When I found out I’d have a weeklong opportunity to test a Toyota Prius C, I celebrated by hugging a tree and borrowing a pair of Birkenstock sandals.

In the interest of transparency, I’m well aware that Toyota Prius models have been the butt of jokes for years. I wondered whether I’d spend a week driving around in a vehicular punchline.

With gasoline prices once again at a premium, I was buoyed by the possibility that (any jokes at the expense of my car notwithstanding) the Prius C might save me a couple of bucks at the pump.

It does.

My average fuel consumption is 5L/100km in mixed city and highway driving. Absolutely fantastic. For reference, my 800cc motorcycle can’t compete with that. Empirical data on the positive impact the Prius C has on my overall carbon footprint might be helpful here. Unfortunately, I don’t have that data, but I do recycle my aluminum cans.

The Prius C is the smallest of the three Prius models currently on offer. Unlike its two sibling models, the Prius (“Prius Classic”? – Ed.) and Prius V, this car lacks a window behind the rear pillar and is for all intents and purposes, a hatchback. It rides around on 15-inch alloy wheels that are brought to a stop with disc and drum brakes in the front and rear, respectively.

On the road, the ride quality is distinctly Toyota. It is planted, absorbs bumps without complaint, and tracks well at highway speed in high winds. Visibility in all directions is decent and combined with its small turning radius, the Prius C is easy to park, even in front of vegan restaurants.

The little Toyota produces ninety-nine horsepower from a combined output from a 1.5-litre gasoline engine and Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive electric system. This combination falls significantly short of offering pulse-quickening acceleration, but it gets the job done in city traffic.

Pushing the Prius C to overtake on the highway is a different story and not for the faint of heart. Pulling out to pass still leaves me wondering whether I’m standing on the wrong pedal.

The Prius C is quiet, as you’d expect, at idle and the periodic whirring and clunking of the electrics that made this car famous are not off-putting. Wind and engine noise do increase notably at highway speed, but by no means to the point of aggravation.

The heated front seats offer basic manual adjustability and, with a little effort, I’ve found a comfortable driving position. The rear passenger seats provide a very intimate space for two moderately sized friends. I’m hoping these friends choose to speak to me again.

When folded forward, the rear seats greatly increase stowage in the Prius C, but they do create a ledge between the trunk floor and the bottom of the back seats. This isn’t a pressing concern unless you plan to sleep in your Prius C, in which case you might have more pressing concerns.

Operation of the infotainment system through the child-sized touch screen is difficult with adult-sized fingers. Nonetheless, the system will play my iPod, facilitate Bluetooth phone conversations and recognize most of my voice commands. Unfortunately, overall sound quality from the six speakers is neither stellar nor highly adjustable. As an added quirk, the navigation system is not able to locate my home address which has existed for decades.

The knobs, buttons, vents, and shifter column in the Prius C have an entry-level feel. I could do without the shiny plastic accents on the dashboard, steering wheel, and doors. However, the interior styling isn’t a huge departure from what you might expect in a relatively well-equipped, entry-level hybrid car. My tester features lane departure alert, a pre-collision system, a decent rear camera, airbags everywhere, and the aforementioned infotainment system that will never know where I live.

As advertised, the Prius C provides efficient transportation. It will navigate city traffic, squeeze into tight parking spots, provide some creature comforts, and carry your stuff. Unless your daily driver is a bicycle, it will also reduce your fuel costs.

Perhaps the people who don’t laugh at Prius jokes might be out spending their fuel savings on new wool socks to wear with their Birkenstocks.

2018 Prius C Technology
Base Price: $26,950
As Tested: $28,792.50
Drivetrain: 1.5 Litre, 4-cylinder gasoline engine and permanent magnet AC synchronous motor, 99 hp combined, continuously variable transmission
Performance: 5 litres per 100 km in mixed driving
VVUZZ Recommended: A solid city car that won’t spend time at the track or the pump.


Images courtesy of the author.

Published on Nov 27, 2017