The c is about to take center stage. [FIMG=RIGHT]http://www.cleanmpg.com/photos/data/501/2012_Toyota_Prius_c.jpg[/FIMG]Reid Stewart - CleanMPG - Jan. 10, 2012 Toyota continues to release new members to its Prius family with the latest reveal being the much anticipated c at the Detroit Auto Show earlier today. According to Toyota, the letter “c” represents “city” in the Prius c name. Designed to function as an urban-friendly vehicle with an engaging driving experience, hatchback utility, and a city/highway/combined fuel economy rating of 53/46/50 mpgUS, Prius c offers the highest city mpg rating of any vehicle without a plug. The all-new Prius c joins the Prius Family, which includes the third generation Prius, the versatile new Prius v and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, which will debut in early 2012. Beginning with the first generation fourteen years ago, over two million Prius units have been sold worldwide. Prius remains the world’s premier eco-vehicle brand, and has made great strides establishing consumer trust in hybrid technology. With Prius c, Toyota will make the market’s most proven hybrid technology available to subcompact car shoppers with a starting MSRP below $19,000. When the 2012 Prius c arrives in showrooms this spring, the all-new hatchback will offer: The highest rated city fuel economy estimate of any vehicle without a plug. The most accessible Prius will feature a starting MSRP below $19,000 with proven hybrid powertrain and premium technology. A premium subcompact car experience thanks to a wide array of available convenience and advanced in-car electronics features, including a standard 3.5-in. full color TFT multi-information display, hands-free phone capability, USB port with iPod connectivity, and available Display Audio system with Navigation and Entune. The scale of the all-new Prius c becomes apparent when compared to the familiar proportions of the midsize Prius. The Prius c is smaller and lighter than its midsize Prius stable mate with 19.1 inches less length (157.3 vs. 176.4 inches OAL) and 542 lbs. less weight than the Prius (2,500 vs. 3,042 lbs.). In adapting the Hybrid Synergy Drive to the smaller Prius c platform, each of the system’s major components were re-designed to reduce weight, scale, and improve efficiency. Trims The c will be available in four trims offering features, equipment, and enhanced capability within a value proposition. c provides many standard features such as automatic climate control, tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio, climate, Multi-Information Display and Bluetooth hands-free controls, and remote keyless entry with illuminated entry among a long list of standard equipment. Drivetrain The c’s Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) system integrates the operation of components that include a gasoline engine, an electric motor within a Continuously Variable Transaxle, a nickel-metal hydride battery, a power control unit (inverter), a DC-DC converter, a step-up converter and a hybrid control computer. The hybrid control computer governs the seamless application of gasoline engine and electric power depending on driving demands and selected drive mode. The Prius c 's Atkinsonized 1.5L I4 produces 73 HP and 82 lb.-ft. of torque, contributing to a total hybrid system output of 99 HP. It also arrives not as a PZEV but an SULEV. Where some cutting occured was the size and capability of the pack as th eNiMH is now providing just 144 volts. Just like the rest of the Prius family, the c offers three distinct drive modes: Normal, Eco, and EV mode. Eco mode reduces overall energy consumption by governing climate control and throttle to improve vehicle efficiency. Under certain conditions, the EV mode allows the Prius c to be driven solely by electric power for a short distance said to be slightly less than a mile. Interior and Exterior Design The Prius c exterior offers decent aerodynamic performance with a Cd of 0.28. The Prius c’s lower-body styling is wider below the beltline. The Prius c’s available exterior colors include three new colors – Habanero, Moonglow, and Summer Rain Metallic – along with Blue Streak Metallic, Absolutely Red, Black Sand Pearl, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Classic Silver Metallic, and Super White. The Prius c interior is futuristic yet passenger friendly. Using black as a basic interior color, the door trim, seat surfaces, and instrument panel feature treatments in lighter colors to help create contrast. The c’s packaging design strategically locates key drivetrain components within the chassis to help optimize interior space and handling. The compact gasoline engine, transaxle and power-control unit are optimally placed within the vehicle to help enhance weight distribution and lower the center of gravity. In addition, the hybrid battery and fuel tank are positioned together beneath the rear seat, ideally distributing their mass within the wheelbase to improve weight distribution to help enhance handling. By locating the battery and fuel tank below the rear seat, the Prius c is able to offer 104 cu. ft. of interior volume (87.4 cu. ft. passenger volume, 17.1 cu. ft. cargo volume). All told, it is a hopped up Yaris with accents befitting the all-new Prius family Infotainment The 2012 Prius c will offer three audio system configurations. A base audio system features either four or six speakers, depending on the model, and includes AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology. The Display Audio with Navigation and Entune has six speakers and augments capability with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, SiriusXM Satellite Radio capability (with 3-month trial subscription to XM Select package), HD Radio with iTunes tagging, and advanced voice recognition. Toyota’s Entune multi-media system functions through select smart phones’ interface that brings applications such as Bing and Pandora to the vehicle audio display. It also features real time information such as traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports, and stocks. Safety The Prius c is equipped with nine airbags strategically located to help protect the driver and passengers in the event of certain types of accidents. The new 2012 Prius c, like all Toyota models, is also equipped with the standard Star Safety System, which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Smart Stop Technology (SST). Early Conclusions Given the smaller size, lighter weight and improved HSD albeit lower cap NiMH and output, I still suspect this thing will be a gas pump slayer when push comes to shove. The all-new Yaris platform from which it is based is already tuned to proved much better feedback and handling while reducing road noise. Add to it the 1.5L w/ HSD and an upfront cost < $19K and you have the makings for an affordable fuel miser and entry into the Prius family for the youngest driving members. And we cannot wait for our turn behind the wheel later this month as it is going to be a hell of a preview and one we are greatly looking forward too.