85 mpgUS on an all-highway drive is beyond fantastic!
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- March 19, 2012
2012 Toyota Prius c – $18,950 to start and a 53/46 mpgUS city/highway rating that proved to be far below its actual capability...
San Diego, CA -- In the city rated as having the best weather of any major metropolitan locale in the entire US of A, Toyota previewed the third member of its Prius family in the form of the c or “city” hybrid for short. And just like the beautiful clear skies and reliable year round warm temperatures bringing a smile to millions of native southern Californians on a daily basis, the c is sure to provide that same glowing feeling each time a fill occurs since it will cost less than half to drive the same distance than the average Californian experiences currently.
Having spent tens of hours in the exceedingly fuel efficient third generation Prius hatch
, the all-new and highly regarded 2012 Prius v
, and a number of early 2012 Prius PHEV
prototypes, Toyota has unleashed what may be its most important Prius family member yet. Equipped with the very latest lightweight Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) hardware, the c is not only the most fuel efficient city vehicle without a plug in the world, it also proved itself to be the most fuel efficient highway vehicle regardless of its EPA rating.
Meet the 2012 Toyota Prius “c”
The all new Prius c will be defined not only by its bulletproof HSD drivetrain and low total cost of ownership thanks to a reasonable low starting price, an expected high residual, and its “Best-in-Class” fuel economy but by something completely new to the Prius family. That being how unassumingly “normal
” or familiar it is for a non-Prius owner. The c when equipped with package One or Two allows you to insert a standard key in the same key slot most are completely familiar and comfortable with, turn said key forward and release, shift from P (Park) to R (Reverse) or D (Drive) via a normal on-the-floor shifter, step on the accelerator and away you go. Gone is the placing your foot on the brake and pushing a button to get to “Ready”, manipulating a small shift mechanism in a manual transmission gated like manner located to the right of the dash and when you look out of the rear view mirror, a standard B-Segment hatch rear view greets you without the split window and low top edge of the Prius hatch that limited rearward visibility. Not that this is a detriment to current Prius owners as their vehicles are now “normal” to them but for the rest of us, the “c” is simply simple.
Prius c’s offset instrument displays
The only caveat to this “normal car look and feel” is the c’s instrument display which is centrally mounted to the vehicle instead of the driver. The all-new 2012 Yaris’ instruments were moved from the center of the car to directly in front of the driver vs. its predecessor and Toyota is providing the c with the very out of the ordinary central to the vehicle displays unlike the rest of the Toyota and Lexus lineup. Being different for the sake of being different was probably a mistake in this case.
Standard interior amenities include an easy to read 3.5” Thin Film Transistor (TFT) full-color
Multi-Information Display (MID), automatic climate control, intermittent front and rear wipers, tilt and telescopic wheel with audio, climate and Bluetooth hands-free phone controls, plus an Aux and USB port with iPod connectivity.
On the outside, power mirrors with integrated turn signals, projector headlamps, and LED rear taillights and stop lamp is also standard.
Along with the c’s superb 53/46 mpgUS city/highway rating, it has an almost unbelievably small 31.4 ft. turning diameter when equipped with the 15” wheels and tires that is sure to bring a smile to a city dweller in particular.
2012 Prius c Specifications
The 2012 Prius c is available in four trim levels, One, Two, Three and Four. Complete specifications, pricing, standard and optional equipment can be found on the 2012 Prius c Specifications
2012 Prius c Exterior
From the front, the upper and large lower grille cutout, large Toyota badge and wraparound headlight lenses with integrated projector headlamps define the c and follow the design theme of the entire Prius lineup.
Moving to the silhouette, the standard Prius family aerodynamic triangle takes shape including the aero tab design at the corners we have become familiar with on other Prius family vehicles and the all-new 2012 Camry Hybrid. A slight upper character belt line runs through the door handles and fades into the center of the rear tail light outlines. A more pronounced lower sill plate crease begins at the lower front wheel arch and rises sharply through the rear door to meet the rear fender outline. Except for the distinctly aerodynamic profile, little makes the c stand out from the front or side.
The rear is where things get a little interesting. The large Alteeza like chrome vertical LED equipped tail lamps and standard roof mounted rear spoiler -- includes a shallow tapered center section to improve aero performance -- provides a sense of youthful exuberance. While not a standout exterior design, the coefficient of drag at 0.28 tells us the Toyota designers pursued functional design goals rather than splashy ones.
2012 Toyota Prius c Interior
The all new c has more versatility and size than its diminutive 87.4 cu. ft. of passenger and 17.4 cu. ft. of cargo room would seem to indicate.
There is no more striking example of the actual roominess than front and rear seat comparisons between the Prius c and larger volume rated Chevrolet Sonic, one of the B-Segment's best sellers.
