The Prius C is New Zealand’s smallest and least expensive hybrid. We test it in facelifted form.
Base price: $27,990.
Powertrain and performance: 1.5-litre petrol four with hybrid electric system, 74kW total system output/111Nm, continuously variable transmission, front-drive, Combined economy 3.9 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 3995mm long, 1695mm high, 2550mm wheelbase, kerb weight 1120kg, luggage capacity 305 litres, fuel tank 36 litres, 15-inch alloy wheels on 175/65 tyres.
We like: Cheapest hybrid on the market, quite cheerful, outstanding fuel economy.
We don’t like: Not appealing to drive, still a big price premium over other superminis.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
Toyota is trying hard to establish Prius as a separate brand, which means there are in fact three completely different models wearing the same badge: Prius C, Prius and Prius V.
The C tested here is the smallest and has at least one claim to fame: it’s the cheapest petrol-electric hybrid model on the market at $27,990. That price is for the entry model with alloy wheels, but if you’re really counting the pennies you can have it on steel rims for $26,990.
Prius C has just benefitted from a minor update, with new bumper and grille designs, LED lamps at the rear and keyless entry/start.
Size-wise the Prius C is slightly larger than a Yaris supermini and quite a bit smaller than the Corolla hatchback.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Almost exactly like the previous model, save some minor work on the electric power steering system and suspension.
Almost exactly like every other Prius model on the market, actually. The C has a smaller petrol engine and battery pack than its siblings, but the system works in the same way. The petrol engine and electric motor can work separately or together depending on what the management computer decides, and energy potentially wasted in deceleration or braking is automatically captured and used to recharge the battery.
The Prius C will not bring joy to the enthusiast driver: the steering is devoid of feel and so are the brakes, thanks to the regenerative technology. But it will get you around town with astonishing fuel economy. We did not spare the powertrain during a week of mostly urban running and still recorded 4.4 litres per 100km. Employ a careful right foot and the car’s pushbutton Eco mode and that official figure of 3.9 litres is well within reach.
The C will creep along solely on battery power for short distances between traffic lights (there’s an EV button to maximise this feature), but it doesn’t make to fire up the petrol engine again: a slight increase in throttle pressure, a hill or anything beyond 35km/h and the battery can’t cope alone. Even in ideal conditions it’ll only about 2km in EV model. It’s really designed to work as a petrol-electric vehicle.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The whole ethos of the Prius C is to make eco-driving a bit more fun. That’s not achieved by perky performance and sporty handling, but by cheeky styling and a number of surprise-and-delight features in the cabin.
The steering wheel carries the soft-touch controls from the larger Prius, which include handy settings for the air conditioning. Put a finger on the appropriate button and instantly the corresponding menu comes up on the (small) information screen in the centre console. The ‘display’ button gives you access to a variety of eco-themed graphics, including the signature Prius energy monitor (which shows you where the power is coming from in real-time) and a couple of graphs that show you how well you’re doing in terms of economy and even money spent on fuel.
Yes, it can get a bit dull spending so much time trying to eek out every litre of fossil fuel. But that’s what this car is here for and at least it’s honest.
The interior is pretty funky, though, with curvaceous shapes and flashes of blue (the Toyota/Lexus colour for hybrid models) throughout. It’s by no means lavishly equipped, but the provision of climate control air conditioning and keyless entry/start even in this base model is welcome.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? You’re only going to look at Prius C if you’re sold on hybrid technology and want to extract the maximum number of kilometres per litre. Otherwise you could just go and buy the flagship Yaris YR, which comes fully loaded (including sat-nav with traffic management and reversing camera) and costs just $1000 more. The Yaris SX, which is closer to the Prius C in specification, is just $23,990.
In that context, the Prius makes a reasonable fist of maximising fuel economy without seeming terminally dull. It’s a worthy small car with a unique selling proposition, even if there’s still a large price premium over conventional small cars.
- Blind spot warning: No
- Lane guidance: No
- Cruise control: Yes
- Automatic lights/wipers: No
- Parking radar: No
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: No
- Satellite navigation:No
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Air conditioning: Climate
- Heated/ventilated seats: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: No
- Leather upholstery: No
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40