I think I’ve spent my fair share of time with some of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the market today. In the past year alone, I have had the pleasure of driving the Ford C-Max, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, the Volkswagen Passat TDI, and even the new Chevrolet Cruze 2.0TD. Between the hybrids, the diesels, and the super-efficient conventional vehicles such as the Kia Rio5, it’s safe to say I’ve experienced quite a bit. Even still, the 2013 Toyota Prius C I spent a few days with was a bit more special.
The majority of the car-buying public these days associates the term “hybrid car” with the Toyota Prius. Rightfully so too, because the economical little Prius has made a big name for itself within a growing community of hypermilers and environmentalists. The smallest of the Prius family, my little Prius C was often confused with the Yaris. It’s easily mistaken considering the two are on the same platform, but obviously this little-engine-that-could has the Hybrid Synergy Drive system that Toyota is well-known for.
Not exactly the fastest vehicle on the road, the Prius C proudly sacrifices speed and acceleration in exchange for astounding fuel mileage both in the city and on the highway. Its 1.5L 4-cylinder engine coupled with the electric motor puts out a combined 99-horsepower. Mated to a CVT transmission, the small hatchback gets to where it needs to go smoothly and steadily. I must make a confession here – I am a true gearhead and would gladly sacrifice fuel economy for speed and brute power. This hatchback is extremely practical and very efficient, but petrolheads like myself don’t typically buy them.
My daily commute consists of mostly highway driving. That being said, I spend the better part of my morning sitting on the 401 during rush hour, averaging speeds between 25 and 30 km/h in stop-and-go traffic. This is where the Prius C truly excelled. It was able to stay in EV mode for kilometers at a time, which made my wallet quite happy. I saw numbers as low as 3.8L/100km at times – truly unheard of for larger and thirstier hybrids. Even the Honda CR-Z we tested back in the spring couldn’t return numbers this good. The overall average throughout the test week for the Prius C was 4.8L/100km, particularly satisfying considering it only requires regular 87-octane fuel.
Toyota considers the Prius C their affordable subcompact city hatchback, the much-improved answer to a question that they had already answered with the Yaris. Its Hybrid Synergy Drive system makes precise calculations and knows when to switch from EV mode to using the engine based on throttle input and brake usage. Alongside regenerative braking, one of the pioneer systems in the class is still one of the most sophisticated and efficient systems on the market.
Our tester came equipped with the Technology Package, which adds things like a 6-speaker sound system, navigation with SMS-to-speech, automatic climate control and USB input. The regular Prius C already comes with an intelligent key system, projector headlights, and the usual power options. Things missing that I would have liked to have include automatic headlights and slightly wider tires, although I do understand that different tires would have an impact on fuel economy.
At an as-tested price just over $23,000, the Toyota Prius C is very good value. In fact, it’s in a segment by itself – it’s the only 4-door compact hybrid on the market right now at its price point. The Honda CR-Z comes close, but it’s missing the practicality of two rear doors and rear seats. You really do get a lot for your money with the Prius C, especially considering it has Toyota’s reputation for reliability behind it. For a little urban runabout that gets phenomenal fuel mileage and leaves barely any carbon footprint, this little red hatchback is pretty great.
2013 Toyota Prius C Gallery