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Toyota Prius c 2018 review: i-Tech

EXPERT RATING
6.6
Toyota launched its bite-sized Prius c in 2012, and it's now updating it for 2018, changing its design, tech offering and interior. So, is the Japanese giant still head of the hybrid class?

See if you can guess the name of the world's first ride-sharing app. You're thinking Uber, right? Nope. It was a company called Sidecar. It's broke now, shuttered for good in 2015. What about the first video-on-demand service? Netflix? Nope. Amazon beat them to it, for starters, but so did many other, now-defunct companies who tried it even earlier.

The point is, being first on the scene is no guarantee you'll be the best, or the most successful. I mean, just look at electric cars; plenty of manufacturers were doing all-battery models before (and arguably better than) Tesla, and every one of them is now parked in Elon Musk's gargantuan shadow.

Before full-electric there were hybrids, and first to arrive on that particular scene in any meaningful way was Toyota and its awkwardly shaped Prius, back in 2001. And they had that field to themselves for a while, but soon enough the other manufacturers trotted out hybrid and plug-in hybrid models of their own.

And so Toyota shook up the Prius offering, launching the seven-seat Prius V, and the bite-sized (and Yaris-based) Prius c we've tested here, in 2012, hoping to broaden the appeal of its hybrid offerings. Problem is, 2012 was an awfully long time ago, and so Toyota has waved its wand over the ageing Prius c for 2018, changing its design, tech offering and interior in an effort to keep it fresh.

So, is the Japanese giant still head of the hybrid class? Or has it been beaten at its own game?

Toyota Prius C 2018: Hybrid
Safety rating
Engine Type1.5L
Fuel TypeHybrid with Regular Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency3.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$22,588

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The good news is that it doesn't look quite so quirky as the full-size Prius. The not-as-good news is that it's still no beauty-contest winner. Not helping matters was the fact our test vehicle was painted in a retina-burning yellow (they call it Hornet Yellow, and it's new for 2018) that looked almost nuclear.

The blacked-out section of grille and bumper gives the littlest Prius a vaguely manta ray-shaped front-end. (Image: Andrew Chesterton) The blacked-out section of grille and bumper gives the littlest Prius a vaguely manta ray-shaped front-end. (Image: Andrew Chesterton)

Viewed front on, the blacked-out section of grille and bumper gives the littlest Prius a vaguely manta ray-shaped front-end, while the headlights climb both upwards and back into the body, lending a sense of sportiness to this very unsporty hybrid. From the back, the chunky bumper, vertical taillights and rear windscreen spoiler all add a little attitude to the design.

Inside, you'll find a small but premium-in-places space, with a gloss-black stereo surround that angles the main controls toward the driver, while the digital driver's binnacle is pushed toward the centre of the car, displaying speed, fuel and other key info above the stereo, rather than in front of the steering wheel.

From the back, the chunky bumper, vertical taillights and rear windscreen spoiler all add a little attitude to the design. (Image: Andrew Chesterton) From the back, the chunky bumper, vertical taillights and rear windscreen spoiler all add a little attitude to the design. (Image: Andrew Chesterton)

How practical is the space inside?   6/10

Not very. This is a Yaris-based city car, let's not forget.

That said, it never feels cramped up front, with enough shoulder and headroom to ensure you feel separated from your fellow passengers, where you'll also find two cupholders, and an infuriating USB connection housed in the touchscreen - so your cord dangles from the dash when connected.

Climb into the back, and you'll find yourself in a pretty snug space. (Image: Andrew Chesterton) Climb into the back, and you'll find yourself in a pretty snug space. (Image: Andrew Chesterton)

Climb into the back, and you'll find yourself in a pretty snug space. Sitting behind my own (5ft-8inch) driving position, it's only the scalloped back of the driver's seat that affords me any clear air between my knees and the seat in front, and the space behind my head and the roof lining is minuscule, too. But again, we're talking city car space here, so you can't expect to lounge about back there.

The ambience in the backseat leaves a little to be desired, though. The door trim pushes into the passenger space, and the plastics used in the rear are rock hard. There's a single cupholder to share, and a seat-back pocket on the rear of the passenger seat, but that's it; there's no vents, USB or power sources. There's no bottle-room in the rear doors, either.

An easy-access boot space will swallow 260 litres with the 60:40 rear seats in place. And there are two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.

  • An easy-access boot space will swallow 260 litres with the 60:40 rear seats in place. (Image: Andrew Chesterton) An easy-access boot space will swallow 260 litres with the 60:40 rear seats in place. (Image: Andrew Chesterton)
  • An easy-access boot space will swallow 260 litres with the 60:40 rear seats in place. (Image: Andrew Chesterton) An easy-access boot space will swallow 260 litres with the 60:40 rear seats in place. (Image: Andrew Chesterton)

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   6/10

We've just spent a week behind the wheel of the Prius c i-Tech; the top model in the two-variant range, sitting above a cheaper model known simply as the Prius c.

