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Toyota Prius C: The newest in the Prius family will help you “C” Green

Recently, due to the popularity of its Hybrid Prius model, Toyota decided to expand the family by adding three new models, the Prius Plug-in, the Prius V (as station wagon style Prius), and the model I have been driving recently, a 2013 Prius c. This model has been specifically configured to increase your gas mileage while driving under city conditions (traffic and stoplights). As a matter of fact, the design works so well that, in 2012, the car had the highest City Fuel mileage of any vehicle without a plug, with an EPA-estimated 53 city/46 highway/50 combined mileage. Of course, your actual mileage will vary.

According to national car sales numbers there has been a downturn in hybrid vehicle purchases. The general consensus is that, even though gas prices are going up, buyers feel that the premium charged for hybrid vehicles is so high, and gas mileage in standard gas powered cars has gone up enough, that the savings are almost non-existent. Prius-C Toyota recognized this trend, and to combat it, released the 2013 Prius c with a base price of only $19,080 MSRP, which puts it in line with other compact high-gas mileage gas only cars.

Like its sibling, the well-known Prius, the Prius c comes in 4 versions, cleverly named One, Two, Three, and Four. While there are a few dealer installed options, such as body molding, and paint protection, the majority of options are available in one of these four packages. 

Package One is, of course, the base model, yet it still comes with Bluetooth® connectivity and a USB port to connect your iPod®/iPhone® or other MP3 player. Model Two adds Cruise Control and a 60/40 split fold-down rear seats (a must if you need to carry more than 5 grocery bags, or three small suitcases in the trunk). The most popular version is Model Three, which adds the Entune® Navigation system and the Smart Key System, with push button start.

Finally, Model Four adds heated power mirrors, alloy wheels, fog lights, and Toyota’s new SofTex® (softer than leather and won’t crack) heated front seats. The best part is that the difference in MSRP between the One and the Four is only about $4000, so you can easily upgrade for about $1200 per level.

Keep in mind, though, that this is not a luxury car. Any part that carried extra weight, such as power seats, a full arm rest, and even the integrated garage door opener was removed.  But, when you are trying to get 53 miles per gallon, a few sacrifices are more than acceptable. 

The wheel base of 100.4 inches, allows for an amazing turning radius of 31.4 ft. This means that it is actually possible to turn this car around on a slightly wider than normal 2-lane street. Because of this, most people immediately jump to the conclusion that this car is small and its dimensions (56.9” high, 66.7” wide, and 157.3” high) re-enforce this, but don’t be fooled. Because the trunk has been reduced to a small area under the hatch (a total of 17 cubic feet), this car has quite a bit of space in the passenger compartment. 

As the ultimate test, I forced a 6’2”, 300lb friend to ride in the back seat, with the front seat pushed all the way back.  Although his knees did, just barely, touch the seat in front of him, he was reasonably comfortable, and, with just a little adjustment of the front seat, had just as much room as in any full size car. According to Toyota, the Prius c has 35” of leg room in the back (more than most airplane seats), and almost 52” of shoulder room across the back seat.  

The Prius c comes with a full set of nine airbags as well as traction control, stability control and anti-lock brakes, all standard, and received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Top Safety Pick Award for 2013.

As I mentioned earlier, for such high gas mileage, there must be a few sacrifices. I think that Toyota did a very good job in choosing the things to be given up in favor of a few extra MPG. Nobody should expect the Prius c to be a sports car, and it isn’t, but it excels at city driving, and will get you up to highway speeds before you have to get off of that entrance ramp, most of the time.  

The one main issue I had with the car, which has been noted on all models in the Prius family, is the unfortunate lack of power accelerating up hills.  This is, of course, caused by the small engine, coming in at combined electric/gas rating of 99hp. I have several highway on-ramps in the area that angle upwards to the highway, and, at least in fuel saving mode (called ECO mode by Toyota) the car struggles up the hills every time. Fortunately, Toyota included a button in the center console to turn off ECO mode, which adds just enough power to get the car moving when necessary.

Overall, the Prius c is surprisingly enjoyable to drive, roomy, and, for those of you who like to be bold, even comes in bright orange (Habanero). Also keep in mind that IntelliChoice gave the Prius c the 2013 Lowest Maintenance Cost Award, the 2013 Retained Value Award, and the 2013 Lowest Operating Cost award.  Expect to see many more of these cars on the road in the coming years, as gas prices keep rising. And, if Toyota keeps paying attention to the market and offers more variety (anybody interested in a Prius Crossover SUV?) I think they will continue to rule the hybrid market, and for good reason.

Michael Rebman, based in Dallas, has been a free-lance writer and photojournalist since his first submission to Humpty Dumpty Magazine at age 6.

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