An evolution is taking place within the Toyota Prius lineup, most recently with the introduction of their Prius c (city), which occurred earlier this year. It’s the smallest Prius, and is the fourth model that the company currently makes available. Toyota brought me an orange one to test last week, or at least that is what it looked like. The color is Habanero, named after a chili pepper of the same hue. The paint, which is metallic, received a split vote at our house; I liked it and Ruth didn’t.
Toyota had two goals in mind when they started production of the Prius c, and they were to offer it for under $20,000, and to insure that it got 50 miles per gallon. It is basically a redesigned Yaris with a hybrid power train. The power comes from a 1.5 liter, four cylinder, 73 horsepower aluminum engine with 82 lb. ft. of torque. It is coupled with an electric motor with 60 horsepower, and the total hybrid system horsepower is listed at 99. A continuously variable automatic transmission puts the power to the front wheels. It’s OK to drive, although certainly not as perky as the regular Prius with its 134 horsepower system or even a Yaris with its 106 horsepower. Trips both north and south out on Interstate 25 were not terrifying – I had the cruise control and power enough to stay out there with the glut of traffic associated with that artery.
On the northbound trip to Cheyenne, I obtained a combined 55.2 mpg on the round trip with the Prius c. Ratings on the car are 53 city and 46 highway, and 50 combined. This is the information that Toyota wants you to contemplate when you consider the window sticker on the Prius like I drove, which is $26,140. It’s way over twenty grand because it’s the “four”, upgraded model with leatherette SofTex (black) buckets, moon roof, navigation system, push button starting, in-your-pocket keyless entry, tilt/telescope, satellite radio and 16”, eight-spoke attractive alloy wheels. Toyota installed Bridgestone P195/50R16 Turanza EL400 all-season radials on the car, and I liked them fine.
In a departure from Prius custom, the c has the shifter on the console of this car, an improvement in my mind. The hand brake is there, as well, and those front buckets proved comfortable for me and Ruth. My daughters from Denver jumped in the back for a ride around Northglenn, and they had no complaints either. The cargo area equals 17.1 cubic feet (it’s a hatchback – no trunk lid to cap off your cargo), and the nickel-metal hydride, 19.3 KW battery resides under the 60/40 fold-down back seats.
Styling is different than the big brothers in the Prius lineup, and includes huge, 23” rear taillights and no lower tailgate window. The reconfigured Yaris body style is an improvement, and up front they’ve installed fog lights and projector-beam halogen headlamps.
“Evolution Orange”, by the way, was a song by Earth, Wind, and Fire from their 1982 R & B album, “Raise!”. It was a middling number on that album among hits, and perhaps the Prius c will suffer the same fate, what with shoppers opting for a used, traditional Prius. Or they may like the looks as much as I did and go for the “little fella”.