconds is the big acceleration event of the highway test. http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/fe_test_schedules.shtml A modern car can typically go from 0-35 mph in closer to a tenth of that time. So how do you optimize economy for the test? You program the transmission to jump into an insanely high gear where the engine will be able to minimize pumping losses by going to a wide throttle opening without achieving much acceleration due to being well below its torque peak. Would customers tolerate a car that behaves like this? Very few of them would, so pushing the throttle harder keeps the car in first and undoes the big EPA number. In the real world, you just have the wrong gears for fuel economy and non-linear throttle response for the benefit of an arbitrary CAFE number.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        From real-world experience, I’ve found that hard acceleration doesn’t affect mpg anywhere near as much as people think. It’s braking that’s the problem. (Hard acceleration does produce low mpg while speeding up, but it is made up for by getting to cruising speed in the top gear sooner.)

        For the other point, IMO, there is *no* test that can eliminate the variance in mpg sufficiently to distinguish between such similar vehicles. To do so would require such a large sample size that it would be a census, not a sample. Shoppers may believe that a 40 mpg car definitively gets better mileage than a 39 mpg car. However, that’s as flawed as thinking a .295 hitter is definitively better than a .290 hitter. We may want an EPA test that is absolute, but it just isn’t going to happen.

        But, if more people understood statistics & could treat EPA numbers not as ‘real’ values but instead as estimates of a random variable, manufacturers would not get a leg up by gaming the system, and thus fewer would do so.

        Edit: regarding the acceleration of the EPA test, I wouldn’t be surprised if the intent is to get a quasi-static estimate of mpg at each speed, not to represent actual acceleration. However, I’m not an expert on the test, so, IDK.

  • avatar
    Zombo

    If the #2 version of this Prius includes the same tilt back lowering seats of the Yaris model count me in . If you lose your job and have to commute a long distance at today’s gas prices to a new job – may God help you ! Or maybe Toyota will instead ? And FYI I absolutely HATE automatic transmissions !

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Maybe it’s just me but it sure seems like Toyota is putting all of their automotive eggs in the Prius basket, i.e., the Prius c is as good as the Corolla is bad.

    Whether this is the correct strategy in the long run, only time will tell.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    If you want to do price comparisons, you should do them in constant dollars.

    The $19,995 2001 Prius converts to $25,899 today, so today’s Prius is actually cheaper if it starts at $24k.

    Therefore, if the Prius c starts at $18,950 today, then it’s actually $6949 cheaper than the 2001 Prius, not $1000.

    http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

    • 0 avatar
      alluster

      Also need to factor the Yen’s rise. In 2001, one USD bought 130 Yen. Currently one USD buys only 81 Yen, down 39%. Adjusted for currency fluctuation, a $19,995 2001 Prius would actually cost $27,795 today. Adjusted for inflation from your link, that $27,795 converts to $36,001!! So, the Prius C costs $17,000 less than a 2001 Prius. No wonder Toyota claims they will collapse if the Yen stays in the 80′s to a dollar level and why they lose upwards a $4B a year importing to the US and Europe.

      BTW, The C would have to be one of the best values ever. Toyota would easily sell as many as they can make. I myself can’t wait to get a base version in white once my closest dealer gets one. I am hoping there are no dealer markups with demand so hot. Anyone here knows?

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        When I use Consumer Report’s car buying service, instead of a discounted price, “Estimated price is above MSRP” appears instead. Short supply, high demand, you know.
        I’m interested in this car, but I can certainly wait out the initial demand. Can’t wait for CR’s road test.

        Edit: Nice Article – Thanks!

      • 0 avatar
        thesparrow

        alluster: “I myself can’t wait to get a base version in white”

        LOL

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Isn’t the result similar to what the 1980′s Civic HF could produce with slightly less power? Boy we’ve come along way?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      It is safe to say that the Prius c is considerably safer than a 1980s Civic or a Geo Metro and has far more features. If the Prius c was tested on the old EPA scale I’m sure it would score in the 60s for both city and highway driving which would be well above the combined average of the old Civic or Geo. Honestly a modern car that has all the modern luxury, safety and emission features we expect that gets the same mileage as a stripper econobox from the 1980s is an incredible win.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I saw one of these today & it was better looking than I expected. With $4.50 premium recently I’ve been hypermiling the STi and on a good day I can get 27-28mpg at 40-52 mph. (speed limit 45-55).