At $26,540, it ain't cheap for a city car (and it's $4k more than the most-expensive Yaris on which it is based; more worryingly, it's only $1500 cheaper than an Audi A1), and the standard features list is more a novella than War and Peace.

It never feels cramped up front, with enough shoulder and headroom to ensure you feel separated from your fellow passengers. (Image: Andrew Chesterton) It never feels cramped up front, with enough shoulder and headroom to ensure you feel separated from your fellow passengers. (Image: Andrew Chesterton)

Outside, you'll find 15-inch alloy wheels, remote unlocking, LED headlights and front fog lamps, while inside you'll leather-look seats (they're actually vinyl), sat-nav and climate-control.

Tech is covered by an  (old-school feeling) 6.1-inch touchscreen that pairs with a six-speaker stereo, but there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

Under that little hood lives a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine good for 54kW, which pairs with a 45kW electric motor. Toyota lists combined outputs at 74kW at 4800rpm and 111Nm at 4000rpm.

That hybrid setup partners with a CVT automatic, pumping power to the front wheels.

Under that little hood lives a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine good for 54kW, which pairs with a 45kW electric motor. (Image: Andrew Chesterton) Under that little hood lives a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine good for 54kW, which pairs with a 45kW electric motor. (Image: Andrew Chesterton)

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

If that last section didn't impress, this one surely will. The little Prius c will sip a claimed 3.9L/100km on the combined cycle.

That's very low, and the fact it accepts cheaper 91RON fuel makes it a very affordable car to run. Except... the onboard computers revealed a slightly less-impressive 5.1L/100km after my time with the car.

Emissions are a claimed 90g/km of CO2, which is very good.

What's it like to drive?   6/10

In much the same way that you don't buy an exotic performance car for its ability to run to the shops, you're unlikely to be buying the Prius for its ability to set your pulse racing.

But happily, it doesn't feel wobbly or disconnected, either. It's aided by being such a small package, and when you're not wafting silently about in electric mode, and you've coaxed that little petrol engine into life, it serves up more than enough poke to navigate the city, and even to leave the slow-reactors in your rear-view mirror at traffic lights.

The ride is good, too, feeling connected to the road below without feeling uncomfortable, although the little Prius does tend to track with the corrugations in the road, leaving you to wrestle it back into line. That's a job made easier by light and surprisingly direct steering, which feels tailor-made for the city.

Outside, you'll find 15-inch alloy wheel. (Image: Andrew Chesterton) Outside, you'll find 15-inch alloy wheel. (Image: Andrew Chesterton)

Finally, the leather-look seats are comfortable, even over long distances, the razor-thin A-pillars make forward vision easy and it's a very simple thing to drive and manoeuvre  into parking spaces. And all of those are good things.

Not so good? Well, the entire drive experiences feels a little beige and emotionless, it can get noisy and there are parts of the cabin that feel downright cheap. Worst of all, though, is that for a car that once heralded the future, it's feeling very, very dated.

But there are some amazing quirks attached to driving an (almost) electric car, including the delivery of eco awards for using the least amount of fuel (they were awarded for 2.6, 3.2 and 3.6L/100km over as much as 25km - none of which occurred during my tenure). The hardest thing to get used to was the absolute silence served up in electric mode. I counted four seperate occasions when I walked away from the car with it still turned on.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   6/10

Every Prius c arrives with seven airbags, along with a reversing camera and... wait, that can't be it, can it? Oh... Forget AEB, lane-departure warning and the like, this future-focused Prius has a safety package firmly rooted in the past.

It was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, but was tested back in 2014.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Toyota offers a three-year/100,000km warranty, while the batteries are covered for eight years or 160,000km. The car's six-month service intervals might sting a little, though, but with each service capped at $140 for the first three years, even taking two trips to the dealership a year isn't too expensive. Just annoying.

Verdict

It's as if the the future is firmly rooted in the past at Toyota. The Prius is still undoubtedly clever, frugal and easy to drive, but it is feeling so old in places that the bad had begun to weigh on the good. If you're a tech-head or have a right foot crafted from lead, then there's nothing to see here. But if the thought of saving money at the bowser sets your heart aflutter, then step right this way.

Does a Prius c make you feel green, or just queasy? Let us know in the comments below.

Pricing guides

$22,898
Based on 7 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$22,000
Highest Price
$25,488

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Hybrid 1.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO $22,588 – 22,898 2018 Toyota Prius C 2018 Hybrid Pricing and Specs
I-Tech Hybrid 1.5L, Hyb/ULP, CVT AUTO $22,000 – 25,488 2018 Toyota Prius C 2018 I-Tech Hybrid Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.6
Design7
Practicality6
Price and features6
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption8
Driving6
Safety6
Ownership7
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist

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