Tuesday, November 12, 2019

(updated 4/5/12)

We can finally get a new Prius for under $19,000 ($18,950 + delivery cost – dealer discount). At 50 miles per gallon (mpg) overall, you can face down record gasoline costs with fewer trips to the pump. The newest member of the Toyota Prius family went on sale on March 12. This new compact Prius uses the same fuel-efficient hybrid Synergy drive as its classic midsized cousin and is at least $4,000 less expensive to buy.

Prius continues to be the world’s best-selling fuel-efficient vehicle, with more than 3.5 million vehicles sold worldwide.  Since its U.S. introduction in 2000, Prius – when compared to the average car – has saved American consumers an estimated $2.93 billion in fuel costs, 1.1 billion gallons of gas and 16.1 million tons of CO2 emissions estimates Toyota. IntelliChoice selected Prius as the Best Overall Value Passenger Car of 2012.

The Prius has been so successful that Toyota has expanded it into a family of four Prii: the Prius Liftback, the new compact Prius c, the larger Prius v crossover SUV, and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid.

New Generation of Toyota Prius Drivers

Toyota hopes that the new Prius c will find favor with younger shoppers seeking a smartly designed, fuel-efficient compact car packing advanced drivetrain and in-car technology including:

  • The highest rated city fuel economy estimate of any vehicle without a plug*; 53 mpg in the city, and 46 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 50 mpg
  • The most accessible Prius will feature a starting MSRP below $19,000 with proven hybrid powertrain and premium technology
  • Electronics including a standard 3.5-in. full color TFT multi-information display, hands-free phone capability, USB port with iPod® connectivity, and available Display Audio system with Navigation and Entune™

The Prius c is smaller and lighter than the midsize Prius Liftback with 19.1 inches less length (157.3 vs. 176.4 inches OAL) and 542 lbs. less weight than the Prius Liftback (2,500 vs. 3,042 lbs.).  The Prius C is more roomy than some compact hatchbacks, but compared to the midsized Liftback the “c” has 7 less cubic-feet of passenger room and 5 less cubic-feet in the luggage area.

In adapting the Hybrid Synergy Drive to the smaller Prius c platform, each of the system’s major components were re-designed to reduce weight, scale, and improve efficiency.





Curb weight

2012 Prius

176.4 in.

58.7 in.

68.7 in.

106.3 in.

3,042 lbs.

2012 Prius c

157.3 in.

56.9 in.

66.7 in.

100.4 in.

2,500 lbs.

The Prius c will be available in four trim levels offering desirable features, equipment, and enhanced capability giving consumers a compelling value proposition. Prius c provides many standard features such as automatic climate control, tilt-telescopic steering wheel with audio, climate, Multi-Information Display and Bluetooth® hands-free controls, and remote keyless entry with illuminated entry among a long list of standard equipment.

Prius c Hybrid Synergy Drive Propulsion

The Prius c’s effective packaging design strategically locates key drivetrain components within the chassis to help optimize interior space and handling.  The compact gasoline engine, transaxle and power-control unit are optimally placed within the vehicle to help enhance weight distribution and lower the center of gravity.  In addition, the hybrid battery and fuel tank are positioned together beneath the rear seat, ideally distributing their mass within the wheelbase to improve weight distribution to help enhance handling. By locating the battery and fuel tank below the rear seat, the Prius c is able to offer 104 cu. ft. of interior volume (87.4 cu. ft. passenger volume, 17.1 cu. ft. cargo volume).

The Prius c’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system integrates the operation of components that include a gasoline engine, an electric motor within a Continuously Variable Transaxle, a nickel-metal hydride battery, a power control unit (inverter), a DC-DC converter, a step-up converter and a hybrid control computer. The hybrid control computer governs the seamless application of gasoline engine and electric power depending on driving demands and selected drive mode.


Gasoline Engine

Engine Output

Electric Motor Output

Total System



1.8-liter, four-cylinder, Atkinson cycle with VVT-i

98 [email protected] rpm

105 [email protected] rpm

80 hp

(60 kW)

134 hp

(100 kW)

Prius c

1.5-liter, four-cylinder, Atkinson cycle with VVT-i

73 [email protected] rpm

82 [email protected] rpm

60 hp


99 hp

(74 kW)

The Prius c relies on a SULEV (Tier 2 Bin 3) rated 1.5-liter in-line, four-cylinder gasoline engine that utilizes an Atkinson cycle to increase efficiency. This engine produces 73 horsepower and 82 lb.-ft. of torque, contributing to a total hybrid system output of 99 hp.

The Prius c’s hybrid system utilizes a 144-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack that has been located under the rear passenger seat, near the center of the vehicle, and low in the chassis to help improve the center of gravity.