    I really wonder what I’d get out of this thing….

    Alex: Any ideas?

    The big downside of this car is the auto trans. I love shifting my own….I really wish they’d release one in stick.

    • 0 avatar
      rwb

      I have to respect your achievement. That said, anyone going 5 under in an STi on a single-lane road in front of me receives a Honda so far up their ass they can taste it.

      By the way I get 32mpg with a brick on the gas pedal. But, my car is slow. These are the deals we make with ourselves.

      • 0 avatar
        Robstar

        My entire commute is 2-3 lanes with a full shoulder on both side. I’m always in the right.

        But anyways, it’s nice to know that someone following the law & driving a legal speed is a risk of death from you. How did you get your license again?

      • 0 avatar
        rwb

        I’m very glad to hear you’re not impeding traffic. I received my license by passing my test and keep it by maintaining a decent record.

        I would rather exceed an artificially low speed limit than know that the guy behind me would love to run me off the road and do something terrible to me because I’m holding him up. Perceived safety, from the knowledge that I can become that ill-wisher with enough provocation, and that he is many.

        Anyway, I’m sorry I brought it up. The image of an STI doing 40 in a 45 just makes me feel weird.

      • 0 avatar
        moedaman

        Robstar, since you’re on a multi-lane road, going under the speed limit in the right lane is kinda/sorta ok. But I’m with rwb in that anyone driving under the speed limit on a one lane road deserves some grief. And those types of drivers aren’t following the law, but abusing it.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        The speed limit is a maximum, not a requirement. Driving under it is perfectly legal as well as common given certain slow-moving vehicles that prefer one-lane, lower-traffic back roads opposed to high-traffic thoroughfares.

        The problem with giving someone “grief” is that you aren’t–you’re only putting yourself in a situation where you will cause an at-fault accident, and then you are the bigger loser than them. Being angry/upset with someone else is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to get sick.

      • 0 avatar
        imag

        Redev – the point is that you drive the speed you want to drive, as long as you let other people drive the speed they want to drive.

        Lots of things are legal that are also impolite; their legality doesn’t make them any more polite.

      • 0 avatar
        Robstar

        imag> What do you do when there is one lane? This was my question (replied to wrong thread, but question still stands)….

        Person behind you wants to go 80 in a 55, and you want to go 50. No shoulder (or dropoff or guardrail or …). 50 is (usually) legal in a 55, 80 generally isn’t.

        What is the “polite” thing to do? I don’t think there is an answer except pull-off the road, but if there is not any spot to pull-of, then…?

        In other cases, perhaps the person is going 50 as that still gives the person a safe stopping distance to the next car in front of him (due to traffic). Tailgating such a person again accomplishes nothing, and puts the tailgater at fault if he rear-ends the car in-front of him.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Last week, I averaged 32.67 mpg in my 2004 Impala. 100 miles R/T, I set the cruise once I find my “spot” on the highway between 61-64 mpg and stay in the slow lane all the way and relax and enjoy the trip.

      2004 Impala, 3.4L, 4 speed automatic, base level w/sport appearance upgrade. Split bench, column shift – no console, so I can stretch my leg when safe to do so.

      What will I buy when and if I decide to replace it in two years? Perhaps one of these, unless hopelessly smitten by the new Impala…the B&B will be first to know – AFTER wifey, of course!

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      Not really possible with the way HSD works. It basically has a planetary gearset between two electric motors and the engine. One electric motor does the drive and regen while the other electric motor basically handles the “gearing”. It controls the speed of the center planetary carrier and thus you get your CVT. In order to have a manual transmission, it would have to be more like Honda’s IMA or Infiniti’s motor in place of the torque converter. (I think Mazda is using a similar setup.. can’t remember).

