Forget for a moment the new Toyota C’s clean and green credentials and instead look at its range of sharp colours. Though I’m far from being a fashionista, a recent magazine article informed me that, “Orange is the new Black”, so the bright orange on the Prius C’s colour palette is a stroke of genius.
However, the genius has been dulled down by the marketing guys who have asked we motoring journos not to call it Orange - apparently its correct name is Sunrise. Whatever the name, the colour suits this cute, clever city car right down to the ground (and I’m going to call it Orange and be damned with the consequences).
Explore the 2012 Toyota Prius-C Range
Pushing aside the Prius C’s green and orange credentials for a further moment, let’s take a look at the price. Because it’s stunningly low. The standard model, with automatic air conditioning, a large touchscreen for operating the audio system, smart-key entry and ignition, a multifunction trip computer and seven airbags is priced at only $23,990. Many thousands below the price anticipated before the launch.
Add another $3000 and you can buy the Toyota Prius C i-Tech with satellite navigation, alloy wheels, leather-look trim and LED headlights that automatically level themselves depending on load being carried.
Of course, on-road costs have to be factored in. But you still get a petrol-electric hybrid on the road for a price that’s not a lot more than that of the Toyota Yaris automatic in upmarket YRX spec, which carries a recommended retail tag of $21,390.
Those with a social conscience who have previously considered a hybrid, but haven’t been able to afford one, may be queuing up outside their local Toyota dealer as we write.
Now, down to the promised technical details on the clever clean and green new Toyota: the Prius C uses the latest development of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system already familiar to us from its petrol-electric hybrids for many years. In its latest, most refined, format it is more efficient than ever before, as well as being smaller and lighter.
Combined petrol and electric output can be as high as 74 kilowatts, but the really important feature of the Prius C, indeed of any hybrid, is the lowdown torque provided by the electric motor. This gives it real punch of the line, punch that has been recovered as electrical energy and stored in the battery when the car last slowed down.
Fuel consumption is rated at 3.9 litres on the combined Australian fuel measurement cycle. While many hybrids are a lot thirstier on the road than in the test laboratory, our initial drives through city, suburban and hilly country had the Toyota showing figures in the mid to high fours. That is genuine economy and even the tiny 36-litre petrol tank should be able to give a range of 700 to 800 kilometres. Perhaps even 1000 km on an easy paced country run.
As mentioned, the new Toyota Prius C has seven airbags to protect the occupants. More importantly, it has a full suite of electronic stability aids so that you will never need to see the airbags. Toyota Prius C hasn’t been crash tested in Australia yet, but the importer is confident it will gain a five-star rating.
Prius C’s handling is competent enough, however, the steering is over light and doesn’t transmit enough feedback to the driver. Forget any ambitions of sportiness and buy the new baby Prius as a trendy city car and you won’t be disappointed. But a sports hatch it’s not.
We found hill climbing a struggle at times as the engine and transmission worked hard to get the best ratios sorted out. And there were somewhat irritating transmission noises at very low speed. Of course, the Prius is all but silent when it’s stopped as the petrol engine cuts out to save fuel.
Ride comfort in the Prius is good and there is ample interior space for four adults, or two plus three kids. The capacity of the boot, at 260 litres, is pretty good for this class.
Toyota’s chief engineer for the Prius range, Satoshi Ogiso, is known by many in Japan as 'The Patriarch of the Prius'. He paid Australia the honour of coming down under to present us with the details of his latest baby car. An interesting man to talk to, he is firmly convinced petrol-electric hybrids are the way of the medium term future.
At this stage a decision is still to be made as to whether the plug-in Prius hybrid – the standard model – not the C being reviewed here, is to be imported to Australia.
Cute, clever, clean, competent – whichever C words you want to play with – there’s no doubt the latest Prius from Toyota significantly advances the cause of hybrid powerplants.