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Road Test: Prius C

By Stan Washington | 1/17/2014, noon
The “baby Prius” which is what I call Toyota’s Prius C shows potential but it still has a lot of ...
2014 Toyota Prius C
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2014 Toyota Prius C

The “baby Prius” which is what I call Toyota’s Prius C shows potential but it still has a lot of growing up to do. The vehicle was first introduced in 2012 and there have been minor changes since its debut.

This entry-level hybrid vehicle which is smaller than the regular size Prius, is probably a good way to introduce students to the “green” auto movement, but for as it being your primary or secondary vehicle, I would think twice about it.

If you are over six feet and 220 pounds you are going to find the Prius C uncomfortable and cramped. The same goes for the rear seats for adults, but small children and average height teens should be able to cope. Expect slow acceleration from the 1.5-liter four- cylinder gasoline engine. The engine is paired with two electric motor/generators that produce 99 horsepower. You won’t be selling any wolf tickets at the red light with the guy driving the Mini Cooper in the next lane.

The gas engine drives the wheels and also charges the nickel-metal hydride batteries. The batteries are recharged during braking.

Expect a lot of wind noise during highway driving. Sure you can get use to it if you keep the volume from the radio pumped up or if you put in your earplugs to listen to your sounds. But be forewarned: This is a not a long road trip car. This is your slightly above average Point A-to-Point B vehicle.

The interior won’t win any awards. It reminds you of an interior that could have been designed by a committee from one of the old large American automakers teams from the 1970s or 1980s. There is just a little too much plastic which gives the vehicle a real economy feel.

The most impressive aspect of the Prius C is of course, its mileage. EPA estimates gives it an average of 53 mpg highway and 46 mpg city with a combined mpg of 50. Expect to get somewhat less than that based on your driving habits. Annual fuel cost is estimated at $1,050.

Although, it will not raise your heartbeat when you get behind the wheel, the C is right for urban driving and gets two thumbs up for handling, but the ride can be harsh over less than smooth roads.

The Prius C comes in four trim levels numbered from 1 to 4. The higher the number the higher the available features. Basic features on Prius C One 15-inch wheels, height-adjustable driver seat, sound system control on the steering wheel, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, Bluetoot phone and audio streaming, USB/iPod interface and automatic climate control.

During my test-drive of the Prius C, the one comment I received the most was about its bright orange paint job. “They will see you coming in that?” was the typical comment.

The Prius C is ready for some hard running city errands and you will be pleased how gentle it will be on your gas budget.