Toyota Prius C Takes Aim at Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf

Let’s talk fuel efficiency.


Gas prices keep going up, people keep complaining, blah blah blah. Nothing new to report there.

It’s the cars that people choose to buy as prices rise that remains an interesting, though somewhat predictable, topic. One new highly efficient car has outsold the February totals of both the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.

In just three days.

The Toyota Prius family of gas/electric hybrids has grown to include four models: The 3rd-generation Prius, the plug-in Prius, the Prius V and the Prius C. Including all models, Toyota hopes to sell 220,000 of the hybrids to Americans this year. The smallest of the bunch is the Prius C, which has earned EPA estimates of 53 mpg in the city and 46 on the highway. Priced from the high teens to low 20s, the car sold 1,201 copies in the first three days it was available. That’s more than the Volt and the Leaf sold in all of February.

So it seems U.S. consumers want high-mileage cars with a reasonable price that they can drive anywhere. The only big surprise here is that Toyota is the first one to really figure this out. A $40,000 Volt or a $30,000 limited-range Leaf just don’t fit the bill for most Americans. Neither do ridiculously small cars like the smart fortwo or Scion iQ, which should return better fuel economy than they do, considering their size.

I’ll go on record right now and and say that Toyota won’t be able to make enough of the Prius C. A sub-$20,000 car that gets 53 miles per gallon will hit the right chord with American buyers. My hope is for other automakers to see the success of the Prius family and compete hard with Toyota. Not just with hybrid technology, either, but with small diesel engines in cars the size of the Prius C.

The Prius C, and whatever comes along to compete with it, will be the cars we’ll use to bridge the gap until we find an energy source to replace fossil fuels. Well, until Newt Gingrich gets elected as president and gas prices drop to $2.50 again. Then we’ll forget all about our hybrids, diesels and hydrogen-powered cars and start buying gasoline-thirsty V8s again.

Would you be interested in a $20,000 car that gets 53 miles per gallon?


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  1. Even at sticker the Prius C seems like a great value. Can’t fault anyone for buying one of these, to me it makes more sense than either the volt or leaf. The leaf might work for someone like my wife, who often just drives to work and back, but on the days she has other errands I know I’d have to go pick her up and then have a towing bill. Who wants to deal with that?

  2. You’ll have to pay sticker for these for quite a while, but even the regular Prius is never discounted much. I did make sure they understood that if I must pay sticker, I won’t pay any of those phoney fees (like documentation fees) that they like to charge. I think we’ll gain the most benefit from the car over a longer period of time, so I’m buying outright with no trade in.

  3. @ Randy
    Thanks for sharing your experience. I was concerned about a FWD vehicle in the mountains and hills of my home state which is similar to your home state for snow and bad weather. Since you also have a Trailblazer it shouldn’t be a problem for you. I was also curious about your purchase deal. Did you trade or buy outright? Was the dealer “dealing” or getting close to sticker price?

  4. As you guys know, my family is getting a Prius C and should have it this week. I’ve looked at, researched and driven just about any high-mileage car I could get my hands on over the past year, including Diesels, SMART, regular Prius, and hybrids from other makes. Why did I decide on the C? It all boils down to value. Since I’m now retired and on a fixed income, managing my money is important. Since I don’t need to drive to work every day, comfort and reliability is secondary. And, looking at my family driving since I retired, about 80% of our trips are now what I consider short suburban driving. (moderate speeds, under 10 miles, moderate stops and starts.)

    I never considered a fuel efficient car to be able to pay for itself, and this one won’t. However, it will save quite a bit of cost on fuel (I figure about $250 per month) which offsets much of the monthly cost of the car. It also removes mileage pressure from my 4WD Trailblazer, which we really need for winter trips and to pull our trailer. I figure I can get another five or six years of use out of that vehicle with most of the trips done by the Pruis.

    And in its favor, the I found the Pruis C to be easy to drive, with a reasonable ride and comfort, very easy to park and maneuver, and enough cargo capacity to take our floppy hound dog and go to the local Costco for toilet paper runs. Another plus was the included 2 years of maintenance at no extra charge and Toyota’s proven hybrid system. I too, predict huge success for the Prius C. And Toyota deserves it. Once you start looking at these cars in earnest you can see who is doing it right and who is using hybrid technology to try to beat up customers for more money.

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