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Auto Show:  2012 Detroit Auto Show

2012 Toyota Prius c: Detroit Auto Show

author photo by Nick Palermo January 2012
  • "c" stands for "city," where this hybrid achieves excellent fuel economy
  • Generous standard equipment includes iPod- and Bluetooth connectivity
  • Pricing starts below $19,000

It's hard to believe that fourteen years have passed since Toyota first introduced the hybrid Prius. The green motoring standard-bearer is now in its third generation and was recently joined by the wagon-like Prius v. Before a plug-in version also debuts early this year, a subcompact hybrid called the Prius c made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show. This latest member of the family is a five-door hatchback that's considerably smaller and lighter than the other Prius models.

The "c" stands for "city," and its tight dimensions and excellent economy are ideally suited to urban driving. Toyota expects to find young city-dwellers eager for the Prius c thanks to its green credibility, generous standard equipment and relatively low base price.

EPA estimated city fuel economy is an excellent 53 mpg, the highest among non-plug-in vehicles. Facilitating efficiency is a Hybrid Synergy Drive system that is smaller and lighter than the setup found in larger Priuses. The c uses a 1.5-liter gasoline engine that, along with the electric motor, produces 99 horsepower. Use of high-strength steel allows reduced weight in the body structure, too. Overall, weight is considerably lower, 542 lbs lighter than the lift-back Prius, contributing to better fuel economy and reduced emissions.

Drivers select one of three drive modes - normal, eco and EV. Eco mode modulates energy used by the climate control system and adjusts throttle responses to promote efficiency. The EV mode allows the Prius c to go up to one mile in pure electric mode, provided speed is kept below 25 mph.

The base price for the c will be under $20,000, and standard equipment like automatic climate control, tilt-telescope steering wheel with audio controls, multi-information display, remote keyless entry and Bluetooth hands-free functionality sweeten the deal. Four trim levels are offered, with options like Toyota's Display Audio with Navigation and Entune. It combines a 6.1-inch touch-screen with HD and satellite radio, voice recognition, smartphone-based multi-media functionality and real times news, weather and information. Optional alloy wheels are available in 15- and 16-inch sizes.

The Prius c will be available this March, with the Prius Plug-in Hybrid also debuting early this year. With two million units sold worldwide since the Prius's introduction, the new models may help Toyota to maintain its position as the premier brand of hybrid automobiles, just as more and more automakers are joining the competition.

What it means to you: The subcompact Prius c, a hybrid five-door hatchback, is rated at 53 mpg in the city and hits dealers this March.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2012 Toyota Prius c: Detroit Auto Show - Autotrader