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2012 Toyota Prius c Review By John Heilig

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COMPARE: MPG, Price Specs - Toyota Buyers Guide

By John Heilig
The Auto Channel

SPECIFICATIONS: 2012 Toyota Prius c

Model: 2012 Toyota Prius c
Engine: 1.5-liter DOHC I4
Horsepower/Torque: 73 hp @ 4,900 rpm/82 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm (99 net horsepower)
Transmission: CVT
Wheelbase: 100.4 in.
Length/Width/Height: 157.3 x 66.7 x 56.9 in.
Tires: P175/65R15 (temporary spare)
Cargo volume: 17.1 cu. ft.
Fuel economy: 53 mpg city/46 mpg highway/50 mpg combined
Fuel capacity: 9.5 gal.
Curb weight: 2,500 lbs.
Sticker: $18,950 (1), $19,900 (2), $21,635 (3), $23,230 (4)

Top 5 Reasons to buy this car
1. Highest rated fuel economy of any vehicle without a plug
2. Maneuverability
3. Compactness
4. Economy
5. Hybrid Option

My Bottom Line: For those of you who like the Prius hybrid and its value, the Prius c offers a similar concept, but in a smaller package. Little is lost in downsizing, but much is gained in economy and functionality.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Toyota's Prius line is growing by shrinking. Huh? Three new Prius models have been introduced lately; the Prius v with added cargo capacity, the plug-in Prius, and the smaller Prius c (the "c" is for city). We're testing the c here.

The Prius is the best-selling hybrid in the world. It offers great fuel economy and lets you sneak in HOV lanes without the burden of another passenger. Prius has been so good to Toyota that it has become almost another sub-brand, along with Scion and Lexus. Thus, the profusion of models.

The c is indeed smaller (more compact?) than the original. It is built on a 100.4-inch wheelbase (vs. 106.3 for the original) and is 157.3 inches in overall length (vs. 176.4). Toyota compares it dimensionally with the Yaris.

On the engine side, the c has a 1.5-liter DOHC inline four that develops 73 horsepower. Combined with the electric motor, there's a net horsepower of 99. This compares with 98 and 134, respectively, for the original.

Still, in city and suburban driving, there's no need for more power. We had an opportunity to drive the Prius c along some urban and suburban roads, with a short stretch on an Interstate, and found that in no way was it lacking. When we wanted power it was there. Granted, we really didn't need to tromp on the accelerator even on the Interstate, but I feel the Prius c could have held its own among the 18-wheelers.

What impressed me the most was its maneuverability. In order to take pictures, we searched the drive route for a good spot. We found one, but it was on the other side of a two-lane road. So I simply zipped around and we were there.

In addition, at the start of the route we had to exit from a five-story high parking garage with a circular down ramp. The Prius did a great job on left turns.

There are some features of the Prius c that make it more attractive than the original. For example, the battery pack is now located under the rear seat, making it possible to make the rear seat backs fold to increase trunk cargo capacity.

The rear seats themselves are tight. Toyota's claim that the Prius c is a five-seater is very optimistic.

The revised battery location also lowers the center of gravity, which contributes to better handling. Even with a fairly conventional MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear, handling is very good. I wouldn't put it in the sports car class, but if you're in a city and you have to duke it out with taxi cabs, it's nice to know you have a car that can hold its own.

Don't fret about safety. the Prius c has nine airbags, so if anything happens, you'll be ensconced in padding.

I liked the dash display on the Ford Fusion hybrid that told you at the end of your trip if you drove economically. Toyota has taken this a step (or three) further with a display that tells you en route how you're doing, how you can improve your driving to increase economy and how you did after the drive. There are several screens you can scroll through as well.

I was concerned when I first heard about it that this could reach the area of a video game that could be a terrible distraction to the driver. However, in driving the Prius c I didn't even notice all this electronic wizardry. therefore, I can't tell you how we did in fuel economy on our test drive or how my driving messed it up (see quick U-turn above).

All in all, the Prius c is a worthy addition to the Prius family. Fuel economy is better than the original and there isn't a great loss in practicality (although a bigger back seat would help).

2012 The Auto Page