Auto Review: Little fuel required
By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Wed., Sep. 26, 2012
Last week we showcased a very exclusive vehicle where nothing takes a back seat to all-out performance. The car was the Nissan GT-R, and that amazing machine is a Yin to this week’s Yang in terms of what these two cars set out to achieve.
The Prius c (c stands for “city”) is one of the newest members of the Prius family, and an amazingly frugal machine thanks to hybrid technology and its small size. This clever four-door hatchback is also fairly inexpensive, yet can be equipped with all the latest electronic amenities, if you desire it all while delivering amazing fuel economy. It’s no racetrack supercar like the GT-R of course, but it is a wonderfully intelligent choice for solid transportation with very low operating costs. Toyota describes the new Prius thusly: “Designed to function as an urban-friendly vehicle with an engaging driving experience, hatchback utility, and a city fuel economy rating of 53 mpg, Prius c offers the highest city mpg rating of any vehicle without a plug.”
There is indeed no electric plug for the Prius c, but there is a very sophisticated Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain that includes a 1.5-liter Inline Four gasoline engine coupled to a 45kW electric motor. As is standard Toyota hybrid fare, the Prius c runs on the gas engine, electric motor, or both depending one the situation. A nickel-metal-hydride battery pack powers the electric motor, and is recharged through the engine and/or regenerative technology when coasting or braking. Acceleration is certainly not drag-strip-worthy, but perfectly adequate for an economy car, and the overall handling is tight enough to make the hatchback fun to drive in tight quarters. Ride quality is on a par with current compact class, which is to say surprisingly compliant compared with the genre just a few years ago. Wind and road noise is present but not excessive, and like the rest of the Prius line, there’s no drive belts, as the engine’s accessories (power steering, A/C, etc.) are electrically powered.
Inside, the Prius c’s central-mounted digital instrument cluster will look familiar to anyone who’s driven any previous versions of the popular hybrid, (unconventional in appearance, but easy to get used to). Controls are logical and Toyota’s Entune electronic system is available, allowing you to access a variety of applications and services though your cellular network. The interior has a lot of plastic but is well-assembled, and front seat comfort is firm, with stout cloth material. The rear seats are surprisingly roomy given the compact external dimensions, and 60/40 folding seatbacks add versatility, as you can expand the cargo space from the 17.1 cubic feet you have with the seatbacks upright.
A very nice compact car the Prius c may be, but the bottom line is, does its hybrid technology deliver exceptional fuel economy? The numbers speak for themselves: the EPA ratings are 53 city/46 highway and we saw 53 mpg in a week of mixed driving. Our well-equipped Prius c Version 3 has a base price of $21,635, and with options the MSRP came to $22,669. www.toyota.com