Prius c offers three distinct drive modes: Normal, Eco, and EV mode.  Eco mode reduces overall energy consumption by governing climate control and throttle to improve vehicle efficiency. Under certain conditions, the EV mode allows the Prius c to be driven solely by electric power for a short distance (under 1 mile) while remaining below 25 mph.

Hybrid Car Improved Handling and Safety

The Prius c’s body structure makes extensive use of lightweight, high-strength steel to help reduce vehicle mass and improve fuel economy. The strategic use of high-tensile-strength steel contributes to the vehicle’s ability to absorb and disperse impact energies helping enhance occupant safety. The high level of torsional rigidity afforded by the Prius c body structure allows the suspension to be more optimally tuned for ride and handling.

The front suspension uses a Macpherson strut design, and the rear rides on a tuned torsion beam. The coil-spring and shock-absorber characteristics of the Prius c have been tuned to enhance handling, flat turning, and smooth ride comfort.  Prius c is available with 15- or 16-inch wheel-and-tire combinations.  The 15-inch wheels are available in steel with wheel cover for base model or in aluminum alloy for elevated trim levels. Prius c models equipped with the available 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels enjoy enhanced handling thanks to a faster steering ratio (2.28 turns lock to lock), which helps quicken the vehicle’s dynamic response.

The Prius c is equipped with nine airbags strategically located to help protect the driver and passengers in the event of certain types of accidents.  The new 2012 Prius c, like all Toyota models, is equipped with the standard Star Safety System™, which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Smart Stop Technology (SST).

Youthful Exterior and Interior Design

The Prius c exterior design helps project a fun, youthful attitude for this all-new addition to the Prius family, while offering excellent aerodynamic performance. Extensive aerodynamic features were engineered into the Prius c to help achieve a 0.28 coefficient of drag. Adding character to this subcompact, the Prius c’s lower-body styling is wider below the beltline, featuring sculpted rear flares to help express a sturdy, athletic stance that communicates a more agile driving experience.

The Prius c’s available exterior colors include vibrant hues that are unique and expressive. The available colors for Prius c include three new colors – Habanero, Moonglow, and Summer Rain Metallic – along with Blue Streak Metallic, Absolutely Red, Black Sand Pearl, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Classic Silver Metallic, and Super White.

The Prius c interior design seeks to create a space that is futuristic yet passenger friendly.  Using black as a basic interior color, the door trim, seat surfaces, and instrument panel feature treatments in lighter colors to help create contrast.

Display Audio and Connectivity with Entune®

The 2012 Prius c will offer three audio system configurations. A base audio system features either four or six speakers, depending on the model, and includes AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod® connectivity, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, and music streaming via Bluetooth® wireless technology.

The Display Audio with Navigation and Entune™ has six speakers and augments capability with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, SiriusXM™ Satellite Radio capability (with 3-month trial subscription to XM Select package), HD Radio™ with iTunes® tagging, and advanced voice recognition. Toyota’s Entune™ multi-media system functions through select smart phones’ interface that brings applications such as Bing and Pandora® to the vehicle audio display. It also features real time information such as traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports, and stocks.

Buyers Can Test Drive Alternatives

Toyota Prius Liftback gives you midsized room, over 30% more horsepower, 5-seats, more options, and more cargo starting at $4,000 than the Prius C. It still delivers 50 mpg combined and commands a premium at resale.

Honda Insight is an alternative compact hybrid that has been selling for a few years. It only averages 42 mpg and is a bit less roomy than the new Prius C. You may be able to save at least $1,000 with the Honda Insight.

Volkswagen Golf Diesel gets 42 mpg on the highway and only 30 mpg in the city. The new diesels are an excellent alternative for those who mainly drive at freeway speeds, but they lack the fuel economy and regen of hybrids in the city. You might save a bit or spend more than a comparable Prius C.

The new fuel-efficient gasoline engines give you a number of choices at over 30 mpg combined that allow you to get a well-featured hatchback without the added initial cost of the 50 mpg hybrids. Choices include the Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, and Ford Fiesta.

With the Prius C, you are likely to save thousands in fuel over the life of the car and do well at resale time.

John Addison is the founder of Smarticd and continues to occasionally contribute to the publication. He is the author of Save Gas, Save the Planet and many articles at Smarticd. He has taught courses at U.C. Davis and U.C. Santa Cruz Extension and has delivered more than 1,000 speeches, workshop and moderated conference panels in more than 20 countries.


Chris April 2, 2012 at 10:33 am

Less than $19,000 how? MSRP is $19,710 on the Toyota web site and these cars are so popular they’re not making deals. It looks like a great car but though, I test drove one and my girlfriend ordered one.

John Addison April 5, 2012 at 7:54 am

Chris, thanks for the feedback about dealer pricing. I just checked the Toyota website. Model One is listed at $18,950. Add delivery cost and we probably have the same numbers.


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