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2012 Toyota Prius C Review

MPG-o-Matic 2012 Toyota Prius C Review Summary:

The 2012 Toyota Prius C is known in other countries as the Yaris Hybrid. Toyota chose to capitalize on the strong cachet of the Prius brand in the United States, by dropping the Yaris nameplate. Whatever you call this pint-size five-door, it’s the most fuel stingy four-passenger vehicle sold in America, when measured dollar-for-dollar. (The Prius C starts at $18,950, while the full-scale 3rd Gen Prius starts at $24,000.) If you have plenty of road to cover, with much of it at lower speeds and in traffic, the Prius C will slash your fuel bill by a considerable amount … even more so if you make the effort to drive it properly.

The 2012 Prius C is powered by a Hybrid Synergy Drive System that incorporates a 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine and a permanent magnet AC synchronous electric motor that produces a net 99 horsepower (HP) and 125 foot pounds of torque. The Prius C is front-wheel-drive (FWD) and uses an electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT).



The official fuel economy estimates for the 2012 Toyota Prius C are 53 city / 46 highway miles per gallon (MPG), with an overall average of 50 MPG. These estimates are conservative. Toyota touts that the C (which stands for “City”) delivers the “highest rated city fuel economy of any vehicle without a plug,” and we cannot quibble. This one lives up to its promise, and then some.

We traveled over 650 miles in our Classic Silver Metallic review unit and cruised past the official mileage estimates, with an average of 52.75 MPG on the Interstate highway and 57.8 MPG combined with temperatures ranging from the sixties through the high eighties. Our Interstate fuel economy testing encompassed four loops.

Interstate Mileage Testing:

  • Cruise control set to 68 MPH, A/C off, windows up: 52.8 MPG
  • Cruise control set to 68 MPH, A/C off, windows down: 52.4 MPG
  • Cruise control set to 68 MPH, A/C on, windows up: 49.2 MPG
  • Cruise control off, target speed 60-72 MPH, A/C off, windows up: 56.6 MPG

Interstate highway testing temperatures were in the low to mid-eighties.

The sprint from naught to sixty was covered in a hair under eleven seconds … not too shabby, considering this little critter’s fuel efficiency.

The ride is a bit stiff – as you would expect from a vehicle with a short (100.4 inch) wheelbase – but not punishing. This is a highly-efficient and affordable transportation appliance, not a cushy luxury sedan. Handling is more than adequate and gliding silently through traffic is quite pleasant (especially when considering the $5,000 sticker price savings over the 3rd Gen Prius).

The 2012 Prius C is available in four trim levels – as designated by the rather plain One, Two, Three, and Four labels – with One as the entry level. We tested a Level Three car, with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $21,635.00.

Levels One, Two, and Three are fitted with 15-in. steel wheels / wheel covers and P175/65R15 86H tires. 15-in. 8-spoke alloy wheels with P175/65R15 86H tires are optional on Level Three. 16-in. 8-spoke alloy wheels with P195/50R16 83V tires are optional on Level Four. Our Level Three test unit was equipped with the standard steel wheels, wrapped with Bridgestone Turanza EL400-02 (Standard Touring All-Season) tires and was delivered with under 2000 miles on the odometer. (We found the tester’s Turanzas to be noisy and would consider switching to the higher-rated Bridgestone Ecopia EP422 or another low-rolling-resistance tire when it comes time to swap rubber.)

When driven conservatively, highway driving range is very good, despite the small tank capacity. The 2012 Prius C is fitted with a 9.5 gallon fuel tank and is designed to run on regular unleaded gasoline.

The braking system consists of power-assisted ventilated front discs and rear drums. All models carry a 2,500 pound curb weight. The Coefficient of drag (Cd) is 0.28.

While the center-mounted TFT Multi-Information Display (MID) does draw the eyes away from the road a bit, you’ll need to get comfortable with it, in order to extract the maximum miles from every gallon. The MID provides cruising range, trip distance, outside temperature, hybrid system indicator and advanced data (ECO Score / ECO Savings / EV Miles Driven) along with instant and average fuel economy info. Our extended test-drive video goes into depth on how to best use the digital display to achieve optimal gas mileage results.

The stop/start system shuts the engine down and reignites at traffic stops, with little fanfare. It takes practice to ease away from a dead stop using just the electric mode. You won’t want to do this with traffic behind you, however, lest you infuriate those drivers with your stingy fuel-saving ways. In practice, its best to squirt away from a stop, then let off once you’ve achieved cruising speed. The Prius C will happily glide under electric power at speeds into the low forties, when driven carefully.

