Car and Driver gave the Prius C one star for being an uninspiring car that didn’t really make sense because, when they tested it, it was almost twenty-two grand and gas was averaging 2.6$/gal. But things change when you look at it as a sixteen grand car with gas hitting 3.65/gal.
Full disclosure: Toyota was so eager to let me drive a Prius C that they started selling it in Mexico and caught the eye of a close friend who was eager to lend it to me for a long drive.
It also starts changing when you look at very shortsighted government regulations that treat hybrid vehicles (be it a Cayenne Hybrid or an Insight) like the best thing that could happen to you and the city. The Prius C is a car that otherwise doesn’t stand on it’s own, it needs the enviroment around it to stay alive. It is why I have spent two paragraphs talking about aspects that are mostly outside the car’s control.
Even if the minute 1KW battery pack can only power the car for a mile on electricity alone; it’s enough to give the Prius C an exemption from any road tax or emissions inspections for seven. fucking. years. It is a really good deal!
But really, there’s little to say about this Yaris-based franken-car.
The mechanics of the Prius C are less than impressive, sporting a version of the Atkinson cycle 1NZ-FXE motor with a higher compression ratio than in the previous generation Prius that it used to power. Its a parts bin special... But, really, not that special after you deconstruct it.
The biggest charmer of the Prius C is without doubt the electric battery and motor that try to keep the car moving but fail spectacularly and fall back upon the 4 cyl unit and its CVT. Even when they fail, the way the car is programmed means that you really can’t waste fuel. I drove like an absolute lunatic when I got this Prius C, and it still averaged 30MPG going uphill, and with a heavy foot. Driving equally quickly with my Stinger would’ve yielded 12MPG, albeit, only just touching the pedal.
It really looks like I’m taking a dump on the Prius C but I really, really like this car. It reminds me that it is only a vehicle; a mode of transportation. It is as off-brand, un-special, and functional as Kirkland water bottles.
Because, other than going, stopping, turning, and moving shit, what is a car really? The Prius C does 95% of what I want a car to do; and larger vehicles like my Kia or my grandfather’s Cheyenne are only able to achieve 70-80% of what I want a car to do.
But I should really talk about this car and not those, or the enviroment around it, because it’s actually not that bad to drive.
Even if it torquesteers like crazy, and the brakes are vague; the Prius C is chuckable, and in traffic the electric assist, slender body and quick steering really help it navigate it quite smoothly. The suspension is something I’m surprised about, because it’s very different to the Yaris I get to drive from time to time.
It’s soft, and the car isn’t caught off guard by any pothole, manhole cover, or speed hump; it is honestly the most comfortable car I’ve driven. Granted, the Prius C lacks one of the biggest selling points of any hybrid: silence.
Since the battery pack is so small, the car can’t really drive on EV mode for long; it’s basically reserved for manouvering inside parking lots before and after any journey. The 1.5 engine is very loud though, and the CVT doesn’t really help with that. The newer unit in the current-gen Prius is a significantly better engine, and the extra power is noticeable even if the Prius is much heavier than the Prius C.
But it’s a small complaint compared to the stereo; my headphones seem to have more power than it does. The interior is otherwise OK; it has a regular shifter instead of the Prius, erm, Mouse-shaped joystick? and it’s just all Toyota regular stuff. Surprisingly the interior is almost as large as the one in the Prius, and it could seat four adults comfortably, but has space for a cramped five. The trunk is a lot smaller though... but remains adequate for city dwelling.
Car and Driver compared the Prius C to the Mitsubishi Mirage, and I don’t think that’s very fair; the Prius C is a significantly more luxurious car, it also feels much larger, and it’s probably safer; the only thing they really have in common is the tremendous fuel economy. Really, the only car I’d compare it to is the SEAT Ibiza.
You can get a really nice SEAT Ibiza ‘Xcelence’ for 14,600*-15,750 dollars.... Sure, it’s not a hybrid. But it has virtually the same fuel economy (43 vs 47MPG); and you can buy it with a manual transmission*, handles much more sporty, and it has a little bit more power. This car really is a great deal.
In this scenario; the question becomes much harder (as long as you ignore the environment even if you shouldn’t), If the government didn’t make owning a car such a pain in the ass, buying the Toyota would be ridiculous, but since we live in the real world, and since gas prices are going up, it makes sense to compare them because even with the small amount of road tax, and the similar fuel economy, six or seven years after buying them, the SEAT will be more expensive to run, and since government regulations continue to target ICE vehicles while leaving hybrids alone, the future resale value is uncertain.
It’s a very good question, but not one I have an answer to. At least it’s a step in the right direction.
One of the biggest complains about hybrid cars is that they’re not necessarily affordable. But at the same time that the Prius C is on sale for 16,200 dollars, one of the best selling cars in Mexico remains the Jetta and the CR-V crossover; which can be more expensive than the little Prius C or even its bigger brother.
Which really makes me question whether people have a realistic understanding of what they do with their car. The Prius certainly made me question it, Which is why I loved driving it. It is small, it uses little energy to move me, it fits things, and it’s cheap... What about it isn’t to be loved?
*: MPG data obtained from SEAT’s website in Mexico for the Ibiza, and Fueleconomy.gov for the Prius C.