First Drive: New Little Toyota Prius Hybrid Puts the 'c' in City
The “c” refers to city, where the new compact hybrid’s use is primarily intended.
Aimed towards urbanite millennials, Prius c offers Toyota’s Synergy Hybrid gas/electric drive technology in a more compact package. Prius c is a “two-thirds” scale model of the original Prius hatchback styled in a small sportwagon design.
The combustion engine component for the Prius c shrinks to 1.5-liters but is still a four-cylinder engine and keeps the Atkinson cycle design complete with DOHC and Variable-Valve Timing with intelligence.
Electric power comes from a smaller motor receiving energy from a more compact Nickel-Metal Hydride battery pack of 144 volts and delivering about two-thirds the energy of its larger Prii family members. Toyota states they chose to remain with the NiMH battery composition for its stability and reliability.
Total power output from the Prius c Synergy Drive system is 99hp. Big brother Prius offers total output of 134hp from both gas and electric motors but the new Prius c weighs about 500 pounds less than the larger car.
The new model can operate in EV mode up to 25 mph and features a 9.5-gallon fuel tank. The transaxle unit that includes the CVT gearbox is now smaller and more efficient as well and there are no drive belts slowing down the Prius c engine – Toyota engineers have given the little guy an electric power steering pump and electric A/C compressor.
The Prius c is the most fuel-efficient of the Prius family and is set to deliver 53 mpg city and 46 mpg highway for a combined EPA rating of 50 mpg. Toyota boasts this is the highest rating for any non-plug-in hybrid vehicle on the market today.
Speaking of plug-in, Toyota says they chose not to give Prius c plug-in technology at launch so they could keep weight and pricing to a minimum and packaging as tight as possible.
The c will carry four adults fairly comfortably but its intended use amongst city dwellers is apparent when taking it out on the open road. Just trying to merge into swift-moving traffic ahead of 18-wheelers will have you seeking attention from a Higher Power – and it ain’t located under the hood.
Around town the vehicle is surprisingly good with good road attributes. Prius c is quiet, especially for a small, boxy unit with an open rear cargo area and offers quite decent handling and braking characteristics.
At launch, Prius c will be offered in four trim levels, numbered accordingly as one, two, three, and (you guessed it) four. The Prius c one is very basic although offers a decent amount of content and is still attractive. Pricing begins at under 19 grand.
Toyota expects the bulk of Prius c sales to come from models two and three, with the three offering such amenities as HD and satellite radio, keyless entry and start as well as Toyota’s Display Audio with navigation and Entune multi-media system.
For comparison sake, Prius c is architecturally related to the Yaris but engineers have stretched body and wheelbase dimensions on the Prius c a few inches in each direction. In Europe, Prius c will actually be known as the Yaris Hybrid.
Toyota Prius models have accounted for 50 percent of hybrid vehicle sales over the past decade and the automaker expects to sell some 220,000 Prii family members this year alone.
The new Prius c should be very well received by city dwellers seeking efficient packaging of versatility and technology and with the continued advancements in hybrid technology it would not surprise me to see a plug-in variant in the near(ish) future.