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Long-Term Review Update 1: Toyota Prius C

Manufacturer’s website
Toyota Canada

By Chris Chase and Paul Williams
Photos by Chris Chase and James Bergeron

Photo Gallery:
2012 Toyota Prius C

The Prius, in general, used to be my number one hybrid, a car that, in its original form, had it all: a compact footprint (both literally and figuratively), great real-world fuel economy, and a roomy interior that included a hatchback body style.

The only thing missing, in my opinion, was a drivetrain that would allow realistic electric-only acceleration from a stop. The Prius can move away on amps alone, yes, but not at a pace that suits many of the not-so-patient drivers who’ll wind up behind you.

So I was impressed by a 2012 Camry Hybrid I tested recently, with its ability to do what I’ve always wished the Prius could: provide adequate juice for gentle acceleration that, all the same, was just quick enough to keep the majority of other drivers from getting charged up with road rage.

The Camry’s powertrain is bigger; combined, its gas and electric motors generate 200 horsepower, which I suppose is necessary to provide “normal” car performance to go with its mainstream sedan body style. Even while being heavier (1,561 kg/3,369 lbs, versus 1,380 kg/3,041 lbs for the 134-hp Prius liftback, and 1,136 kg/2,500 lbs in the 99-hp Prius C), it still feels like a muscle car compared to any Prius model.

2012 Toyota Prius C
2012 Toyota Prius C
2012 Toyota Prius C. Click image to enlarge

I imagine that buyers who prefer the Prius’ distinctive shape will also put up with it being a slug. But to get to my point, I wonder how many more drivers would choose a Prius if each model were available with a more powerful engine? Make the Camry’s 200-hp combo an upgrade in the two larger Prius models, and offer Prius C buyers the choice to move up to the 134-hp motor from its big brothers.

That’s all I’ve got to say about the Prius C for now, as Paul Williams had the keys to it for most of the time since our last update. With that, what follows are his thoughts on the car.

I must admit I had some preconceptions about the Prius C. I expected it to be underpowered, and for some reason I had in my mind that it would be undersized.

Turns out I was wrong on both counts. The power is perfectly adequate for local errands, daily commuting or cruising on the highway—everyday driving, in other words. And passenger and cargo room is just fine, if a little cramped in the rear for a pair of adults.

Consequently, during my tenure with the Prius C it became the go-to car for local jaunts among a small selection of press and personal vehicles. It’s so easy to drive; so quiet, undemanding, and fuel efficient that it actually takes the stress out of driving as long as you don’t want to urgently blast around town.

Our test Prius C Technology with the Premium Package arrived with all the bells and whistles, including navigation, satellite radio, 16-inch alloy wheels, “SofTex” (synthetic leather) upholstery, heated front seats, fog lamps, sunroof, and a smart entry system with push-button start. It stickers at $25,340.

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