2013 Toyota Prius cPosted on February 14th, 2014
Urban-oriented hybrid hatchback
By Nina Russin
The Prius c, based on the Yaris platform, is the smallest member of Toyota’s pure-hybrid family. The idea is to offer young urbanites an affordable alternative to the original liftback that’s versatile, yet easy to park on the street. Pricing starts under $20,000 for the base model. The subcompact Prius c has a 100.4-inch wheelbase: about six inches shorter than the midsized liftback.
Its 2500-pound curb weight makes the ‘city’ Prius over 500 pounds lighter than the liftback, contributing to its 50 mile-per-gallon fuel economy rating. Power comes from an Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine and electric motor yielding 99 net horsepower, mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission.
There are four available trim levels. The test car is the upscale Four, priced from $23,360. Options include fifteen-inch alloy wheels with a sunroof, a security system and carpeted floor mats. Final MSRP, including the $795 destination charge is $25,589.
Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona
This week I drove the Prius c on surface streets and highways in the Phoenix, Chandler and Scottsdale, Arizona metropolitan areas. I was anxious to see how well the subcompact Prius would function in an area known for high-speed roads.
Unfortunately, the car’s small engine was not well suited for the challenge. This was most noticeable in a lack of low-end power, translating to poor acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging onto highways.
I found myself having to be more conservative than normal when merging into dense traffic. Power on the high end was less of a problem
Drivers can choose between three performance modes: a normal or default setting, eco and pure electric. The pure electric mode operates at low speeds only. The eco mode modifies throttle mapping and shift points to extend gas mileage. Because of the lack of engine power, I did not engage the eco mode.
The electric power steering system saves weight and space under the hood, and also makes the hatchback exceptionally maneuverable. The Prius c’s 31.4-foot turning circle makes it easy to park in tight spaces.
The suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear axle. Solid rear axles are typically not problematic in subcompact front-wheel drive cars, simply because so little of the vehicle weight is over that axle.
However, in the case of the Prius, the nickel-metal hydride battery pack is positioned underneath the second-row seat, right above the rear axle. This becomes quite noticeable when the driver brakes hard. During hard braking, the front end of the vehicle tends to dive, after which the back of the car settles into place. In this case, I could hear the back end of the car clunk every time I hit the brakes hard. I don’t know that this is a safety issue, but it is unpleasant.
Braking consists of discs up front and rear drums. Although most of the braking occurs over the front axle, I prefer four-wheel discs. Drums tend to retain water in wet weather that can result in uneven stopping, and they are harder to service.
Visibility around the perimeter is good. The Prius c does not come with a rearview camera, but I didn’t find it particularly difficult to back out of a parking spot. The view out the front of the car is clear, and I had no problems monitoring vehicles in adjacent lanes on the highway.
As with other members of the Prius family, there is more road and engine noise than with traditional Toyota products. Engineers were more concerned with containing curb weight than sound insulation, hence the additional noise.
Designers did an excellent job with interior packaging, giving the subcompact hatchback room for four adult passengers and their luggage. Due to the car’s short wheelbase there isn’t an abundance of legroom in the second row, but most adults should be fine, at least around town.
The upscale model comes with keyless entry and start, allowing the driver to open the door and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket.
Unlike other Prius models that utilize a small shift knob on the instrument panel, the Prius c has a traditional shift lever on the floor. However, there is plenty of storage space for both rows of passengers to stash small electronic devices, purses, backpacks, cups and bottles.
A USB port near the glovebox enables the driver to plug in a music stick. The test car also comes with Bluetooth streaming audio and satellite radio as standard equipment. Standard Toyota Entune enables the driver to use the car’s head unit to access apps from his smart phone including Pandora, Bing, iHeart radio, MovieTickets and OpenTable.
I really appreciated the car’s low lift-over height when loading larger items into the back. There was enough room with the second row seats in place for some luggage and the weekly groceries.
The Toyota Prius c comes with nine standard airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring and daytime running lamps.
The Prius c received a four-star crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Like: A stylish hybrid hatchback priced for first-time car buyers with exceptional fuel economy. Toyota’s hybrid synergy drive system is among the most reliable hybrid technologies on the market.
Dislike: Lack of power, especially off the line. Torsion beam rear axle feels clunky.
Model: Prius c
Base price: $23,360
As tested: $25,589
Horsepower*: 73 Hp @ 4800 rpm
Torque: 82 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 53/46 mpg city/highway
Comment: Horsepower and torque ratings are for the gasoline engine only.2013, Green Hybrid, Urban 2013, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Toyota
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