2018 Toyota Prius c Review
Isaac Bober’s 2018 Toyota Prius c Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Toyota’s entry-level hybrid is aimed at bringing fuel efficient motoring to urban dwellers.
2018 Toyota Prius c
Pricing from $24,040+ORC Warranty three-years, 100,000km Safety five-star ANCAP (2014) Engine 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol; electric motor Power 74kW (combined) at 4800rpm Torque 111Nm at 4000rpm Transmission CVT Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 4050mm (L) 1695mm (W) 1455mm (H) 2550mm (WB) Boot Space 260 litres Weight 1140kg Spare Space Saver Fuel Tank 36 litres Thirst 3.9L/100km (claimed combined)
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BILLED AS AUSTRALIA’S “most affordable hybrid car” Toyota’s Prius c copped a revision in late last year (August 2017) that brought tweaks to the interior and exterior, more equipment for the money and a stiffer body. In the entry-level Prius c this saw a price rise of $590 compared to the old car, now listing at $24,040+ORC.
What is the Prius c?
The Prius c sits in the micro car segment which means it’s up against the likes of the Mitsubishi Mirage (from $12,250+ORC) the Peugeot 208 (from 22,190+ORC), Renault Clio (from $15,990+ORC), Skoda Fabia (from $16,490+ORC), Mazda2 (from $14,990+ORC), the Kia Rio (from $16,990+ORC), the Honda Jazz (from $14,990+ORC), and many more. What I’m trying to get at is that the Prius c is playing in an incredibly crowded segment with some absolutely cracking cars…the Prius c is hoping the fact it’s the only hybrid in the segment will win over buyers and maybe it will, but many of its competitors are also sippers when it comes to fuel consumption.
There are two trim levels of Prius c, the entry-level and the Prisu c i-Tech variant which lists from $26,540+ORC which is a $30 price increase on the old car. Both vehicles get an improved sat-nav system and Toyota Link connectivity as well as a larger 4.2-inch multi-information display (up from 3.5 inches) and the Prius c now shares the i-Tech variants steering wheel with controls for the MID.
While you might not notice it, the refreshed Prius c is longer than the old model at 4050mm (up by 55mm) while the snout has been pushed 40mm further forward and stretching the rear spoiler to create a more fluid-looking shape. There’s a new grille and you can differentiate the top-spec i-Tech via a chrome bar running across the upper air intake, there’s a new bonnet and new fenders too. Tweaked headlights are halogen on Prius c and LED on i-Tech. Both models have redesigned LED rear combination lamps.
The refreshed i-Tech model gets new-look 15-inch alloy wheels with “dynamic machine-finished graphics and painted ripple-shaped sections”. There are two new exterior colours, solid Hornet Yellow and a premium Aquamarine. Our test car was in Hornet Yellow and it’s quite possibly the most amazing yellow paint job I’ve ever seen. No matter the weather, the car beamed like a lighthouse…you’d never lose it in a dimly lit carpark.
What’s the interior like?
With a focus on reducing fuel consumption and the fact the Prius c is clearly a micro car, the doors are feather light to open and feel a little dinky when you close them. You certainly don’t get the premium thunk of, say, a Volkswagen Polo.
Once inside the Prius c the refreshed interior looks modern with more soft-touch materials featuring as well as a re-designed single-zone climate control and LCD display now grouped into what Toyota describes as a ‘floating’ structure with a Piano black surround. The interior doesn’t feel premium, there’s just too much brittle plastic and thin carpet for that, but it doesn’t feel cheap either.
The front seats are quite broad with very little support either in the base or the side of the seat but the Prius c is a commuter car and so that’s fine. Longer drives are not its forte and I found myself becoming wriggly and uncomfortable after one 100km stint; around town they’re fine, though.
There’s a real sense of space in the front of the car thanks to the floating-style dashboard and there are enough storage places that you can stash your phone or house keys, coffee cups or water bottles without too much hassle. The infotainment screen isn’t huge at 6.5-inches and the system, despite being upgraded feels a generation behind everything else on the market. Toyota has doggedly refused to include Apple and Android connectivity (this will change) and while you can connect your phone via Bluetooth or USB, the inability to use maps off your phone and instead rely on the native system is frustrating. More than that, the infotainment system isn’t overly feature rich. With my phone connected, I found browsing for a different podcast to be very tricky and it would even, occasionally, refuse to find my phone; the car needed a hard restart before it would register.
