2012 Toyota Prius c
Starting MSRP $18,950–$23,230
The 2012 Toyota Prius c is the perfect city car, as the "c" indicates. The gas-electric hybrid was "teensy-tinsey," as my 8-year-old daughter would say, and gets an EPA-estimated 53/46 mpg city/highway.
I loved running errands, taking friends for coffee and even driving the kids around in the Prius c. Wait, I loved running small- to medium-sized errands, taking no more than three friends for a short drive to get coffee and driving only my kids around in the subcompact hatchback hybrid.
That's no surprise, though. The Prius c's size makes it clear the duties it's willing to take on, which is not to say most people can't do most of their errands quite well in it. Notably, it's just when bulk comes into play that the car falls short.
The Prius c has a four-cylinder gas engine that's paired with an electric motor, and it performed well when driving around town. I'll admit that I got nervous at the idea of driving on the highway at first. Once I got on the highway in average daytime traffic (well, average for Denver, which means it moves at a decent clip) I was pleasantly surprised at how well it performed. Throw in a snowstorm or a long road trip and I might change my tune, but I was able to pass with some planning and found that my major complaint was road and wind noise, not handling or power.
My other complaint might be sticker shock. The Prius c comes in four trims that are conveniently called 1, 2, 3 and 4. My Prius c Four had all the bells and whistles and cost $26,140, which included a $760 delivery fee. That was a lot more than the lowest trim's base price of $19,710 and much more than I'd imagine spending on a teensy-tinsey car.
The Prius c looks more like a regular hatchback than some hybrid economy car. It didn't have the "Jetsons"-mobile vibe of its larger Prius sibling's hybrid wedge shape. Instead, the Prius c has a sportier look with swoopy lines. Gone is the lower tailgate window seen on the Prius; it's replaced with a traditional hatch with fun taillights and a sculpted bumper.
It was easy to get in and out of the Prius c. The rear door handles are only a little higher than the front handles, making them easy to reach for my kids. Toddlers might stretch and struggle to pop that door open, though.
The hybrid's cargo space will fit a medium-sized haul from the grocery store, and the rear seats fold 60/40 in case you get a big box of diapers. If you want to stack stuff to maximize cargo space, you'll have to get rid of the cargo area cover, which is great if you would rather keep your things from prying eyes.
The 2012 Toyota Prius c was a champ with its 73-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor, creating 99 hp. The Prius c's fuel efficiency is amazing with 53/46 mpg and a city/highway combined rating of 50 mpg. The larger Prius gets 51/48 mpg.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some
Besides its touch-screen navigation and instrument cluster centered over the center stack, there's not much about the Prius c that screams "city car of the future." For some, that's a plus.
The SofTex leatherette, aka vinyl, seats were comfortable and easy to clean; my test car had standard heated seats in the front row. I loved the open ledge above the glove box, which was perfect for my gadgets, that had all the needed inputs right next to it.
Another complaint about the Prius c is the cupholders are in my least-favorite locale, right under the center stack. There were two of them as well as an open bin behind them for extra storage. The center console had a small cubby in it that can hold a small package of wipes and some lip balm.
In the backseat, things were surprisingly spacious. Rear passengers are blessed with a lot of head- and legroom. There isn't much storage though, with just one seatback pocket and one cupholder. There were no cubbies in the doors, but I figured all that weight from full water bottles would drag down the Prius c's fuel efficiency.
There's seating for three across the rear bench, but the person in the center will have to be skinny. The middle position's seat belt comes down from the ceiling; it creates only a minor visual obstruction in the rearview mirror as long as it's tucked away properly.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair-Ample
The 2012 Toyota Prius c has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To earn this, a car must receive the top score of Good in front, side, rear and roof-strength crash tests. The Prius c hasn't been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
There are two sets of lower Latch anchors in the Prius c's outboard seats. They were plainly marked but difficult to get at because the seat cushions were in the way. A rear-facing infant-safety seat fit in the second row, and a person could still fit in the front seat, albeit a bit cramped. Find out how the 2012 Prius c performed in Cars.com's Car Seat Check.
The Prius c has standard front-wheel drive, antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, hill start assist and nine airbags, including a driver's knee airbag and side curtains for both rows.
Get more safety information about the 2012 Prius c here.
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