The Prius C’s interior is a step up over the Yaris. Level One is spartan, with fabric-trimmed seats and a 4-way adjustable driver’s seat. Levels Two and Three step it up with two-tone fabric front seats and 6-way driver’s seat adjustment. Level Four includes SofTex-trimmed heated front seats. All models include keyless entry, but Levels Three and Four use a Smart Key system to automatically unlock the front doors and liftgate.

All models include hands-free Bluetooth, along with USB and audio input jacks. Display Audio with Navigation and Entune is standard in Levels Three and Four, with a 6.1-in. touch-screen, and six speakers in six locations. Unfortunately, Bing and the Entune apps (iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com and OpenTable) were not compatible with our older iPhone 3G, so we could not test them. There is only one twelve-volt outlet.

A power moon roof is available in the Three and Four models. The rear seat provides 38.6 inches of headroom (37.0 with moonroof) and 35.0 inches of legroom. Although Toyota markets the Prius C as a five seater, those three rear seat passengers will need to be less-generously sized. All models with the exception of Level One include 60/40 split fold-down rear seats with adjustable headrests. There’s 17.1 cubic feet of cargo area, easily accessed from the rear hatch.

All-in-all, the 2012 Toyota Prius C is a clear choice for folks that value total economy, with a well-implemented hybrid system that promises a $7,100 fuel cost savings over five years, when compared to the “average new vehicle.” The smaller size and significant price difference between the Prius C and 3rd Gen Prius make this an ideal city vehicle.

Warranty Information:

New Vehicle Limited Warranty –
8-year/100,000 mile coverage on traction battery/specific hybrid components.
3-year/36,000 mile basic coverage
5-year/60,000 mile power train coverage
5-year/unlimited mileage perforation coverage

– by


2012 Toyota Prius C

4.7
Daniel Gray
2012-07-105

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10 comments ↓

#1 fpmorales on 07.06.12 at 1:55 am

Thanks, that was helpful.

#2 K H-W on 07.07.12 at 1:42 pm

Thanks for that review. I’m still hoping you can get a Scion iQ to review sometime. I’ve pretty much narrowed my shopping list down to either of these two cars. I’m not sure I need anything as big as the Prius C, plus it is quite a bit more expensive than the iQ…

#3 mpg-o-editor on 07.07.12 at 2:47 pm

@K H-W – Sure thing! We just had an iQ out for testing and will be posting a review in the coming weeks. The iQ is great for maneuvering tight spaces, but the Prius C was so much more pleasant, versatile, and fuel-efficient. Look at the total number of miles you’ll drive over the lifetime of the new car, then do some quick computations. You might consider the Yaris hatchback, as well (Since the Prius C really is a Yaris) as well as the Fiat 500. For me (subjectively speaking), it’s Prius C/Fiat 500 > Yaris > iQ …

#4 K H-W on 07.08.12 at 10:07 pm

Thanks, I’ll be watching for that review!

#5 K H-W on 07.09.12 at 7:53 pm

BTW, my current car is an older Yaris hatchback, and I actually think of it as too big for my needs. In the years I’ve owned it I’ve only had one backseat passenger. The vast majority of my driving is in the city – my partner has an Explorer that we use for long distance trips. The Explorer also gets to live in the garage and I park on the street. We live two blocks from a major university campus and parking is often very tight. The Prius C is tempting, but I’m leaning toward the iQ.

#6 Ed on 07.18.12 at 6:37 am

@ KH-W: If you do choose the C, don’t get the 16″ wheel option if you are driving in the city. You lose 6′ of turning radius. I was forced to take that option due to scarcity of the C in my area. I do a lot more K turns, sadly, but gain in highway stability and cornering.

Great review and demo of the C. Mine has been a great highway commuter. It’s been doing an average of 50 MPG over 9000 hilly highway miles. The MPGs really climb in the urban setting as you demonstrated.

#7 K H-W on 08.18.12 at 11:00 am

I went with the iQ. It just seemed to meet my needs better. Plus, I was able to get a fantastic deal on one that they had to sell as “used” even though it only had 21 miles on it!

#8 mpg-o-editor on 08.18.12 at 12:01 pm

@K H-W – Great to hear you got a deal! The iQ is a unique little critter. Apologies for taking so long to the the review posted. I will be test driving the Chevy Spark this week in New York City. Always good to test in the intended environment.

#9 Patrick on 09.08.12 at 4:35 am

Thanks for this review.
Especially the Interstate Mileage Testing I find very interesting. This is something I really want to know about every car I buy, yet you are the one one (I know) that offers this information.

#10 Adam on 07.01.13 at 1:26 am

Are there any main difference between level 2 and 3 Prius C? I’m leading toward level 2 but I want to know if there are any features, other than navigation which I don’t need, in level 3 Prius that could make me want it.

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