2013 Toyota Prius c

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2013 Toyota Prius c review

By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
Rating: 7.7

Bottom Line:

While the 2012 Toyota Prius c accomplishes the admirable goal of bringing the Prius' outstanding fuel economy to a lower price point, we are disappointed that it isn't more fuel efficient or fun to drive. The ride is firmer than the Prius liftback without being appreciably sportier, and fuel economy is no better than its bigger sibling, despite less power and 500 pounds of weight savings.
Pros:
  • Prius fuel economy
  • Cool info screens to track and improve fuel economy
  • Affordable in all forms
Cons:
  • Slow
  • Budget-grade interior
  • Stiff ride

Toyota beefed up the engine and hybrid system when it redesigned the Prius in 2010, and buyers benefitted from both improved power and greater efficiency. They were much-needed improvements, and made the Prius feel more like a car than simply an appliance.

You'd think the Prius c would benefit from these upgrades, right? Wrong. The new Prius c is smaller than the original Prius, some 19 inches shorter. The tighter space means Toyota has had to downsize the engine and hybrid components, thus losing the efficiencies and the minimal fun-to-drive factor gained by the 2010 upgrade of the standard Prius. The result is a car that's no more efficient than the world's best-selling hybrid, although it is more agile and affordable.

But would we recommend it?

Model Lineup
The 2013 Toyota Prius c is offered in four trim levels — One, Two, Three and Four--with prices ranging from $18,950 to $23,230. The One comes with the basics, such as power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, and 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, but it also has Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port and a multi-information display. The Two trim adds cruise control, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and more driver's seat adjustments. Three has Toyota's Display Audio system with navigation, Entune and push-button start. The Four comes with SofTex seat upholstery, heated front seats and alloy wheels.

A la carte options are few, consisting only of 16-inch alloy wheels and a sunroof.

Under the Hood
The 2013 Toyota Prius c is powered by a downsized version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system. It makes less power while delivering the same overall fuel economy as the liftback. The system consists of a 1.5-liter 73-horsepower 4-cylinder engine aided by a two electric motors, a 42.4 kW (56 horsepower) motor that acts as a generator and a 45 kW (60 horsepower) motor that supplies motive power. The nickel-metal-hydride battery puts out a peak 25.9 horsepower for a total output of 99 horses.

Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy ratings are mixed. The city rating is up 3 mpg to 53 mpg, but the highway number is down from 49 mpg to 46 mpg. The total combined rating of 50 mpg is the same as the larger liftback. Puzzling, no?

Inner Space
Like its siblings, the Prius c has a 3.5-inch color screen in a hooded multi-information display below the windshield, but this one has more functionality than the others. Some owners will find it to be the most fun aspect of the car. In addition to screens that display power flow and fuel economy, there is an Eco Score screen. It has a graph that provides real-time feedback on driving style as well as an eco-score on a 100-point scale based acceleration, cruising and stopping techniques.

An Eco Savings screen provides the cost of fuel consumed for a trip taken or the dollar savings for a trip versus a previously chosen comparison car. Yet another screen shows an Eco Savings record. It can display the fuel cost or fuel-cost savings versus a comparison car for the current month, the past three months, or the same month a year ago. Finally, a Past Record screen shows the top three best trips for fuel economy along with the current ranking, and the fuel-economy average, for the month, the last three months, and the same month a year earlier. All of these screens are easily controlled through a couple of buttons on the steering wheel.

The Prius c Three and Four trims have a Display Audio system with navigation and Toyota's Entune multimedia system. Entune pairs with your smartphone to provide access to the Bing local search and Pandora mobile apps. This summer, it will add OpenTable dining reservations, movietickets.com, and iHeartRadio.

Otherwise, the interior is strictly functional. The hard plastic surfaces are expected for the price, but, unlike the aforementioned information screens, there is nothing here that will surprise and delight buyers. The controls are all easy to reach and simple to use. The speedometer is digital and it's located next to the multi-information display. Small-items storage is quite generous, with a big cubby at the base of the center stack, a large glove box, cupholders on the center console, a center console bin, and bottle holders in the doors.

Front passengers have good headroom and legroom, and the driver's seat is fairly comfortable, though you'll likely want to avoid the base model so you can get a steering wheel that telescopes. The Four trim comes with Toyota's SofTex upholstery. It looks a little like leather and but feels artificial. Given the size of the car, it's not surprising that the rear seat becomes a bit cramped.

Cargo space is also limited. With the rear seat up, there is 17.1 cubic feet of space, a couple feet more than a typical sedan's trunk. With the rear seat folded down, the cargo area is far more useful.

On the Road
The Prius c is 500 pounds lighter than the Prius liftback, but the downsized engine and hybrid system and the shorter length actually hurt the car's fuel economy in some ways. Sure, the city fuel economy is up, but it's not up that much, and the highway rating is lower than the liftback's. That's because the smaller engine and hybrid system can't take advantage of some of the efficiencies afforded by the larger components. The vehicle's size (the shorter length) also makes it less aerodynamic on the highway.

Power is quite low, too, at only 99 horsepower of combined output. But with only 2,500 pounds to lug around, those 99 horses are adequate to keep up with traffic and merge on the highway. With a zero-to-60-mph time of 11.5 seconds, it's not frustratingly slow, but it's not even as fast as the Prius liftback.

When light throttle is used, the Prius c can run on electric power alone up to 42 mph. The engine shuts off at stops and starts back up again without a fuss. Enthusiasts will appreciate the "EV" and "ECO" buttons. EV mode allows the car to drive on electric power alone, up to 25 mph and one-half mile. This can be accomplished with a light foot as well, and using this mode just runs down the battery, so there is no real benefit to EV mode. ECO mode, however, dulls the throttle response and runs the air conditioning more efficiently, both of which help improve fuel economy slightly. The good news is that the air conditioning is more efficient in general, as it is run on electricity instead of belt-driven off the engine. This improves fuel economy overall and keeps the air conditioning running at stops when the engine is shut off.

The Prius c's small size makes it maneuverable and easy to park, but it's not very sporty. It'll track nicely through a corner, but the steering is dull, the brakes are grabby, and the ride is surprisingly stiff. That's especially odd, as the other Prius models ride quite softly.

Right for You?
The 2013 Toyota Prius c will appeal to buyers looking for an affordable car built with the priority on fuel economy. It's more maneuverable than the Prius liftback, but slower, and it doesn't ride as smoothly, and isn't really any sportier. It's blah at best.

(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitatethis report.)

Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, andcurrently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.

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BB04 - 8/1/2014 9:29:06 PM