      While I also love a nice MT (particularly the 6MT in my old GTI and the 6MT in my wife’s MINI), I find the HSD fascinating in its simplicity and effectiveness. They’ve been able to ditch both the alternator and starter by using the system and make it a continuously variable transmission without the unreliability of a belt and cone setup. Really a slick piece of engineering.

      • 0 avatar
        jimmyy

        This complexity of HSD scares me. I hope I did not make a mistake passing on the extended warranty. Would you purchase an extended warranty on a Toyota Hybrid? I wonder how many computers control this thing, and I wonder how often they need fixing.

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        Jimmy, the HSD transaxle is far, far simpler than even a 4-speed automatic. The entire hybrid system could arguably be said to be simpler than a regular engine and 6-speed auto setup.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        I’ve been elbows deep into an HSD “torque split device” and modern 6ATs. The HSD has far, far fewer parts. Instead of loads of clutch and disk packs to brake and clutch the numerous planetary gearsets, you have an electric motor that moves at a certain speed to produce a certain gear ratio. It is ridiculously simple mechanically. The software and controls side is surely very complex, but it isn’t like a automatic transmission ECU is the world’s simplest thing. I’ve dealt with testers for transmissions and there are all sorts of different parameters that are being monitored to ensure smooth, safe shifting. Line pressure, when that line pressure reaches a certain threshhold, when a clutchpack locks up, etc, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      supersleuth

      I’m afraid it can’t ever have a stick because the gearbox is not really functioning as a transmission in the normal sense- it controls the split of power between the gas engine and the electric motors.

    • 0 avatar
      Robstar

      Wow I can’t believe people here think going 5mph UNDER the limit on a MULTI-LANE road IN THE RIGHT LANE, which is COMPLETELY LEGAL pretty much anywhere in the US is “sorta OK”. Is everyone supposed to be going +10-+20? What makes this the “right” speed? Is passing in the left (+60? +80?) always ok?

      So my question is:

      To you guys, what is the “correct speed” on a one lane road? I don’t encounter them here, really…I don’t think there is a correct answer that would satisfy everyone!

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    I’m not the target market for this car at all, but it seems like if you’re looking at a hybrid hatchback, this is the one to buy right now. Toyota seems to have done a great job with the packaging, and its nice to see the driving dynamics are actually sort of there for the first time in a Prius. Akio Toyoda claimed he wanted the company to build more interesting cars again, so baby steps.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    “I can’t honestly think of a single reason to get the Yaris over the Prius c”
    Unless you plan on keeping the car for the long haul, in which case you would save the cost of having to replace the traction batteries ($3000), replace the inverter unit (several thousand bucks), or replace or rebuild the tranaxle.

    Ask yourself this- would you rather have a 100k mile Yaris, or a 100k mile Prius?

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2011/02/200000-mile-toyota-prius-still-performs.html

      I’ll take the Prius that uses electric motors for a large portion of the braking, runs the engine less in that 100k miles, doesn’t have a clutch and brake transmission, doesn’t have a starter, and doesn’t have an alternator.

      Mechanically, the Prius is probably less complex than a Yaris. Looking at an FMEA perspective, there is probably less to go wrong mechanically. The software that controls it all is very complex, but I think the Prius will be much like any other car when the motors or battery go. You go to the junkyard and find a new torque split device, battery, or engine just like you’d go get your yaris engine and transmission from the junkyard.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      A 100,000 mile Prius actually. The Prius HSD is very, very reliable. There really isn’t anything to rebuild inside the transaxle as there is only one planetary gear set, no drums, no clutches, etc. The traction batteries are known to last well over 100,000 miles and by all accounts Prius inverter failures are incredibly rare. Of all the things that could go wrong on a Yaris, I’d still have the Prius c instead.

      • 0 avatar
        James Courteau

        I once blew out an older HSD inverter, but only while flooring it up a hill pulling another car. The failure turned out to be covered in a recall and was fixed at Toyota’s cost. These cars are tough as nails!

