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Far more than just a 50 mpg econo-box

A new type of car doesn’t come along every day. In a market that’s already saturated with vehicles, it’s not easy to dream up something entirely new. It’s yet another challenge to execute it successfully and build that concept into a car people actually want.

Is it any good? Will people and should people buy it? That’s what we traveled to the land of the Prius (aka Southern California) to find out about the newest addition to the Toyota dedicated hybrid lineup, the Prius c.

NOT JUST ANOTHER SUB-COMPACT

It may not be a game changer, but the smallest Prius is in a class of its own. True, there are already plenty of sub-compacts, there’s even the Yaris in Toyota’s own lineup, but it’s unfair to classify them in the same group for one particular reason: fuel economy.

As a Prius, the c gets outstanding numbers with a 50 mpg average rating. Other economy machines may boast 40 mpg stickers, but that’s just on the highway and a combined rating comes closer to 33 mpg. The difference between the two is significant – 34 percent. If a car had 34 percent more horsepower than another, you’d never think of comparing them.

As a Prius, the c also delivers as promised. In fact, it does better, with fuel economy during out initial drive often above the claimed 50 mpg rating. We had hoped for a higher figure than that of the Prius, especially considering the car’s significantly reduced weight, coming in at over 500 lbs less than the Prius liftback at just around 2,500 lbs., but there are known engineering challenges to overcome in order to achieve that. Of note, how the Prius c achieves that combined number is quite different than the regular car, with a higher city rating of 53 mpg and a lower highway rating or 46 mpg. The combined total may be the same, but for the target urbanite buyer real world fuel economy should be better.

SMALLER PRIUS STILL OFFERS PLENTY OF FUNCTIONALITY

Down-sized in all ways over the conventional Prius, including being 18 inches shorter in length and 2 inches less wide, the Prius c also makes use of a smaller engine. Shared in size with the second generation Prius, it’s a 1.5-liter unit, compared to a 1.8-liter in the current Prius, and makes use of smaller electrical components as well. In fact, the battery pack has been reduced in size to the point that it will now fit under the rear seat, freeing up the rear hatch area. As a result there’s 17 cu-ft of space in the back – though it does seem smaller. Plus, the rear seats fold down, although not exactly flat.

An efficient use of gas and space, the Prius c was designed to fulfill several other criteria in order to appeal to a target audience of urban gen Y types and millennials including: style, technology, driving enjoyment and price.

Decidedly more bubbly than the styled-by-a-computer Prius liftback, the c still has enough of a unique look to please. But style is as much about how a car looks as what it says about you and in that respect just having the Prius badge will help this car sell. Those looking for added excitement will also be pleased with a fun palette of color choices, ranging from Blue Streak Metallic to spicy Habanero.
Read the complete 2012 Prius c review and watch the VIDEO review at AutoGuide.com
 
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