2012 Toyota Prius C i-Tech Review

Overall Rating

  • Interior

  • On The Road

  • Value For Money

  • See Full Specs

What’s Hot

Small, easy on the juice, plenty of technology.

What’s Not

Fisher-Price interior plastics, expensive light-car purchase.

X Factor

By far the most likeable Prius.

  • Country of Origin
    JAPAN
  • Price
    $26,990 (plus on-road costs)
  • Engine
    4 Cylinders
  • Output
    54 kW / 111 Nm
  • Transmission
    Constantly Variable Transmission
  • ANCAP Rating
    N/A
  • Airbags
  • L/100 km
    3.9
  • C02
    90 g/km
  • Luggage Capacity
    445 L
  • Towing (braked)
    N/A
  • Towing (unbraked)
    N/A
Tony O'Kane | Nov 26, 2012 | 6 Comments

2012 TOYOTA PRIUS C REVIEW

Vehicle Style: Five-door light hatchback hybrid
Price: $26,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 3.9 l/100km | tested: 4.5 l/100km

Slotting in below the third-gen Prius is this, the Prius C.

C for ‘Compact’. C for ‘City’. C for ‘Cool’? Well, maybe. Hypermiling can be its own kind of fun - like, “How low can this thing go?”

But if the Prius C lacks anything in sex appeal, it more than makes up for it in fuel efficiency. In the traffic-choked streets of the inner suburbs, it is this quality that is most appealing.

INTERIOR

Quality: There’s no unnecessary weight anywhere in the Prius C - even in the interior. That means a cabin dominated by plastic surfaces.

While the fit and finish is good, the texturing is coarse and the grey plastic door trims look a bit drab. Switchgear and controls feel durable, and ergonomically things ‘work’, but the centrally-mounted instrument panel can take some getting used to.

We’re also not crazy about the cheap-feeling ‘pleather’ seat-trim of the i-Tech.

Comfort: Trim material aside, the front seats are pretty comfortable, and stayed that way even on a longer two-hour highway stint.

Outward vision is good although over-the-shoulder visibility is compromised by the thick-ish C-pillar.

There’s a surprising amount of rear leg and knee-room, as well as decent under-thigh support from the relatively deep seat squab.

However, with a roofline that’s 55mm lower than the Yaris, there’s a real shortage of headroom. Anyone above average height will find their scalps uncomfortably close to the roof liner.

Equipment: The i-Tech comes with a substantial amount of standard equipment to justify its pricetag. You'll find luxuries like sat-nav, proximity key, reversing camera, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a USB audio input, power folding mirrors, climate control and cruise control.

The Prius C also comes equipped with a comprehensive trip computer, which displays an array of information about the hybrid powertrain and the energy consumed.

Externally, the Prius C i-Tech gets LED headlamps, 15-inch alloy wheels and a larger hatch spoiler.

Storage: Being a compact car, you’d expect a tiny boot. But being a hybrid, you’d expect storage space to shrink further due to the need to accommodate the battery pack.

The Prius C however preserves boot space by mounting the hybrid battery pack under the rear seats, which leaves a decent 260 litre luggage area with the rear seats in place.

In-cabin storage is good, with door bins in each front door, a lidded centre console bin, a proper glovebox, two front cupholders, one rear cupholder, a small storage shelf above the glovebox and a deep recess at the base of the centre stack.

ON THE ROAD

Driveability: The Prius C’s 1.5 litre Atkinson Cycle petrol four-cylinder engine is augmented by an electric motor, and the whole powertrain unit has a combined output of 74kW and 111Nm.

In an era of potent small engines, it’s a little underpowered by modern standards. But, while there’s sufficient urge there for everyday city driving, the Prius C is engineered first and foremost for efficiency.

And in this, its performance is remarkable. Even without attempting to drive in an eco-friendly manner, we managed to see an average consumption of 4.5 l/100km on the trip computer after a week of motoring.

That’s appreciably close to Toyota’s 3.9 l/100km claim, and with a lighter touch on the accelerator and greater use of EV mode, we’ve no doubt the Prius C would record fuel consumption figures in the low fours in real-world conditions.

And in that most frustrating of environments - peak hour traffic jams - the Prius C is in its element, and at its most miserly.

In stop-start traffic, it sips fuel only when the hybrid battery gets depleted or the cabin temperature gets too hot.

When stationary or crawling under light throttle, the petrol engine stays off.

In these conditions, a dedicated electric-only EV mode keeps the internal combustion engine from firing up - but with a range limited to just two kilometres. (And travelling above 40km/h will also cancel EV mode and fire up the petrol engine. )

Refinement: The Prius C is quite noisy inside, particularly at highway speeds. Compared to the regular Prius, road noise, tyre roar and engine noise are quite noticeable.

On smooth city road surfaces it’s fine, but can get overbearing on long jaunts.

Suspension: For the most part, the Prius C handles quite well. With the weighty hybrid battery pack mounted just ahead of the rear axle, it’s weight distribution is relatively even.

Combined with a nice tight turning circle, and responsive steering, it handles quite well around tight city streets and carparks.

Steering ‘feel’ and ride quality could do with some work though. There’s not a lot of feedback through the steering wheel, and sharp bumps can transmit quite a jolt through the cabin.

