On the face of things, I wonder whether younger types, not particularly known for their environmental bent, but who are targeted here, will go for the Prius C, particularly when there is now available a wider array of fuel-sipping conventionally powered rides.
But that's just philosophical mumbo-jumbo when sales are promising right out of the gate—which is the case here. Toyota's five-door hatchback, the newest member of the Prius clan of hybrids, is doing well since hitting stores mid-March. In fact, the company is said to be ramping up production.
Coming in at 500 pounds lighter than a regular, 2,500-pound Prius, the C has shed heft all around. The battery pack, electric motor, gas engine, et. al. are all either lighter, smaller or both. Power-wise, that shrunken gas engine also makes 25 fewer horses, not that I truly noticed. Same for the reduced-size electric motor vehicle, which produces 20 fewer ponies. I do not think Prius types buy these cars with spillover juice in mind, as long as there's no apparent, and annoying, laboring. So, okay, the C takes an extra beat to figure out what the throttle's told, but acceleration is fine. Trust me, I've been in much worse.
Overall the C seems pretty well balanced, where driveability is concerned.
I found handling to be decently sprightly, particularly when maneuvering to stay ahead of looming rush-hour traffic. Toyota is hoping for a "fun" experience, though, but I won't go that far, especially when in "Eco"- land, which does maximize fuel savings but also chills out the throttle. EV mode helps keep the car in electric-only mode longer at low speeds, which lets you drive the C in quiet and gives you more hybrid control. You've got to enable this mode though, and only when the energy monitor says its a go.
Aesthetics? I like those of the C better than the standard Prius. In fact, I think a general knock on green vehicles is the apparent dictum that they be, er, rather homely. Heavily borrowing from the 3G, the C, though, looks closer to a regular car. It does have a rather aerodynamic silhouette - particularly from the front - which renders superior driver visibility. In the rear, the cabin tapers for decreased wind resistance.
Inside? No grousing here, particularly in terms of space (cargo, too). My lithe frame fit just fine and my, ah, wider test-drive mate reported similar sensations. Enough rear leg room. Instrumentation is logically placed and, for a hybrid, mostly easy to use. The speedometer is near the driver's side in the center of the panel, reducing the need for driver eye movement. I'm not big on the myriad ways in which you can real-time gauge your driving economy, although plenty will be (guessing many of them dudes, the gender anecdotally biggest on such goal gratification).Storage spaces, including cup and bottle holders, are aplenty, as are airbags and protection structures.
There are four trim levels, the first one offering, among other things, Hill Start Assist Control, projector-beam halogen headlamps, four-speaker audio, Bluetooth, and rear-window wipers. Number two adds cruise, a tonneau cover, for the cargo area, a six-way driver seat, split fold-down rear, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel, and six-speaker audio. The third level contributes nav, liftgate with push button start, while the fourth adds higher-quality and heated front seats, alloy wheels and foglamps.
Okay, so, numbers are the thing, and here two sets that matter: a combined 50 mpg, and a starting price of under $19,000.
For many of the budget-conscious young people Toyota's after, dollars are the only "green" that matters.