The cars we loved.
The Prius has grown into a family of cars with the original 5 door fastback remaining the star of the line up. Potentially, the most interesting Prius is the smallest one. The 2600lb. C has a 500lb weight advantage over the standard Prius, but has a smaller battery, electric motor and engine a detuned 1.5L gasoline engine from the original Prius. In all the C has 99 total hp, with 73 of that coming from the 4 cylinder engine. On paper the Prius C has a power to weight ratio similar to the Mazda2. In reality, the two cars could not be any more different where driving fun in concerned.
Unlike the Mazda2, the Prius C is expensive, slow and not all that fun to drive. Available with only a CVT transmission, the C is geared towards efficiency and makes no qualms about it. Reaching 60 mph can take well over 10 seconds. Top speed is not an issue because all Prius drivers are in no particular hurry.
That patience is rewarded in the form of a display that shows the careful driver how efficient they are with game-like presentation. If saving the planet gets boring there is always Toyota’s Entune entertainment system. In some of the more expensive trims that can approach the $25k mark, 16 inch alloy wheels and fake leather interior can be had, but the Prius has no pretensions of luxury or sport.
The interior, like all of Toyota’s more efficient cars, is geared towards communal displays that sit oddly in the center as if to suggest to the driver that going forward efficiently is the car’s priority. As it is, the weight savings and power deficiency over the regular Prius only nets a 2 mpg in the city savings for a still impressive 53/46 figure.
No one buys any Prius for the driving experience. Some might revel in knowing they are helping to save the planet, just like the Hollywood stars who made the original Prius a hot item. Toyota had an opportunity to make something that could have been as sporty as Honda’s CR-Z. The hoopla of the 2011 Detroit Auto Show Prius C Concept suggested just that. Instead, the market got what looks like a pricey Yaris derivative with similar specs as Honda’s Insight.
As a gas saving, planet friendly alternative to increasingly efficient gasoline powered small cars, the Prius C may not be as compelling an ideal as it was back 2011. Still, its attractive looking and can be reasonable comfortable and of course comes with the expected safety, quality and resale value that comes with a Toyota.
The young trendy people featured in Toyota literature suggests that the C the cool more edgy Prius experience. Driving it with its sluggish CVT would suggest otherwise, but younger people are less likely to car about driving for fun and consider their cars as extensions to their phones. The C fits the bill in that regard like just about any car nowadays with hands free Bluetooth access.
It might help sales if Toyota made a sport version, even if it did not have anymore power (like the S models of the Corolla). Not getting all the attention might be a good thing for the C if buying new, because its bigger brother is still as popular as ever.