Using Bluetooth, and this is something I’ve found with other Toyotas, although it could also have something to do with my carrier, but call quality for the receiver is generally poor, sounding muffled and tinny.
Over in the back seat there’s enough room for two adults or three teenagers in a pinch. The back seats aren’t super comfortable and there are no rear air vents and no power outlets. With the front seat adjusted to suit me I clambered into the back seat and had enough legroom, foot wriggle room, head and shoulder room.
The boot isn’t very big offering just 260 litres of storage space. You can fold down the back seats, but the space isn’t as versatile as the rear storage you get in, say, a Honda Jazz with its ‘magic’ seats. Underneath the boot floor is a space saver spare.
What’s it like on the road?
The Prius c petrol-electric hybrid powertrain offers a maximum of 74kW at 4800rpm and 111Nm of torque at 4000rpm, this is a combination of a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor. It’s mated to a CVT and claimed combined fuel consumption is 3.9L/100km but I could only manage 4.5L/100km in my time with the Prius c.
As the numbers suggest, the Prius c isn’t a rocket ship. Peak power and torque arrives high in the rev range and the CVT isn’t one of the best examples of its breed. To be fair, I live up at the top of the Blue Mountains which required the Prius c to do a lot of hill climbing. Because fuel economy is the name of the game, the Prius c really needs to be poked and prodded to keep up with traffic on the highway or on hills; it needs to be revved hard and when it is, the small motor ends up becoming thrashy and the CVT really slurs.
Ask the Prius c to work in its comfort zone, meaning at a maximum of 80km/h and it’s a little more refined if not overly enthusiastic. The transmission and powertrain, in general, are more comfortable between 0-80km/h. The aim with the Prius c is for the petrol motor to switch itself off when the car is stationary, coasting, braking or when it’s reversing and you can watch that happening via the display on the dashboard which shows when you’re using the battery, the battery and motor or when the battery is being replenished.
Now, the aim with the Prius c is that you can use the electric motor to save on fuel and emissions when you’re creeping in traffic or when you’re starting off. And that is indeed what happens in the Prius c, but for me the experience was less than convincing. See, I live on a hill and, even with the battery at full capacity the petrol engine would cut in moments after moving away from the kerb and, if you’re driving at more than a creep then generally the petrol engine will be working.
Indeed, even once I’d pressed the EV Mode button to try and force the car to use the battery, and the battery was full, a display came up saying that EV Mode was “currently unavailable”. I can only put this down to the fact that I was driving up a hill and that there was just too much load on the battery…at another time, a little beep told me the petrol engine had taken back over of proceedings when I was creeping in traffic
What about the handling? Well, again, around town the Prius c feels fine. But away from town its suspension feels underdone, banging and thumping as it struggles to cope with anything but the smallest of bumps in the road. There’s a lot of body roll in corners and while the body is stiffer than it was, thanks to additional spot welds, it still feels flimsy when the surface of the road breaks down or you roll across a speed hump…and you still get a ripple through the car on harder hits. The steering feels quite slow and there’s no feel through the wheel at all. The brake pedal too feels quite spongey and the brake energy recuperation feels non-existent compared to something like the BMW i3 (yes, I know one’s a pure EV) which is virtually a one pedal car.
The Prius c isn’t the eco warrior it could be. It’s battery set-up is inefficient; I couldn’t even get a few hundred metres out of it before the petrol engine was needed. And the ride and handling is behind almost every other car in the segment.
What about safety?
The Prius c was last tested by ANCAP in 2014 and it received a five-star rating, but I find it hard to believe it would get one if tested now. Sure, it’s structural performance in the 2014 crash test was good, but a lack of active safety features put the Prius c behind many other vehicles in the segment. It gets airbags, traction and stability control and seatbelt reminders, a reversing camera and that’s about it.
So, what do we think?
Unfortunately, despite the refresh in late 2017, the Prius c doesn’t feel any better than it did when it first launched here back in 2012. The Prius c will likely be reliable but it’s three-year warranty is not confidence-inspiring, not when you consider Peugeot offers a five-year warranty. The Prius c isn’t a great example of the hybrid breed and isn’t particularly enjoyable to drive.