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      My wife and I have a 100k+ mile Prius, and it’s going strong. I’d be happy to have a 100k Prius any time.

      Word in the Prius hacker community is that the traction battery in the 2nd-gen and newer Prius is good for at least 250k miles. I haven’t heard of anyone replacing an inverter. The motor-generators that plug into the transaxle are more likely to wear out, but guys are replacing those things in their driveway.

      All in all, my wife and I are 8-year 145k-mile Prius owners, I have to say that having the HSD in the car is probably like having two really long-lasting automatic transmissions in the car. We’ve owned the car long enough that the both the car and the hybrid premium have been paid off, and we’re just reaping the benefits of driving a efficient, reliable, and practical little car.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    Hi Alex- I have been looking all over Oregon, and I am unable to find a Prius C One… lots of C Two and C Three versions… So, what’s the deal? Does the Toyota Prius C One actually exist? Or is it just a unicorn, used as a bait-and-switch device for the dealers? Also, all of the Prius C Two models are selling for over MSRP… guess we should expect that, but kind of a shame…

    • 0 avatar
      alluster

      According to cars.com, there are 990 models in inventory nationally. Of which 160 are “One”, 200 are “two”, 255 are “three”, 83 are “four” models. 292 were unspecified. “One” models do exist though not as many as two and three models. I’m sure they seem low because the dealerships are picked clean of them sooner.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I am told that the one is selling well because of its stripper pricing. Don’t get it however, you’d be far happier with a two. Patience will see the pricing drop, I would never buy one over MSRP.

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      I just had a dealer call me today: “There is no such thing as a Prius C One” the female voice said. To which I replied, “Gee, that’s funny, cos there are over 100 Prius C One models on inventory in the U.S.” It seems that the dealers REALLY don’t want to sell the entry-level Prius C One! To the point that they will LIE to a customer, and claim it doesn’t exist! Oh, and I’d like to buy a C One, because I don’t NEED the fancier, more expensive versions… too bad no one at Toyota will sell me one! Another example of dealer greed squashing another sale for Toyota Motor Corporation…

  • avatar
    jco

    “This was achieved by limiting myself to 62MPH, being gentle with the pedals and keeping my road rage in check. While I may have annoyed myself at the beginning, a courteous driver keeping to just below the speed limit is unlikely to offend anyone else.”

    driving slower than other traffic actually doesn’t annoy me, but I frequently see others VERY frustrated by my slow-accelerating SUV. I don’t want to burn fuel unneccesarily just to satisfy others’ impatience, but I get it. I think Prius is common enough now that other drivers at least have a sense of why they sometimes move slower.

    btw, I saw this model in this shade of skittles orange today. it’s a.. unique color. very loud.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I just imagine this thing being incredibly dull to drive. The option of stickshift & a conventional engine are enough to win me over. If they could get the dynamics right on the Yaris it could def be the enthusiast’s choice.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    From the pictures, a much better display on mileage than my 12 Camry Hybrid. Plus, my average over 1000 miles ( driven slowly on eco mode ) is 43 … sticker said 43/39. My only complaint about my 12 Camry Hybrid is the wierd noises from under the hood when I am parked listening to the radio with the power on … and, I wish the radio was a higher quality. My 12 Honda Pilot radio ( LX Model ) is so much better. Toyota, what is it with the cheap radios? Thinking about it, the radio in my 11 Highlander base model is also cheap cheap cheap. Does the cheap radio in my Camry Hybrid save eletric power? However, the quality of the seats in the Cam is superb. Big suprise for a base model.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      You should have opted for the JBL system, it is actually quite good in the ’12 Camry Hybrid.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      That’s good considering break-in miles. But nothing earth shattering when my 12r year old Saab 9-5 was seeing 39 mpg going with the flow @ 75ish mph, two up, luggage and dog on hilly and curvy PA 76 turnpike. Had I been going near the speed limit it would have been earlier 40′s mpg and mid 40′s solo.