Braking: The Prius C is braked by discs up front and drums at the rear, as well as a regenerative braking system that converts forward motion into stored electrical energy.

Braking feel is fairly linear for a regenerative system, and the Prius C pulls up easily in an emergency stop.

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: Untested

Safety features: Stability control, traction control, hill-hold assist, ABS, EBD and brake assist are all part of the Prius C’s standard-issue safety suite.

Occupant protection is provided by seven airbags (front, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee), three-point seatbelts for all passengers and pretensioning front belts.

WARRANTY AND SERVICING

Warranty: Three years, 100,000km vehicle warranty. The hybrid battery is warranted for eight years or 160,000km, whichever occurs first.

Service costs: Under Toyota’s Sevice Advantage scheme, the Prius C i-Tech costs $130 per scheduled service for the first three years or 60,000km of ownership. Service intervals are set for every six months or 10,000km.

HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY

Fiat 500 Twinair ($22,990) - Fiat says its tiny 500 Twinair consumes the same amount of petrol as a Prius C, but in practice its 900cc two-cylinder turbo needs to be worked hard and fuel consumption suffers.

It’s a lot more basic than the Prius C and it can’t match the spec level of the i-Tech, while as a two door it’s also far less practical than the Toyota. It is, however, far more eye-catching. (see 500 reviews)

Volkswagen Polo 66TDI ($21,490) - Thirstier than the Prius C with an average fuel consumption of 4.7 l/100km, the diesel Polo is nevertheless a delight to drive and very well-built.

The Polo 66TDI is also much cheaper than the Prius C i-Tech, but optioning up to a similar level sees the retail price for the VW balloon to $25,890 - and you still don’t get sat-nav or keyless entry. (see Polo reviews)

Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

Until Honda’s Jazz Hybrid arrives, the Toyota Prius C sits in a niche of its own. It’s not perfect, but as a commuter car it’s certainly one of the better choices out there.

If you care about reducing your carbon footprint, it is perhaps the ONLY choice - unless of course you have the cash to splash on the $48,800 all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

Around town it will run on the smell of an oily rag, and being able to use EV mode to waft along in peak hour without consuming any petrol at all really does fill you with a sense of smug self-satisfaction.

The price of entry is rather high for a light hatch, we’ll admit, but for its technology, features and hybrid efficiency, there’s more to the Prius C i-Tech than meets the eye. And yes, for a troubled planet, it is both ‘car’ and ‘solution’.

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Filed under: Featured, review, hybrid, Green, Toyota, prius, toyota Prius, japan, 2012, petrol-electric, hatch, automatic, fwd, CVT, prius c, toyota prius c, light, Advice, special-featured, 4cyl, 5door, 5seat, available, toyota prius c i-tech, prius c i-tech, 2012my

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  • riceboy says,
    2 years ago
    Tony, I think you meant Xenon (HID) lights with LED daytime running lights. Only $100K+ German cars get LED lights unfortunately.
    • Tony O'Kane says,
      2 years ago
      3 likes
      Hello riceboy.

      You'll be pleased to learn that the i-Tech does in fact have proper LED headlamps. The trickle-down effect seems to be getting faster these days!

      -Tony O'Kane
      • riceboy says,
        2 years ago
        2 likes
        Wow, you're indeed correct. Sorry for speaking (typing) before I got my facts straight!
  • Mark says,
    2 years ago
    3 likes
    I'm up to 500km in my i-Tech and I'm getting 3.9l/100k without any trouble. Some trips are even better than that. About 240km of that 500km was done in EV mode which it switches to automatically when the power is not required. This even happens above 40km/h as I've seen it in automatic EV mode coasting down a slight decline at 70km/h.
    I've found that the manual EV mode switch isn't really helpful as it disables automatically if you accelerate too hard, go too fast or the battery runs down and it is likely that it would be in EV mode by itself anyway.
    The petrol motor kicks in without fuss when more power is needed but due to the warmup time of the petrol engine when it first comes on you don't get the 3.9l/100k if you do short trips of a couple of km.
  • Mark says,
    1 year ago
    1 like
    First 1000km in the 2013 Prius c, I drive 160 km per day a mix of Highway and city and I am very impressed by the Fuel consumption, average of 4.3 per 100 km. I have driven many large and small vehicles and must say that at this stage this is one of the better small vehicles I have driven. Must agree though that the road noise on the highway is a bit load, however I have driven large cars that are noisier.
    • CAZZO says,
      1 year ago
      First 1000km in the 2013 Prius c, I drive 160 km per day a mix of Highway and city and I am very impressed by the Fuel consumption, average of 4.3 per 100 km. I have driven many large and small vehicles and must say that at this stage this is one of the better small vehicles I have driven. Must agree though that the road noise on the highway is a bit load, however I have driven large cars that are noisier.


      This *JUST* beats a MASSIVE IL6 4L Falcon on LPG

      Can this Prius C tow 2500kg?

      Can this Prius C do the 100kmh in 7s?

      Can the Prius C fit 5 LARGE people?

      ALL THAT MATTER IS $/km, $/km is where its at!

      Go team Aussie!!smile

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