skip to main content

2012 Toyota Prius C First Test: Smaller Prius, Bigger Questions


Sixteen months ago, I committed one of my better blunders when I declared the Honda Insight the more important car compared with the then-just-introduced third-generation Prius. My thinking? Economy car shoppers are notorious scrooges, and the Insight's lower base price would make it the car to blow open the doors to hybrid affordability.

2012 Toyota Prius C Front View Click to view Gallery Guess what? Ebenezers are willing pay a bit more for a nicer car. The Prius went on to give the Honda a terrible smacking in the showroom. And now comes the smaller and cheaper Prius C, the car prompted by that onetime Insight threat that now faces the Insight's very same challenges.

Prius C pricing ranges from $19,710 to our test car's $25,140, and it's the third member in the Prius family, which that recently grew to two with the bigger Prius V and will become four with the early 2012 arrival of the plug-in variant of the original-recipe Prius (now called the Liftback). While the "V" in Prius V has been a little confusing (The number five? Churchill's victory sign? Nope -- it stands for "versatility"), the mystery of the Prius C's "C' is permanently solved if you associate it with "city." As in city mileage. Which, at 53 mpg per the EPA, is the best you can buy short of taking a flying technological leap into the plug-in pool (comparatively, its 46 mpg highway number seems pedestrian).

Read more: