Coming in March: 2012 Toyota Prius C (C is for City)
So there, we blew it all in the headline. But the Prius C’s big story is that it appears to be a quite good subcompact hybrid from the king of the hybrids. And it will sell in the U.S. “with a starting MSRP below $19,000.”
It will be lighter and cheaper than its competition and beat them by bearing the Prius nameplate.
Curb weight is 542 lbs less than the standard Prius; mileage will be about the same (50 mpg combined), with 53 mpg in the city. Four trim levels will be offered, with good safety features and the usual electro-tech stuff, plus optional Entune system.
Those who have driven the car in Japan, where it is labeled the Aqua, liked especially its drive feel and handling. Inside Line called it
the most un-Prius-like Prius that Toyota has made to date. Here’s an eco champ that’s unexpectedly taut, sporty and, yes, even fun. It’s a surprisingly far cry from the regular Prius, a lovable fuel miser well known for its numb steering and aversion to cornering.
The car feels “quick and alert,” accelerates from 25 to 40 mph in 3.6 seconds, has quick steering and 16-inch alloys with special tires (in the optional Touring package), and good brakes. It’s well balanced since the battery is under the rear seat.
The one big downside with the C—and with most small hybrids—is the CVT, which is not made for performance. The car does 0-62 mph in 10.7 seconds. But the CVT offers seamless, straightforward power for most all applications. Hot shoes should avoid this car.
There are three selectable driving modes: Normal, EV-only (gets you down the road about a gas-free mile if you keep it under 25 mph) and Eco (lower fuel consumption with less power). I think only true green nut cases will use the latter two, which Toyota could have eliminated to further reduce cost.
There is 17.3 cubic feet of cargo room in the back, accessible via hatch. The interior is rather spartan but doesn’t look cheap or shabby.
Is it finally time for a hybrid city car to make it in the U.S. market?