2012 Toyota Prius C
2012 Toyota Prius C; photo by Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

More Toyota Prius reviews on Autos.ca

Manufacturer’s web site
Toyota Canada

By Greg Wilson

Photo Gallery:
2012 Toyota Prius C

Arriving in Canadian dealerships in March, Toyota’s first subcompact hybrid car, the Prius c (“c” stands for “city”) will offer the best fuel economy of any hybrid on the market, save for plug-in hybrids like Toyota’s upcoming Prius Plug-in Hybrid and extended range electric cars like the Chevrolet Volt.

Toyota is claiming an impressive combined city/hwy fuel economy rating of just 3.7 L/100 km (76 mpg Imperial). Even if its real-world fuel consumption is a bit higher, the Prius c will still be one of the most fuel-efficient five-passenger cars on the planet.

The very first gasoline-electric hybrid car sold in Canada, the 1999 Honda Insight, offered similarly low fuel economy, but it was a small two-seater coupe that lacked broad appeal. Toyota is taking a smarter approach by offering a practical four-door hatchback bodystyle; and with a base price under $21,000, Toyota is making it accessible to younger, entry-level buyers who want a small, urban car that’s both affordable and easy to drive in the city.

2012 Toyota Prius C
2012 Toyota Prius C
2012 Toyota Prius C; photos by Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge

Included in the Prius c’s $21,000 base price will be automatic climate control, a 3.5-­inch colour LCD information display, USB port with iPod/iPhone connectivity, remote keyless entry with illuminated entry, and a tilt-telescopic steering wheel with controls for audio, climate, and Bluetooth hands-free phone.

The Prius c’s exceptional fuel economy is partly due to the fact that it is smaller and lighter than the mid-size Prius and Prius v. It weighs 246 kilograms less than the Prius hatchback, and is 485 mm shorter and 50 mm narrower. It’s slightly larger than a Toyota Yaris hatchback.

Rather than the standard Prius’ 98-hp 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, the Prius c uses a smaller 1.5-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 73 horsepower and 82 lb.-ft. of torque. Combined with a 45 kW (60 hp) electric motor, the combined output is 99 horsepower (74 kW). That compares to the larger Prius’ 134 hp (100 kW).

As with other Priuses, the Prius c driver can select from three different drive modes: Normal, Eco, and EV mode.  Eco mode reduces overall energy consumption by governing climate control and throttle to improve fuel efficiency. The EV mode allows the Prius c to be driven solely by electric power for a short distance (about one kilometre) while remaining below 40 km/h.

2012 Toyota Prius C
2012 Toyota Prius C
2012 Toyota Prius C
2012 Toyota Prius C; photo courtesy Toyota Canada. Click image to enlarge

To accommodate the Prius c’s smaller dimensions, Toyota redesigned its Hybrid system to reduce weight, size and improve its efficiency. The Hybrid Synergy Drive system integrates the operation of the gasoline engine, electric motor, Continuously Variable Transaxle, 144-volt nickel-metal hydride battery, and the various electronic controls which include a power control unit (inverter), a DC­DC converter, a step-up converter and a hybrid control computer.

To optimize interior space and handling, the hybrid battery and fuel tank are positioned together beneath the rear seat within the wheelbase, which improves weight distribution and enhances handling. As well, this location allows the Prius c to offer a surprisingly spacious 104 cu. ft. of total interior volume (87.4 cu. ft. passenger volume, 17 cu. ft. cargo volume). 

Available in March, the Prius c will be offered in three trim levels starting under $21,000. Details are not yet available but the available exterior colours will include Mandarin Orange, Aqua and Lime White Pearl, along with Blue Streak Metallic, Absolutely Red, Black Sand Pearl, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Classic Silver Metallic, and Alpine White.

The Prius c’s interior uses blue/grey as a basic interior colour with the door trim, seat surfaces, and instrument panel in lighter colours to help create contrast.  Two audio systems will be available: a base audio system with six speakers and AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology; the second audio system adds Display Audio with Navigation and Sirius XM satellite radio capability. 

In addition to nine standard airbags, the 2012 Prius c will come with Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Brake System, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist, and Smart Stop Technology.

Connect with Autos.ca