Feeling righteous on the road
Yup, I drove another hybrid. I know, shocking. But in today's market where EVs and hybrids are all the rage (and all the focus of carmakers), it's kind of hard to avoid 'em. So, I took a deep breath and prepared for my week behind Toyota's latest holier-than-thou, environmentally friendly Prius, the c -- the smallest of the Prius family.
Despite my deepest of breaths, I still wasn't fully prepared for life behind the wheel of a hybrid such as the Prius c, especially an econobox such as this one.
Let's start with the good, shall we?
Money, money, money... Saved!
If nothing else, the 2012 Toyota Prius c saves some serious dollars at the pumps. After a week behind the wheel, I've never spent as little filling up a car as I did in the Prius c... at least not since I drove my Sentra GXE in 2002 and gas was selling at 0.87 cents a litre.
Driving an average of 100km a day to work, plus a few trips to-and-from my home to my parent's (roughly 120km total each time) cost me approximately $50 in gas for the entire week. By my books, that's bloody fantastic. The best fuel mileage I achieved after a drive was 3.7L/100km and my average over the week was about 4.0L/100km. Again, fabulous numbers.
If nothing else, the Prius c brought a smile to my face simply because it saved me money. Keeping an eye on the digital power band on the dash became something of an obsession all week. And keeping the car in EV mode, even more so. I think they add those little monitoring devices on purpose in hybrids and EVs because they know how the videogame generation function: see a challenge, must win it.
Not for drivers
Here's the thing about this hybrid: It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, built for drivers. It is meant to be functional, money-saving husk. It is here to save the environment and boost your green cred. It is not meant for spirited jaunts through the country (believe me), nor is it meant for spirited driving of any kind.
Even when I got completely fed up of driving like a hybrid owner (by about day 3), I couldn't make the Prius c "perform." Pushing the throttle to the floor did little more than push that green bar into the red "power" (ha ha) zone and reduce my ECO score to a failing grade. Not very satisfying.
Driving the Toyota Prius c is all about gentle starts and cruising speeds. The car wants you to leave a stop slowly (keeping it in EV), till the engine gently comes on. Then you can accelerate to get some momentum and let off the gas completely to coast. The Prius c is the ideal coasting car. It doesn't slow down as quickly as most vehicles when you let off the gas, which means you'll travel a greater distance. Then, pop the gear lever into "B" mode to brake and charge the battery more quickly before applying the brakes for a complete stop. Repeat.
Like I said; I lasted all of about three days like that.
What powers the 2012 Toyota Prius c? Well, apart from the electric motor, the Prius c also boasts a 1.5L 4-cylinder Atkinson Cycle gas engine that combines to create Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive. Together, both motors produce 99 hp.
Why automakers choose to design their hybrid and electric vehicles to look so strange, I'll never understand. We get it; it's a different car. You don't need to make it unattractive too.
The 2012 Prius c is, essentially, a big Prius that's been shrunk in the wash. It's more compact, but retains the traditional Prius shape and style. The split rear window is lost (thankfully) and the rear lights are a bit more stylized than its big brother's. Otherwise, the looks remain the same. Some may appreciate the car's mug, while others may think it rather unbecoming.
I don't mind the car's stance and size, in actual fact. And just the elimination of the split rear window gives the Prius c a nicer line.
Inside, that's where things get a bit dicey. The moment I entered the Prius c and heard the clunky, clanky door close (like metal on metal) I knew I was in for a treat. The materials throughout the Toyota Prius c are clearly the bargain bits and pieces. Everything is plastic, read: everything. And I'm not talking soft-touch plastics here. The steering wheel feels like corrugated siding and the seats aren't only uncomfortable, but the material feels pretty cheap as well.
I understand that the Prius c is Toyota's econobox in the Prius family, but come on now.
Space inside the Prius c is passable. I packed up the kid for a weekend at the grandparent's without much trouble. Though, the stroller is the only thing that fit in the trunk. There was no room leftover after I shoved it in.
And as for a baby seat install; the baby seat anchors in the back seat of the Prius c didn't accommodate my particular child seat, so I had to use the seat-belt restraint. Not the end of the world, but odd that the restraints weren't universal as they are in most cars.
Prius still top of its game?
While the Prius may have been the hybrid winner over a decade ago, the game has since changed. With multiple hybrids available (and some with a much better ride such as the Lexus CT200h) as well as full EVs like the LEAF and i-MiEV, it's hard to justify purchasing a Prius.
Granted, the Toyota Prius c is just a smidge over $20,000 which is a fantastic price for what the vehicle offers in terms of fuel saving, I'm still not convinced it's worth it. If you live in the city and never use the highway or travel very far then get a fully electric vehicle. And if you do a great deal of highway driving and long distances get a diesel.
This 2012 Toyota Prius c review was originally published on Auto-Venus.com.
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