      Of the Camry has more luxury than the C, or does it as the author describes as luxury.

      • 0 avatar
        jimmyy

        Strange pattern on the 12 Camry Hybrid MPG. When it is cold outside, the mileage is lower than when it is warm outside. At first, I thought the heater/defroster was responsible. But, not the case. Makes me wonder how the mileage will be in the heat of the summer.

        Amazing how smooth the gas engine on / off cycle goes while I drive it. This is my first hybrid experience, so I don’t have anything to compare it with. But, I wonder what happens if the gas engine fails to start while doing a left turn in traffic … I hope the Toyota engineers made that fail safe.

      • 0 avatar
        baggins

        You’ve posted this BS quite a few times, so its time someone called you on it.

        The 2000 9-5 is rated 18 city, 27 Highway under the new EPA metrics in its most efficient configuration.

        Yet you claim to get 39mpg at 75MPH, fully loaded, and mid 40s if you go 65.

        BU**SH**

        In other words, higher than just about every car made today.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “my 12r year old Saab 9-5 was seeing 39 mpg going with the flow @ 75ish mph, two up, luggage and dog on hilly and curvy PA 76 turnpike.”

        Congratulations. You’ve managed to purchase a magic car that defies the laws of physics.

        It’s surprising that this super-secret technology hasn’t ended up in any other cars on the road today. You must be a very, er, special person.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        He seems to be describing some particular trip he took in his old Saab rather than an actual average. Based on other things he writes, I could believe it was actually an instantaneous fuel economy reading on his trip computer. It doesn’t matter. That he trots it out to compare with someone else’s 1,000 mile average is enough to draw conclusions, although not about the cars.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        About 300 miles on the highway from Columbus to just passed Harrisburg. Picked up a tow dolly and gas mileage dropped 4-5 mpg to mid 30′s highway cruise. Loaded up another 9-5(3,900 lbs with tow dolly) for 1000 mile journey from northeast and was getting 21.5.

        Reset the trip after dropping off said car and tow dolly and was seeing 40 mpg even for 90 miles. This is all based off the trip computer which is within tenths of figuring it on paper.

        The worst I’ll see is 35-36 mpg in the winter time in Ohio.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        I have to be honest, I don’t doubt Norm. I’m no lover of Sobs but my father in law is, and his 94 900 (non turbo, manual) with 178k miles, averages 39 mpg from Boise to Pocatello cruising at 80-82 mph (75 mph limit). That is mostly interstate but with several grades and always a headwind. Does about the same on annual trips to SF area too. Hell, it’s been his most reliable vehicle too!

        I do like these new Prius models (moreso the V), they’d be great for the wife and our family on trips. We primarily use our Outback and with a manual, it has 50/50 split AWD and AT tires, best it’ll do is 26mpg on a trip. But, I like a vehicle that is engaging to drive and look forward to the new Fusion.

      • 0 avatar
        probert

        The Prius gets about 50mpg in the city and with careful driving 50 – 60 on the highway. So lets say the city/highway average of the saab is 30mpg (which I don’t think is right) – the prius is still around 50mpg so…

      • 0 avatar
        moedaman

        So Norm, how much money have you sunk into your Saab? And how much longer do you think you can keep it running and at what cost? I bet a Prius C will be a lot cheaper to purchase and run for the next few years than any 9-5.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Moedaman, not a fair comparison but I picked up 2000 9-5 5-speed for less than $2,000. It needed a few new sensors($30 each) and typical tune up including fluids on a 12 year old car. I did everything myself expect for an alignment and a JZtuning.com computer tune(yielded 2.5-3 mpg alone).

        Saabs typically go 300,000 miles with good maintence. Along with almost 300 HP and torque to match this has utility, near luxury, and the torque to go to hold off late model 330i’s.

        This car will pass emissions in all 50 states even for it’s age.

