Road Test : Toyota Prius C
Review by Tristan Tancredi - 18 July 2012
The Toyota Prius has surprisingly been around since 1997 when the Japanese released the first model, yet it was not until 2011 that Toyota branched out with both the Prius c and Prius v models.
The Prius c was unveiled in January 2011 and released on Australian shores in April this year. That's a long time between drinks. We have been chomping at the bit for nigh on 16 months to get to drive the c base, and by golly, it's well worth the wait.
Smaller, sleeker and sexier than the base model Prius and the Prius v, the c base is a hatchbach that masters the art of fuel efficiency. Utilising Hybrid Synergy Drive Technology, the Prius c seamlessly coordinates both the battery and a 1.5l petrol engine.
Let's get one thing straight, the Prius c can't be compared to a Suzuki Swift Sport or an Audi A1 Hatch on performance, purely for the fact it is not a sports hatch. Five minutes behind the wheel and anybody, motoring enthusiast or not, will realise this fact. It's a slow car that is perfect for day-to-day transport to your city job. Not the kind of car to take down the Great Ocean Road for a fun driving experience (Max power of 74kW).
Behind the wheel and the pros outweigh the cons. A great seating position and a peaceful cabin ambience overcome some of the nagging issues with the c Base. A few of the nagging issues include: The CVT transmission battles to adjust when sufficient force is placed on the accelerator, especially on hills. This translates to the engine letting out a struggling moan. Prius' shouldn't make such noises.
Despite somewhat light steering, we found that the car handles well enough and provides the driver with a sufficient feel for the road.
Toyota claims fuel consumption figures at 3.9 litres per 100kms. We managed 5.1 litres throughout our time with the Prius. Either way, trips to the local 7-11 are far and few between, (unless you have regular cravings for dirty microwave chicken burgers).
EV mode and ECO mode are alternate, more conservative driving options available with the flick of a switch. We'll go through those modes in more detail in the Engine Section.
The brains at Toyota gathered one day and declared their Numero Uno priority for their Hybrid Range was Efficiency. The Prius Hybrid system combines a 1.5 Litre Atkinson Cycle Petrol Engine with an electrical motor in what is classified as Hybrid Synergy Drive Technology.
Hybrid Synergy Drive Technology seperates itself from the Hybrid competition by allowing the individual power units to drive the car independently or in tandem. For example the battery will drive the car when meandering along in traffic or at low speeds. Get above around 40k's and the petrol engine will kick in to assist.
That's basically what EV mode is in a nutshell. EV or Electric Vehicle Mode enables the Prius to run on the battery alone for short stints and at low speeds. Pushing the EV button when stationary or when travelling at low speeds will enable the car to run on the battery alone and help conserve fuel.
Everyday driving will charge the battery, so you need not worry about having to charge the battery. Thank God for that.
Toyotas objective was efficiency. Mission Successful.
The car is noticeably different to previous Prii (The agreed plural of Prius, Figure that one out).
It is smaller, a whopping 265 kg lighter and I must admit, a much nicer looking car than the regular Prius. 15 inch steel (alloy for the i-Tech) deliver a compact style fused with an urban feel.
Rounded aero-efficient corners, front fog lamps, a rear spoiler and UV cut glass windows all combine to deliver a headturning, fuel efficient Prius c Base.
Crash testing has yet to be completed by ANCAP for the Toyota Prius c Base.
Every year since 2004, the Toyota Prius has received a 5 star ANCAP safety rating, so if I had a Tom Waterhouse account, i'd be putting money on another 5 star rating. But hey, you know what they say about people who assume (or have Tom Waterhouse accounts).
The Prius comes loaded with Seven SRS airbags including side, curtain and a driver's knee airbag. It also comes standard with ABS, Hill Assist Control, Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Control.
A Minimum Intrusion Cabin System whereby "the car's structure is designed to absorb impact and disperse its energy during an accident", rounds out a very safe and reliable car.
A respectable amount of space up front paves the way for plenty of in-car comforts. Included in this is plenty of storage pockets and an adequately sized glove box.
The Prius we were rapped to have for a week, meshed a concoction of black and grey (off white) inside the cabin. A neat transfer of both colours really paid off for this reviewer as the splashings of colours all seem to merge together brilliantly. The indented criss-cross lines along the front dash and the blue glinted gearknob were the cherries on top.
Comfortable, ergonomically designed fabric seats continued the fresh blend of black and "off white". The seats offer satisfactory lumbar support that are adjusted via electrics. There is plenty of leg room for both front and rear passengers and a 60:40 rear seat split offers valuable cargo space.
The 6.1 inch touch screen positioned on the console takes centre stage within the Prius c and provides easy access to all multimedia functions including radio, bluetooth and navigation* (only in the Prius c i-Tech).
Follow the screen down and you reach the climate controls. A large (some say too large) scrolling knob is hard to miss when fumbling to raise the temperature on cold, wet mornings. And importantly, even the climate control is fuel efficient.
When one of the funniest men in the world and one of my biggest idols (alongside Ricky Gervais) drives a Prius, it must be a good car, surely? That man is none other than the brains behind Seinfeld and the star of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David.
If Larry David drives a Prius, then so shall I. Granted he doesn't drive the c model, a Prius is still a Prius. And yes, the Prius is the same car that Brian from Family Guy pretentiously drives around in.
The car runs smoothly and efficiently, albeit a little slowly. The cabin is comfortable, stylish and spacious. And above all else, the car is ridiculously safe.
The Prius c is available at a bargain MRP of $23,990.
* Prices are manufacturer list prices only, for the drive away price please contact your local authorised Toyota dealer.
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