2012 Toyota Prius c – Rear seating is tight but livable.
2012 Chevrolet Sonic – Rear seating is unsuitable for large adults.
The interior plastics show how readily cost cutting has occurred. Given the aggressive MSRP and Japanese Yen vs. $USD exchange rate, Toyota’s interior designers did the best they could within the tight budget constraints they had to abide by. The soft plastic “wiggly line” surface of the standard Prius has been replaced with a hard black plastic with a wood like grain across much of the dash. The passenger side receives a wide plastic accent incorporating a more modern and artistic grain with accentuating inscribed curves and on the package one and four trims, is a light gray that stands out nicely against the darker black that the rest of the dash is comprised of. Up close however this add-on feels inexpensive to the touch although it does add a much needed sprucing up to the otherwise economical interior that the rest of the dash is comprised of.
Attractive Prius c package four Interior color scheme.
From the center of the doors back, an alternate color plastic breaks up the featureless nature of the dash providing the look of a modern interior without the expense of one.
Considering the controls, the Prius family base steering wheel is made of a somewhat uncomfortable urethane with a leather wrap unfortunately not available even on the higher packages. The standard on all trims steering wheel Bluetooth hands free controls are placed in a good location to operate without taking your eyes off the road. A Toyota highlight is the as expected excellent Cruise Control, front and rear intermittent wiper and headlight control stalks that provide both good tactile feel and are easy to use.
The temperature control knob for the auto climate system is unusually large and very easy to manipulate whereas the radio and climate control knobs and switches are small and not well implemented from an ergonomic design standpoint.
The auxiliary audio jack and USB port are located oddly enough far to the right passenger side of the central dash. Fortunately the open storage tray to the right of the jacks is a great storage location for your Smartphone.
Given the small size of the c, sightlines over the hood and to the sides are decent. The real welcome sight however was as described above, a small but clean look out of the rear without a split window and with little of the roof line intruding into the upper rear view.
2012 Toyota Prius c rear hatch versatility
2012 Toyota Prius c Drivetrain
60/40 split folding rear seats is not available on package one trims.
The Prius c with Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) relies on the hybrid transaxle, a highly atkinsonized 73 HP 1.5L engine, all-electric water pump and ancillaries, cooled Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system, an Exhaust Heat Recirculation system, excellent aerodynamics plus other engine friction reducing enhancements to achieve its superb fuel economy.
One of the keys to HSD efficiency improvement was a new stator design with rectangular coil configurations to achieve a higher flux density and output.
The Prius c’s traction battery has been downsized from the Prius hatch to a 19.3 kW, 120 cell, 144V NiMH pack compared to the 168 cell, 201V NiMH pack while saving 23.8 pounds. It is also equipped with a smaller and lighter weight power control unit containing the inverter, voltage boosting converter (520 V vs. 650 V boost in the Prius Hatch) and AC/DC converter.
In practice, the low torque output atkinsonized 1.5L is assisted by the downsized HSD system providing adequate acceleration with 11.5 seconds needed for a 0 to 60 mph sprint. Given the total power output of 99 HP however, climbing a number of 6 + % grades and when entering uphill interstate on-ramps in and around San Diego, the Prius c was severely taxed.
2012 Toyota Prius c Infotainment
There are two Audio systems available including the base system that provides an AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, 4 speakers in 4 locations (6 in 6 on package two), auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity, auto sound leveling, blue tooth hands-free phone capability, phone book access and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology. Like most Toyota’s this year, package three and four are equipped with the Display Audio System that includes Navigation and Entune displayed through a 6.1-inch touchscreen, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, HD Radio with iTunes tagging, and advanced voice recognition. For more on Entune’s feature set, consider the following:
Meet Toyota’s Infotainment Solution Called Entune
Bluetooth connectivity appeared solid with the supplied smartphones, basic voice control was good and stereo output was just ok.
Ride and Handling
Compared to the previous generation Yaris, the c’s increased rigidity is a vast improvement thanks to much higher High Strength Steel content, numerous reinforcements around the front and rear suspension attachments, B-Pillar and roof rail. Although not taken to its limits due to lack of a location to test that, the rigid body structure and decent chassis tuning provided sound handling even with the low rolling resistance Bridgestone Turanza EL400’s the c was shod with. Turn in, suspension compliance and minimal body roll was the best of any B and C-Segment Toyota has ever built. Unfortunately driving smooth local roads and Interstates provided little in the way of pushing the c anywhere near its suspension or adhesion limits.
2012 Toyota Prius c Safety
The c provides what should be an easy IIHS “Top Safety Pick” winner with a 4 or possibly even 5 star crash test rating on the tougher NHTS crash tests.
The c features nine standard airbags including driver and passenger fronts, sides, side curtains, a driver side knee and a new driver’s and passenger’s front seat-cushion airbag that is supposed to help place and secure front-seat occupants into a more crash ready position in case of collision.
Toyota’s Active STAR Safety system is onboard featuring Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction control (TRAC), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) and Smart Stop Technology (SST). In addition, the Prius c includes Hill Start Assist Control (HAC), a Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS), Vehicle Proximity Notification System (VPNS) and LATCH.