      • 0 avatar
        PartsUnknown

        Norm,

        You continually post this claim. As someone who has put approximately 120,000 miles on three different 9-5s (including my current ’04 Aero), I can assure you that your mileage calculations are incorrect. The 9-5 2.3t is EPA rated at 29 highway (adjusted). At moderate highway speeds with no A/C use, 32-33 mpg is achievable. The 9-5 has never, and will never, achieve high 30′s to mid-40′s mpg. It is a fantastic, efficient automobile, but you are either using a faulty calculation method, are using imperial gallons, or are willfully deceiving this board for some reason.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Those hwy numbers for the Saab are possible–if you have a 35 mph tailwind. Driving downhill helps, too.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “you are either using a faulty calculation method, are using imperial gallons, or are willfully deceiving this board for some reason.”

        You left out the possibility that he is both delusional and obsessive compulsive.

        I don’t believe him for a second, and neither should anyone else. Fuel economy is determined largely by power output and weight, and nobody at Saab or GM invented a workaround to basic laws of physics.

        A hybrid system increases fuel economy because it eliminates a lot of idle time (a car at idle is getting 0 mpg), while the electric motor allows for the use of a less powerful gasoline engine.

        While turbos provide some of the latter benefit, they don’t provide the former. They just aren’t going to produce the same results as would a comparable hybrid system.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        This is addressed to TEXN…

        Holy cow! You wouldn’t believe what I got at an auction yesterday. The same exact car as your father-in-law. 1994 Saab 900 S, no paint fade at all, immaculate interior with a nice audio upgrade, needs a new clutch.

        I bought it for $300 plus the $45 buy fee.

        If I did more highway driving i would tempted to sell the Insight and keep it. I have bought about 20 or so Saabs over the years. Driven them all. As long as you can keep up with the electrics and suspension issues (and DIY) they can be surprisingly worth the while.

        Give my best to your FIL

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Since I’m a hatchback lover, I like the design of this car. It’s quirky, yet not so far out there that it doesn’t polarize, but has a modern, practical sensibility.

    Looks like an overall good package all told and I’d probably get either the 2 or 3 level in a fun color.

    It’s good to see Toyota try and bring out some fun and interesting cars again. Why do cars have to be so boring looking?

  • avatar
    ajla

    Interesting car.

    How many of these does Toyota need to sell before they can put a V8 in the GS?

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      A V8-powered GS-F would sell in small enough quantities that it wouldn’t significantly impact Toyota’s CAFE rating.

      It also probably wouldn’t amortize production costs, which I suspect is why they aren’t doing it yet. The IS-F didn’t sell particularly well; regardless of whether or not it’s a good car (I never drove one, so I couldn’t tell you), people who want to buy a fast luxury car generally don’t typically look at Lexus.

  • avatar
    TW4

    If the owner drives a Prius C 100,000 miles at 50mpg combined and $4 per gallon, the owner will save $500 in gasoline compared to a 30mpg combined Yaris. Basically, buyers are transferring $5,000 away from oil purchases and towards high automobile technology. As a bonus, the owner will likely get higher resale value. If the Prius owner runs the car to 200,000 miles, fuel savings are in excess of $5,000.

    Prius C already exceeds CAFE 2025 ratings for its footprint, as well.

    Cars like the Prius C are making the automakers relevant again. High technology at an accessible price point. What could be more 21st century? Too bad Chevy, Nissan, and Ford didn’t get the memo.

    • 0 avatar
      supersleuth

      Of those three only Ford has the technology (without licensing it from Toyota as Nissan has been doing.) But what their excuse is for making such limited use of it, I don’t know.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Over the course of 200k mi, you can count on the cost of gas to go up over $4. A better estimate may be $6/gal.

      • 0 avatar
        TW4

        Oil is being driven upward by aggressive speculation and bogus growth forecasts predicated on a scenario where the US and EU continue printing money, and China continues siphoning cash out of the developed world. The market is also ignoring falling US demand, rising US inventories, Canadian plans to double production by 2020, and the long-term implications of CAFE 2025 (not law quite yet). Short term, speculators are betting on doom and gloom from Iran and the hurricane season. Investors believe aggressive forecasts are naturally hedged by Jevon’s paradox.

