Toyota’s Prius is the most well-known hybrid car in the world thanks to being one of the first to be commercially available – and promotion by Hollywood. To target a younger audience that also cares about the planet but doesn’t quite have the same budget, the most important bits from the normal Prius have been transferred to the smaller Yaris platform to offer up a hybrid car to compete in the subcompact segment under the name Prius C. This small hybrid is back with some updates and new standard items, and it remains the most affordable and smallest hybrid from the automaker.
Inside the cabin of the Toyota Prius C you’re greeted with a better look than the price tag suggests. Yes, there are some hard plastics in play, but thanks to a good layout and some brushed aluminum-look trim it’s pleasing on the eye. The seats are basic 4-way adjustable pieces and there’s enough space front and back for 4 adults, there are worse places to be. The multifunction steering wheel is an odd shape but it works, and the digital instrument cluster is on top of the dash – something Toyota likes to do in it’s budget cars.
This is where the 3.5-inch multi-information display is located, which is odd and forces eyes off the road to see. The 6.1-inch infotainment screen is easy to reach and features the intuitive Entune systems in it as well as a standard backup camera, which is a plus. Standard cargo volume is at 17.1 cu-ft.
There’s not heaps of power available in the Toyota Prius C, then there’s not really meant to be, but while the small capacity gasoline hybrid powerplant promises a lot, it’s quite flat. The handling and the braking in the Prius C is much the same as what you’d find in the Toyota Yaris thanks to the many-shared underpinnings from that model. While it’s not going to help win an autocross event in this instance, it’s probably the best part of the drive offered up by this subcompact hybrid.
That said this car isn’t really aimed at the people who would even know those kinds of events exist. There are two AC motors / generators; a smaller one that works in conjunction with the combustion engine to send power to the wheels, and a larger unit that is linked to the final drive differential where it generates electricity and also aids in propulsion.
Powering the Toyota Prius C is a hybrid engine setup that combines a normally aspirated 1.5-liter 4-cylinder with a pair of AC motors to create a total of just 99 hp with 82 lb-ft of torque. With all of this power directed to the front wheels via specially configured continuously variable transmission the resulting performance is rated to afford the Prius C figures of a sneeze under 11-seconds for the 0-60 mph sprint with a top speed of 102 mph. Mileage estimates claimed by Toyota tell us the Prius C will do 48 mpg in the city, 43 mpg on the highway and a combination of 46 mpg – which is adequate, not great.
A now standard feature on the Toyota Prius C is the TSS-C system, which stands for Toyota Safety Sense C. This gives the little hybrid a combination of a pre-collision system; lane departure alert and automatic high beams to make for the safest drive possible. Added to this you’ll find an integrated backup camera, a smart key with pushbutton start, and a multi-information display alongside the digital speedometer. This also shows detailed energy consumption so you can track how many trees you’re saving. Safety is good in the budget car with 9 airbags in play as well as stability control, traction control, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, smart stop technology and ABS.
As a budget entry into the world of hybrid electric vehicles the Toyota Prius C seems to be a good offering. There’s a lot more tech and spec crammed into the subcompact car than you think, certainly more than the price suggests. As an actual hybrid runner that’s saving you fuel and the environment it could be better. The performance is less than rival offerings and the claimed fuel consumption figures are possible but only with some concentration and if you eliminate all traces of a fun drive.