2012 Toyota Prius c Preview Fuel Economy Results
With temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s, little to no wind and a gorgeous blue sky, the Prius c showed us something that the entire lineup of Prius’ both past and present have never allowed before. That is to provide better than European turbo diesel like fuel economy on an all-highway round trip drive.
59.5 miles/.702 gallons = 84.758 mpgUS
aFCD displayed: 85.6 mpgUS or a very respectable and very small 0.9% over report.
2012 Toyota Prius c Early Conclusions
With just a few hours of seat time in and around the San Diego area plus the all out late afternoon round trip jaunt with a top off to top off fill drive for calibration, I am impressed.
: While I can make a case for a Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent given their content, design and low overall total cost of ownership (TCO) with fuel at just under $4.00 per gallon, I would be hard pressed to make the same if gasoline were closer to $5.00 per gallon or even more a few years from now. Think of the c as an affordable insurance policy against the unforeseen.
Next we have the millennial mindset and wants vs. needs. I cannot tell you the number of 20 something’s that lust for a $35,000 Pony car with a powerful V6 or V8 engine. Somebody’s dad will go out tomorrow and buy his son what he also lusts for and within hours of purchase, “Johnny” and his friends will be testing out triple digits and tempting fate. Many of those are unfortunately no longer with us due to the lack of good judgment when behind the wheel of something far beyond their capabilities and needs. Instead, the Prius c provides a different and more sustainable kind of performance. The kind that may just get your children to think before turning the key to get from point A to point B with the least amount of fanfare, distraction and temptation.
So what is the smart thing to do? Give “Johnny” the keys to a $35,000 USD 300 + HP flash and dash machine to impress his friends while paying upwards of $0.25/mile in fuel alone or instead give the keys of a $20,000 USD 99 HP fuel miser to move Johnny from point A to point B in the safest and most efficient manner possible?
: It’s a hatch and while it is not as deep as a Prius hatch, it is taller like that of a Prius v. I imagine a number of kids loading them up and heading to College’s and University’s across the country this fall thanks to the generous and usable rear hatch cargo volume.
Ride and Handling
: It is not as easy to drive as a full sized sedan on the super slab at 65 + mph but for the low cost of entry, it is remarkably sorted out. It does not pitch and roll like the B-Segment penalty boxes of old while providing a more connected road feel. It is far from a BMW M or Lexus GS450h but in the B-Segment, its combination of smooth ride with ok handling is sufficient for anyone looking for their first car or downsizing to the class due to fuel costs.
: The base seats in package one through the pleather like SofTEX that package four includes provided a number of hours both behind the wheel and in the passenger seat with no complaints. The seat bolstering was not overly obtrusive and although the seat bottoms were a touch to thin width wise and short for a cross country jaunt, I did not feel the need to readjust.
When accelerating the 1.5L hard, there is quite a bit of NVH intrusion into the cabin but fortunately that only lasts seconds until you get up to speed and the reassuring calm of a less than 2,000 RPM highway cruise takes over for the rest of your drive. A ScanGauge is needed to record RPMs.
: The advent of the third generation 2010 Prius did not provide the high or low speed absolutes achieved on numerous occasions from those of us fortunate to drive second generation 2004 – 2009 Prius’ even though it had a significantly higher EPA rating. The third generation Prius’ provided more safety, a higher power output, quicker warm-up times, removed the winter fuel fill bladder problem, provided much more comfortable seating, improved ergonomics, increased passenger and cargo room and was overall a nicer vehicle to own and drive. Where it lacked however was the over the top fuel economy capability no matter if your drive was all Interstate, slow speed city or a combination of both costing “some of us” more at the pump. The c just took care of that and for a price that more North Americans than ever before are able to afford in these times of quickly rising fuel costs.
Coming full circle, even though the Prius c has a lower EPA highway fuel economy rating than that of the current Prius hatch, the result above reveals that the c when driven in a manner conducive to good fuel economy provides far beyond the capability of any vehicle without a plug currently available in North America.
I suspect the c’s lower highway fuel economy rating has to do with how stressed the heavily atkinsonized 1.5L is when driven more aggressively. While it “can
” provide superb fuel economy, I suspect at maybe 60 mph, there is a crossover in which the Prius hatch and HCH-II/III will begin to outpace it. We will find that out soon enough.
And the slower speed city drives? I can all but guarantee triple digits will be available to those that want it which is something we have not seen since the long out of production first generation Insight and second generation Prius were available.
Putting it all together, the c is epitome of fuel efficiency and affordability and my top pick for the conservative minded Millennial. It provides an inexpensive choice that we have never had before and with it, $4.00 or more per gallon of gasoline will not be quite as painful as it is in our current “Name Your Current Daily Driver Here
Did I mention the 8 year/100,000 mile warranty on the hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter?
The 2012 Toyota Prius c brings peace of mind on a number of fronts and all at no additional charge.
2012 Toyota Prius c Package Three
What I would drive.