        US oil demand has nearly a 1:1 inverse relationship with fleet average, ATM, and if consumption continues to decline at 4% per annum, the US will return to 1980s consumption levels before this decade is out. Barring some kind of socio-political meltdown, oil prices will fall. If someone develops a rapid-recharge battery, oil prices will collapse, and Jevon’s paradox will be rendered null in the oil markets.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        How rapid is rapid-recharge? The Leaf can charge in 30 minutes from a CHAdeMO station; at some point the bottleneck is getting sufficient power from the grid to the battery. Every time you cut the charge time in half you (at minimum) double the number of watts you need to source from the grid.

        Electric cars are moving from a technology bottleneck to an infrastructure bottleneck.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        You think that every owner of an electric car will need a fast recharge at the same time?.. the beauty of electrics is that you recharge in your home overnight.. slowly and conveniently while you sleep.

        People keep thinking about it like the gasoline/gas station model, drive 300 miles then stop at a gas station.

      • 0 avatar
        TW4

        Rapid recharge in the sense that recharging a 100 mile battery takes roughly as long as filling your tank with gasoline. I understand this will probably never happen at individual residences, but electricity charging stations can handle the wattage.

        Basically, if an battery can mimic long distance gasoline driving patterns, one of the last barriers to EV ownership will be removed. Batteries can already achieve this feat, but they don’t last long under such intense operating conditions.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        TW4, decrease in US consumption is attributable to a flagging economy as much as anything else. When it picks back up, oil consumption will reverse its trend.

        While speculation is a big cause of increased oil prices, the US is becoming less and less a factor in the real price of oil. As industry increases globally, and specifically as more cars show up in China, India, et al, CAFE law in the US may become irrelevant to oil prices.

        Despite talk of increasing production, I believe keeping up with demand over the next ten years will be very difficult. Also, I believe the US deficits (both budget & trade) will not be fixed any time soon, and that will necessarily lead to burdensome inflation. Thus, in 10-15 yrs, $4 will be a fond memory just as $1.25 gas from the turn of the century.

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      something off there… using 50mpg and 30mpg the savings are $5300 over the first 100k miles, at $4 a gallon, or $8000 at $6 per gallon.
      30mpg is the average that an owner of a Cruze will get, and that is already an economical car.

      • 0 avatar
        TW4

        You forgot to subtract the $4,835 price premium between base Yaris and base Prius C

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        Ohh I see, sorry.. I was comparing it to a Cruze Eco at about the same price, probably not a fair comparison either.

        Per truedelta.com, the price difference is $2850 once you adjust for features.. and then you have the proven resale value of a Prius.

  • avatar
    ixim

    Nice and small outside; usefully roomy inside; well designed, well made; real good on gas; minimal maintenance…..what could be bad? Boring if you’re looking for actual driving pleasure, but lotsa fun to watch the green stuff. Buy it, keep it forever, and, if you can, get a fun car, too.

  • avatar
    afuller

    Thanks for the review Alex, I’ve been waiting for it.

    Our local dealer had a couple of these on the lot, one was this orange color which I felt strangely drawn to.

    How did you find the driver headroom?

    I sat in one on the lot and found that I was rubbing the ceiling with my hair. Now I don’t have a huge mohawk or anything so I found this a bit disconcerting. I didn’t spend much time trying to adjust the seating position but also found legroom to be an issue, I did check to make sure the seat was all the way back.

    My 2000 Insight is getting old and I’m considering replacing it. So far the Prius c is the closest to what I’m looking for but if I can’t make it fit me then I’ll have to find something else. I find it hard to believe that my Insight would have more space for the driver than this car.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    Your mileage comparisons to the original (1st gen US, 2nd gen Japan) Prius (the Echo one) leave out the fact that the mileage formulas were tweaked in between. Today’s 55 mpg is more like yesterday’s 60 or even 65.

  • avatar
    LightYagami

    Why do they have to make it look like it was built by Mattel? It looks like a toy, I could never take this car seriously…especially in that ugly Skittles orange color.


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