If you like the compactness and efficiency of Toyota’s Prius C, now might be a good time to secure one in your driveway. It’s unknown how long this particular model, which has been around since 2011, will be available as there have been rumblings about its demise for a few years and sales levels have fallen year-to-year.
The Prius C (the C is for City) is the most compact hybrid made by Toyota. It’s a front-wheel-drive hatchback with a tidy footprint and very little overhang of the body. With a 100.4-in wheelbase on a 162.4-in total body length, the Prius C can fit into spaces its larger brethren would never attempt.
An Absolutely Red 2018 Toyota Prius C Four was waiting at Chicago’s O’Hare airport for the annual trip to Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500 qualification weekend. Although there are many “popsicle” colors available on this car, the red exterior mated with a parchment interior seemed almost subdued. Almost.
Powered, if you can call it that, by a four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle engine making a vacuous 73 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and 82 lb-ft of torque at 4,000, the 2018 Prius C is aided by its permanent magnet AC synchronous NImH motor that emits an additional 60 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque. It all manages to get the Prius C up to speed and keep it going through the city and over the road. A continuously variable transmission does adequate stirring.
MacPherson strut and torsion beam suspensions adorn both ends of this hatchback, while electric power steering allows a 31.4-foot turning circle and has good feel to it. Brakes are a disc/drum combination that is effective in stopping this 2530-pound car. Toyota fits Goodyear P175/65R low rolling resistance tires on eight-spoke, 16-inch alloy wheels that are certainly handsome.
With its creases and folds, the 2018 Toyota Prius C is somewhat unique looking in today’s world of cookie-cutter cars. From its familial front to its upright, hooded rear, this Prius has purposeful imaging to its exterior. Inside of this hatch is, to put it kindly, spartan and showing its age. Still, in the upper reaches of the Prius C model lineup, the “Four” driven here, it has quite a few standard features missing from some competitors.
Mostly, though, the Toyota Prius C shines when the driver has a tight fuel budget. Being able to pack five humans and their gear into this hatch and still receive mileage of 48/43/46 from the tiny 9.5-gallon tank makes the C worthwhile. My mileage over nearly 1,000 miles in one week of travel never fell as low as 43mpg and that was truly appreciated as fuel prices continue to rise.
The cabin of the 2018 Prius C 4 has some very nice amenities. In addition to its proximity key with pushbutton start/stop that allows the fob to remain in-pocket, it has a tilt/slide sunroof, heated front seats, Toyota’s premium EnTune audio system that includes navigation on the 6.1-in touchscreen, 3.5-in TFT multi-information display with selectable screens, LED fog lamps, backup camera (mandated by law) and XM/Sirius satellite radio on the 6-speaker system.
There were only two options on this hatch, body side moldings and carpets throughout the vehicle that adjusted the list price to $26,293 from $25,860. That might seem a lot for a fairly spartan vehicle like the 2018 Toyota Prius C Four, but this is a very livable vehicle and, if you’re not a snob, you can get awesome mileage and enjoy the many features inside and out.
The dash on this Toyota is at the center of the car and is totally digital. There’s no true speedo, tachometer or temp gauge, but there is a digital fuel gauge. Still, there’s plenty of relevant info to be had on the upper dash area, such as mph, time, average speed, total drive time, EV use, miles to empty and two trip odometers.
Toyota’s safety suite includes nine airbags, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure alert and automatic high beams – but no auto lights – on this model. It all works well. This model didn’t have any safety scores from the government, but the IIHS has given it “good” scores across the board.
All Toyota Prius C models come with LED headlights and tail lamps, automatic climate control, power windows, locks, engine immobilizer, cruise control (using a separate stalk) and split folding rear seats that can increase the 17.1 cubic feet of covered storage under the hatch. There are cubbies, cup holders for storage and a small, covered bin between the front seats. On the front passenger side there is a shelf area that holds USB and auxiliary plugs; the 12V plug is near the central cup holders.
The app suite includes controls for navigation, audio, phone, messages, economy, setup, traffic, weather and maintenance. The nav screen shows phone signal and battery level in the upper righthand corner, which is always nice to have. No wireless charging though.
The steering wheel controls audio and simple-to-pair phone on the left and trip controls on the right, along with lane departure. The radar cruise control can be adapted with to change following distance. There are many hard plastics on this car and only the driver’s window is one-touch (appreciated with so many Chicago-area tolls). Rear passengers have a single cup holder. Truly spartan.
Although Toyota did make some minimal updates for the 2018 selling season, the Prius C Four hasn’t changed much since its introduction. To many that would make it past its prime but for this driver, this vehicle’s simplicity in operation is a plus, not a minus. It’s a very straightforward hybrid hatch, gets exemplary mileage and delivers its occupants in safety. It’s not fancy but doesn’t pretend to be. It’s a good, honest car.
Words and Photos By Anne Proffit