(Contributing Editor: Tomasz Paluch)

 

HYBRID VEHICLE RIDDLE: When is a Prius easier on the eyes and the least expensive gas electric hybrid car sold in America today?

 

Answer: When it is the 2018 Toyota Prius C. The “C” stands for “City,” congested and parking constrained environment for which this subcompact car is well suited.

 

Facing recently introduced affordable ground-up gas-electrics such as Hyundai Ioniq and Kia Niro, the Toyota Prius C is still undercuts them all at the cash register.

 

Placing Toyota’s 2nd best selling gas-electric hybrid on the Roadblazing.com / ChicagoNow.com “Drive…He Said” Budget Subcompact Hybrid Vehicle scoreboard.

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Must Haves:

Low M.S.R.P:

from $21,535 (incl. destination) for a CVT automatic 2018 Toyota Prius C One . The test vehicle was a top trim 2018 Toyota Prius C Four = $26,293 M.S.R.P.

Low transaction price:

Check Toyota.com & Toyota dealers for their extensive purchase, finance incentives.

Current retail fuel prices, adjusted down for inflation, are still comparable to mid 1980’s prices.

Sufficient capacity, Versatile use of space:

Ample girth, well padded front bucket seats; Tall rear bench > TNGA Prius Gen. 4 legroom, though moon roof shaves scalp-room; 8 bottle / large beverage cup holders; Front / rear door storage = modest / none. Under hatch cargo area = 3 carry-on suitcases, w/o swing up parcel shelf; 60/40% split near-flat folding rear seat backs; Sliding padded center armrest.

For Comparison’s Sake: 2018 Toyota Prius C rear legroom & trunk volume vs. Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid = -7.0″-inches, -28%

Class average, superior overall fuel economy:

50 miles per gallon in combined driving, 430 mile highway range on 87 octane unleaded fuel. Electric operation = 20% of energy use

For Comparison’s Sake: 2018 Prius C combined fuel economy = 7% > Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid ;  11% < Toyota Prius Two Eco

NiMH battery parallel series hybrid power (HERE’S AN EXPLANATION):

Traction motor delivers brisk low speed torque; Lower battery capacity  = frequent gas engine supplemental & charge firing; Continually Variable Transmission lacks stepped sensation; Gas engine works hard at freeway speeds

Acceptable ride/ handling

Front strut/ lower arm + rear torsion beam arranged for taut compliance, filtering most minor divots; Narrow tires grip well prior to onset of sway induced understeer; Steering assist emits heft and linear windup; Initial front disc/ rear drum brake pedal reaction slow.

Fitting & Finished:

All Pri-i = center upper dash rectangular dual digital instrument screens, including trip meter, real-time energy flow video and plethora of fuel efficiency menus. The mid center stack heart-shaped gloss black bezel houses the convenient infotaiment display with crafted twin dials; Below that is Toyota-ified upward canted climate control.

The Prius C Four’s light grey perforated leatherette seating = an oasis in an otherwise desert of dark complected hard panels, and pliability only where elbows rest; Some interior panels like the glovebox door = large uneven gap; Freeway engine drone and wind noise drown out the hi-fi.

Solid build, O.K. warranty, +1 Initial maintenance:

5 year / 60,000 miles powertrain; 3 year / 36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranties; 8 year / 100,000 miles hybrid components; 2 yr. / 25k mi included maintenance. Over 1.5 Prius C’s have been produced since 2011;

J.D. Power ranks Prius C rates a 5 out of 5 in initial quality rating for mechanical dependability .

Styling = crossover aspirational:

Full vehicle dark lower body & wheel well cladding + simulated front and rear skid plates = Crossover Aspirational; Pointy Prius nose less so w/ wrap around front fascia containing integrated deep lower trapezoidal grille;  Darkened straked front corner inserts, dark spoked alloy wheels & integrated roof spoiler; Lower door sculpting flares toward rear quarters. Vertically flat liftgate; Signature tall vertical tail lamps.

Generous standard equipment set:

Standard: Power windows (driver’s express), door locks; Automatic climate control w/ pollen & dust filter, Dual vanity sun-visors, Tilt & telescoping steering wheel, Front overhead map lights;

Good safety feature set & ratings:

6 airbags (incl. driver’s knee), Rear view camera w/ park guidance grid, Toyota Safety Sense-C: Lane departure alert, pre-collision warning & city braking, automatic high beam headlights.

IIHS: Front/ Side / Small Frontal Overlap = Good/ Good/ Acceptable

 

Making Life Easier Behind the Wheel:

Bi-LED projector headlamps

LED tail lamps

Automatic climate control

Bluetooth handsfree phone, SMS & audio connectivity

Steering wheel horizontal spoke audio & voice command controls

Cruise control (Prius Two and up)

Touch infotainment display: 6.1″-inch Entune touch LCD display FM/AM Audio with USB, Aux, I-pod, streaming inputs, 6-speaker 160W audio, advanced voice recognition, Siri assist;

USB x 1 ports, 12V x 1 power ports

Modest front center stack wireless device storage

60/40% split folding rear seat backs (Two and up)

 

Nice To Have:

Keyless entry (smart access, Three and up)

Push button start (Three and up)

Heated front seats (Four)

Heated mirrors (Four)

Entune Premium audio touch display, HD radio, weather, traffic & native GPS HDD navigation, Sirius XM radio (90 days complimentary) (Three and up)

Power moonroof (Four)

 

Wish It Had But Doesn’t:

-1: Lacks Scout GPS Link navigation app compatibility

 

Which to Skip, Which to Pick:

Prius C Two brings preferred cruise control & split folding rear seat to the table. If native GPS navigation and comfort keyless access / push button start is required than Prius C Three is the choice.

 

Buying Tips:

1) Try locating an outgoing model year vehicle. They come with greater manufacture incentives.

2) Do Your Homework.” Scour manufacturer websites for “Rebates“, “Incentives” or “Special Offers.”

3) Be flexible on options and colors. Be willing to consider what other consumers would typically pass on.

4) Inquire with new car dealers about renting a similar model service loaner vehicle for an extended test drive.