The name Toyota Prius is one that resonates. Introduced in 1997 and exported to the world in 2000, the Prius became one of the first mainstream hybrid vehicles. In the early 2010s, Toyota added two members to its hybrid family, the Prius v, family-sized, and the Prius c, the city dweller.
Nowadays, the name remains a staple of the hybrid vehicles segment with the recent addition of the Prius Prime, the plug-in hybrid variant. While the Prius v didn’t survive the test of time, the tiny Prius c has secured its place as a full-time member of the Prius family. For now at least.
The model is running into the ninth year of its current platform. It underwent a few aesthetic updates in 2015, then again in 2017. Don’t be fooled by its youthful looks: there’s been no major overhaul or platform upgrade since, which makes the Prius c elderly by automotive standards. Recurring facelifts won't hide its age much longer, not in an industry that's pressed fast-forward on the development of clean technologies.
Despite its venerable age, the Prius c remains efficient in its mission which is to provide urbanites with an efficient and versatile means of transportation. You get all the goodness of Toyota’s hybrid technology packaged in an easy-to-park format. That and only that is what the Prius c aims to do and it does it well. If you expect more, you might want to change your shopping parameters.
The tiny 1.5L, four-cylinder block is teamed with a nickel-metal hybrid battery and a CVT. It produces an anemic 99 horsepower, a rare sight on today's market where most models now break the 100hp ceiling. The result is a very fuel-efficient and feet-dragging performance.
Due to its Earth-saving sensibilities, I can forgive the Prius c for being so lazy. Being environmentally friendly requires sacrifices. That being said, hybrid doesn’t have to rhyme with boring at all costs as I've been able to experience in other hybrids I've tested. Should Toyota decide to show its tiny hybrid a bit of love and give it the thorough upgrade it deserves, a little power boost wouldn’t hurt.
The car has an electric-only feature, which is particularly useful in heavy traffic situations. Transitions between the gasoline and electric powertrain are seamless, the car balances the two very well. I ended my week of (mainly) city driving with a fuel economy average of 5.0L/100km, a speck below Toyota’s advertised numbers. There’s something utterly satisfying seeing the 900-plus km range show up on the dashboard when you turn the car on — a feeling only hybrids can give you.
On the inside, the car is as you expect it to be for the price point. There are a lot of glossy plastic surfaces — a treatment that enhances the material’s let’s call it “entry-level” quality. Despite the vehicle’s size, space has been efficiently organized so it’s small but not cramped. Seating at the back is snug but for short commutes, a few extra passengers will find a place to sit, as long as they don’t mind keeping each other warm.
The cargo volume behind the second row of seats is respectable for the sub-compact segment and while a lot of the potential volume is reduced due to the cargo area’s elevated floor, the space is easy to use nonetheless.
While the Toyota Prius c does everything a hybrid car does very well, I think it’s most interesting feature is its (relatively) small price tag. The model hooks you up with a competent hybrid technology for as low as $22,260. It’s is also the last-surviving sub-compact hybrid out there with the competing Ford C-Max axed from the segment earlier this year.
Compared with the other hybrids currently offered on the market, the Toyota Prius c feels undeniably dated but there’s no beating the price point.
Model: 2019 Toyota Prius c
Engine: 1.5L, four-cylinder, nickel-metal hybrid battery, 99 horsepower
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission (CVT), front-wheel drive
Length: 4,060 mm
Width: 1,715 mm (without mirrors)
Wheelbase: 2,550 mm
Weight: 1,147 kg
Price: $22,260 base, $28,966.70 as tested, including freight
Standard equipment: Traction Control System, Hill-start Assist Control, Cruise Control, Keyless Entry, Brake Assist, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Smart Stop Technology, Auto High Beam, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, Air Conditioning, Automatic Temperature Control, Bluetooth Capability, Advanced Voice Recognition, 6.1-inch Display Audio, Steering Wheel Audio Controls, Backup Camera, Power-Adjustable Heated Mirrors