Test Drive: 2018 Toyota Prius c
2018 Toyota Prius c Four
Class: Subcompact Car
Miles driven: 524
Fuel used: 10.7 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 49.0 mpg
Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||B-|
|Power and Performance||C|
|Fit and Finish||C|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 48/43/46 (city/highway/combined)
Base price: $24,965 (not including $895 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Body-side moldings ($209), carpeted floor/cargo mats ($224)
Price as tested: $26,293
The great: Outstanding fuel economy
The good: Decent passenger room for a subcompact car
The not so good: Sleepy acceleration, budget-grade interior materials
More Prius c price and availability information
Practically everything about the Toyota Prius c is small: the footprint, the power rating, even the wheel diameter. Fortunately, the one thing about the subcompact hatchback hybrid that’s undeniably big is the number of miles it goes on a gallon of gasoline.
Toyota’s smallest hybrid—wheelbase is 100.4 inches; total length is 162.4 inches—squeezes all of 99 horsepower from its 1.5-liter 4-cylinder gas engine and synchronous AC electric motor. The EPA estimates that this powerplant with the standard continuously variable transmission (CVT) is good for 48 mpg in city driving, 43 mpg on the highway, and 46 combined. When this reviewer drove the Prius c Four that Consumer Guide® was given to test, he recorded 49.43 mpg after a stint of 256.2 miles that was made up of just 45 percent city-type driving.
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Drivers get some say in how economically a Prius c operates—in addition to going easy on the gas pedal, that is. They can select “EV” or “ECO” modes from buttons on the console. In some conditions, EV lets the car run solely on battery power for up to 0.5 mile—but it didn’t seem to want to let this driver go 0.5 foot. ECO tempers both the operation of the climate system and the throttle response.
The Prius c is updated for 2018 with a different front fascia featuring a horizontally split grille and straked corner vents in the bumpers, reshaped headlights, and altered rocker-panel trim. The car continues to count a quartet of trim-and-equipment levels, rising from the base One to the “loaded” Four that CG sampled. Top-model standard equipment includes 15-inch alloy wheels; LED headlights, fog lights, and taillights; heated power external mirrors with integral turn signals; power moonroof; 6-speaker Entune premium audio system with satellite and HD radio, navigation, and app suite; 6.1-inch touchscreen; Bluetooth connectivity; 3.5-inch thin-film-transistor multi-information display; automatic climate control; perforated SofTex seat upholstery; heated front seats; SofTex-covered steering wheel; cargo-area cover; and the Toyota Safety Sense C group with precollision detection and autonomous braking, lane-departure warning, and automatic high-beam control.
Bits and pieces of the Prius c have changed since its 2012 debut, but some characteristics haven’t. The laudably frugal powerplant doesn’t make for the greatest performer. Even with ECO switched off during in-town driving, standing-start acceleration is leisurely. With full gas and electric power working in tandem on the highway, the Prius c is never slow enough to be dangerous—it competently keeps up with traffic—but acceleration takes time to build. (Blame the CVT somewhat for that.) Between full-throttle operation and the “vocal” narrow low-rolling-resistance tires there’s a fair amount of noise on the open road.
This fairly small car will hop a bit over major pavement imperfections, but it generally rides comfortably. Steering is light and reasonably quick for good maneuverability in tight areas like crowded parking lots.
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Displays for navigation and the easily programmed audio system register on the central touchscreen. Climate controls are confined to a triangular pad below the display screen. A large dial lets the operator quickly sets temperature; a small group of buttons (some repetitive-push) serves the other functions. Readouts for the digital speedometer, fuel gauge, and multi-information display appear on a deeply hooded oblong screen at the top center of the instrument panel. Seat-heater and drive-mode switches are grouped on the console, but it requires groping around the parking-brake lever to reach them.
Fairly equally matched passengers, say sub-6-footers, will find pretty good legroom for a subcompact-class car. However, if a given passenger’s height calls for stretching out some, it may take a degree of fun out of the ride for the person directly ahead or behind. The moonroof reduces available headroom in both rows—this 5-foot-10.5 tester had inches to spare in both rows but taller occupants would likely test the limits. Seating is for four adults. Three youngsters might fit across the rear seat, but the one that’s being punished for something ought to get the stiff center position. There’s not much in the way of soft surfaces around the cabin, even in the “premium” Four model. Textured plastic with almost no underlying flexibility covers the instrument panel and the door panels. Door armrests are the exception to this rule.
Most personal-item storage is found in the front-seat area. The glove box actually is pretty big, and there’s an exposed tray (with the auxiliary-jack and USB plug-ins) above it. The console holds two open cup holders ahead of the shift lever and a small, narrow covered cubby. Open spaces of varying shapes and sizes exist in the console and on the dash ahead of the steering wheel. Modest front-door pockets incorporate bottle holders. Rear storage consists of a pouch on the back of the front-passenger seat and a single cup holder that folds out of the back of the console.
Limited cargo space will probably hold a couple of small pieces of luggage or a week’s groceries for two. Retracting the 60/40-split rear seats creates lots more space. The seats fold flat, but rest at a level a few inches above the cargo floor, which complicates loading long objects.
The $24,965 base price of CG’s Absolutely Red test vehicle rose to $26,293 with delivery and optional body moldings and floor mats—a believable price for a subcompact hatch with some luxuries attached to it. The good fuel economy (and attendant range) might make the Prius c a tempting long-drive car for some, but its limited power sours that. It seems best suited as a nimble, parkable city car. That’s where it comes up big.
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