Review of: 2013 Toyota Prius c 5dr HB Technology
2014 Toyota Prius C: Hope you're not in a hurry
By Jil McIntosh
Apr. 8, 2014
In recent years, Toyota has expanded its Prius hybrid lineup, adding the Prius V wagon, the Prius plug-in, and my tester, the subcompact Prius C.
Known as the Toyota Acqua in Japan, the Prius C—which the company says stands for City—breaks away from its siblings not just with its smaller footprint, but with a smaller engine in its gasoline-electric powertrain.
Pricing starts at $20,440 for the base model, while my Technology tester, the only other trim level available, is $23,415. Mine was further optioned with a $2,240 Premium Package, offered only on the Technology trim, bringing my ride to $25,655 before freight and taxes.
Pros & Cons
- + Driving position
- + Usable technology
- + Navigation system
- - Value for money
- - Turning circle
- - Acceleration
I’ll admit to a certain fondness for the Prius C, which I find to be a cute little car, especially in my tester’s eyeball-punching “Sun Fusion” coat of paint. It has the general wind-cheater hybrid shape, but its face is much more attractive than that of the larger, homely Prius.
While the base Prius C uses 15-inch steel wheels, and the Technology package upgrades to 15-inch alloys, the Premium Package swaps out 16-inch wheels (along with adding heated seats, sunroof, fog lamps, and faux-leather upholstery and steering wheel). All models, including the Premium, use front disc brakes with rear drums.
The Prius C’s dash design is unorthodox, but its funky feel suits the car. It suffers from Toyota’s tendency to stuff in as many colours and textures of plastic as possible into the Prius models—the random lines carved into the crosshatch-patterned panel on the passenger-side dash defy explanation—but everything is well-fitted and with tight gaps.
The instrument cluster is recessed atop the dash, where you can dial up information using iPod-style “Touch Tracer” rubberized buttons on the steering wheel. All models have automatic climate control, and the temperature dial is big and easy to use. The revolving round dash vents on the sides are equally simple to turn and direct, but the centre vents have small grips that are harder to grasp and move. Almost all the window and lock buttons lack backlighting, and should be lit to make them easier to find at night.
The front seats are surprisingly comfy for a small car, and there’s a lot of room for your feet. Legroom is tighter in the rear seat, of course, and while the Prius C is technically a five-seater, you don’t want to draw the short straw that puts you in that middle position. Those rear seats also fold relatively flat (in 60/40 configuration on the Technology trim, as opposed to a single folding seat on the base model) to open up a cargo compartment that’s already generous for the car’s size.
You can’t call it the “Technology” trim if it doesn’t contain some. Features that distinguish it from the base model include a 6.1-inch touchscreen stereo with navigation and advanced voice recognition, satellite radio, six speakers versus four, the aforementioned Touch Tracer steering wheel controls, pushbutton start with proximity locks, cruise control, and variable intermittent wipers.
The touch-screen system is easy to use, and I like that it has several hard buttons and dials. I do wish it had one for the navigation, though. To access the map screen, you first have to hit the “Apps” hard button, and then the icon for navigation, which adds steps if you adjust your stereo and then want to go back to your directions.
I was very impressed with the voice recognition, though. When I wanted to enter an address, I just rattled it off, and the system immediately grabbed it and figured out my route. These new systems are quite an improvement over those that require you to wait for a beep and then say the number, street, and city individually.
The Prius C is not a powerhouse. It’s not meant to be, and you can get into this car’s rhythm if you accept that going in, but it’s definitely not going to be for everyone.
It’s powered by a 1.5-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine that makes 73 horsepower and 82 lb-ft of torque. That’s mated to an electric motor that increases the hybrid powertrain’s net output to 99 horsepower, along with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). As you’d imagine with two-digit power ratings, acceleration is tepid, and while it cruises along well once you get it up to speed, there isn’t a lot of passing power on the highway.
Like the larger Prius, the Prius C can run on gasoline, battery, or a combination of the two, automatically slipping seamlessly between them as driving conditions dictate. It has an “EV” (electric vehicle) button that keeps it in electric-only at low speeds, but as on the other Prius models, I’ve never figured out why it’s there. The Prius C naturally runs on electricity alone when you’re driving slowly with a light foot, and if you accelerate—and it doesn’t take much throttle—the EV mode shuts off, and you’re back to regular gas/battery operation.
There’s very little steering feel, but thanks to its small footprint, the Prius C feels more nimble and lively than other Prius models. The turning radius is wider than expected, though.
While its published fuel economy ratings of 3.6 L/100 km in the city and 4.0 on the highway initially sound pretty good, they’re virtually the same as those of the larger Prius, which is rated at 3.7/4.0, and which outweighs the C by 248 kilograms. In combined driving in bitterly cold weather, I averaged 5.3 L/100 km.
The Prius C stands alone in its segment; if you want a subcompact alternative-powertrain vehicle, your only other choice is all-electric.
As much as I liked some of the premium pack features, the fully-loaded version seemed pricey when it scraped close to the $26,000 mark. However, it’s still $450 less than the base Prius, a model that rises as high as $34,190 when optioned with all the fixins.
Unless you’re set on its hybrid powertrain, you should also compare it to conventional subcompacts such as the Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Accent, Ford Fiesta and Nissan Versa Note, among others, where you may find that a lower sticker price on the gas-only models could offset their higher fuel economy ratings.
I don’t see many examples of the Prius C on the road, which really isn’t surprising. I like the car for what it is: an inner-city-sized hatchback that gives you that seamless Toyota hybrid driveline with the lowest price in the Prius lineup, and driving performance that works for stop-and-go commuter travel.
But it’s not as satisfying a driver once you get it out of the traffic jams, its fuel economy pales alongside its larger and heavier sibling, and compared to many gasoline-only subcompacts, it’s expensive. If you like it for what it is, it’s a fun little runabout. But if you’re new to hybrids, test-drive it thoroughly—and test-drive the competition—before you finally sign on the dotted line.