in 2012 Hatchbacks

Avg. Price Paid: $15,381 - $16,614
Original MSRP: $18,950 - $23,230
MPG: 53 City / 46 Hwy
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2012 Toyota Prius c Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

With an engine and electric motor that make a total of 99 horsepower, car reviewers say the 2012 Toyota Prius c is undoubtedly underpowered. But with its good fuel economy ratings, regenerative brakes that aren’t as mushy as the ones in other hybrids and accurate steering, reviewers think the Prius c is definitely a car that fuel-conscious shoppers will be pleased with.

  • "While not exactly geared for stoplight-to-stoplight shootouts, the Prius C proved fully capable of coping with both urban commuting and freeway cruising duties." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "So the Prius C looks like fun. Once the shifter is settled into D and things start moving, however, you begin to realize that no matter how much Toyota wants you to think this isn't your momma's Prius, it still is. That's not a terrible thing, since a Prius drives the way it does because it's focused on fuel efficiency." -- Autoblog

Acceleration and Power

The Prius c has a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a 45-kilowatt electric motor. Compared with small gas-only cars, the engine and electric motor’s combined rating of 99 horsepower is pretty low, but for a hybrid, that number is average. The Civic Hybrid, for example, has a combined horsepower rating of 110, while the Honda Insight makes 98 horsepower. Still, reviewers say the Prius c’s low horsepower rating takes a toll on the driving experience because the Prius c is particularly sluggish traveling uphill and getting up to highway speeds.

The Prius c has very impressive EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings. It gets 53/46 mpg city/highway, which are the highest fuel economy ratings among small hybrids and the highest city ratings for any vehicle without a plug.

There are three driving modes: Normal, Eco and EV. When the Prius c is in Eco mode, it uses less fuel by monitoring the climate settings and throttle. In EV mode, the Prius c can go a little less than a mile on electric power if it’s traveling slower than 25 mph.

  • "And despite its lightness and its sporting pretensions, the Prius C can feel even more lugubrious than its 99-hp net rating might indicate." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "… 11.5 seconds. That's how long Toyota says the C will take to reach 60 miles per hour, but the little hybrid doesn't even feel that quick." -- Autoblog 
  • "The Prius c's tiny engine strained going up steep hills - as do many subcompacts. …" -- Cars.com
  • "Acceleration is slow, but the C's power is perfectly acceptable for around-town driving and getting up to highway speeds." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

Many reviewers say the Prius c’s handling and braking abilities aren’t bad for a hybrid. With the optional 16-inch wheels, test drivers say that steering is firmer, though they also make the Prius c’s turning radius larger than reviewers expect from a small car, and produce a bumpy ride. Without the 16-inch wheels, car reviewers think steering isn’t as sharp, but say that the Prius c is still capable of navigating city streets.

Reviewers are also impressed with the Prius c’s regenerative brakes. They aren’t as mushy or grabby as the ones on other hybrids, and they almost feel like the brakes you’d find on comparable gas-only cars, which reviewers say is a good thing.

  • "The regenerative brakes are particularly impressive, having shed most of the sponginess that hampered earlier systems, leaving only a hint of grabbiness during stop-and-go traffic." -- Automobile Magazine  
  • "If you buck up for the C4 model, you can opt for wider 16-in. alloy wheels … and a quicker steering ratio. While we wouldn't call it a sport model, it pleasingly firms up the feel through the steering wheel, although your turning radius is mildly increased." -- Road and Track
  • "As for its other dynamic qualities, the Prius C's electric power steering provides decent feel and body roll is remarkably well controlled in corners." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "However, its oddly brittle ride quality -- sometimes degenerating into a snare drum drumroll -- was. Toyota needs to find a compromise between this and the bigger Prius Liftback's excessively mushy motions." -- Motor Trend 
  • "Steering was less sharp in the other Prius c models, with much more play in the steering wheel. While I wouldn't call any of the trims a fun car to pilot through twisty roads, they're more than adequate for the typical commuter." -- Cars.com

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