The 2012 Toyota Prius C takes efficiency and value to the max

2012 toyota prius c front
2012 Toyota Prius C in vibrant Habanero

The 2012 Toyota Prius C commands attention on the road.  Logic dictates that the smallest member of the Prii Hybrid family would be the most efficient.  In this case – logic wins.  The Prius C is rated at 53 MPG in the city and this is by far the highest rating of any car currently sold in United States that does not have an electric plug.  The result?  No matter where you go, people take notice.


The color of this car is officially called Habanero, but this is not how most people see it.  Over the week with this car, I had people call this car: a pumpkin, a carrot, and a salmon.  It’s impossible to stay under the radar in this car.  Toyota did a good job with making this car stand out in the crowded small-car segment.  The front looks aggressive, especially with the optional fog lamps.  And the tall vertical lights in the rear make for a very unique design.


The gear lever is in the familiar center floor mounted position, but it actually takes away some of the space that could have been better used for a storage compartment or an easier to reach cup holder.  (The dash mounted small gear selector in other Prii models got me thinking this way.)  I have no complaints about the Prius C interior.  The child seat LATCH anchors were super easy to reach and there was just enough space for my 6’2” frame in the front and the kids in the back.  The folding rear seats also make for a useful cargo compartment, although there is not a lot of room behind the rear seats if you leave them up.  By the way, Toyota engineers also managed to stuff no fewer than 9 airbags into this relatively small space.

2012 toyota prius c dash


Although, there is a great variety of small cars on the market today, most of them make due with small 4-cylinder engines and combined EPA ratings in the mid 30s MPG.  Very few even approach the stellar efficiency of the Prius C, and none can match the value.  The Prius C is in the class of its own.

City/Hwy MPG Passenger Volume (cu-ft) Cargo Volume (cu-ft)  Starting Retail Price
2012 Prius C 53/46  87.4 17.1  $18,950
2012 Prius 51/48 93.7 21.6 $24,000
2013 Ford C-Max 47/47 99.7 24.5 $25,200
2012 Honda Civic Hybrid 44/44 94.6 10.6  $24,200
2013 Honda Insight 41/44 85 15.9 $18,500
2013 VW Golf TDI 30/42 92.9 15.2 $24,935


This little car loves slow moving stop-n-go traffic, just like many other Hybrids.  Slow traffic allows the Prius C to operate mostly in Electric Vehicle “EV” mode.  Case in point.  I got 66.1 MPG while driving from the office back home during rush hour.  The Prius C gives you a nifty trip report every time you shut off the car upon arrival.  In this case, the car informed me that my 13 mile trip took 29 minutes and produced this stellar MPG result.  All together, after a week of mixed city and highway driving – I averaged 51.2 MPG over the distance of 291 miles.  Yep, that’s right.  I used under 6 gallons of fuel in a week and still had around 150 miles or range left!

The Prius C combined Hybrid Synergy Drive output is rated at 99 hp.  This is 35 fewer ponies than the Prius V and the regular Prius.  However, at 2,500 lbs the Prius C weighs a mind boggling 770 lbs less than the Prius V.  It allows the little car to launch off the line with just as much authority as its biggest brother.  In fact, all Prii are designed to provide brisk 0-35 mph sprints.  The inherent lack of power only shows up when you ask the car to accelerate all the way to 60 mph or beyond.

Also, I found that the ECO Score driving coach made me want to maximize the MPGs.  It’s basically like a game.  It gives separate scores for “Start”, “Cruise”, and “Stop”.  The smoother and gentler your driving style, the higher the score.


The Prius C will not be mistaken for a sport hatch on a twisty road.  The car does exhibit a moderate lean in corners and the driver seat does not provide enough lateral support to hold you snugly in place.  The steering feel is a little vague in fast bends, but the overall balance is relatively neutral.  In general, it does not inspire full confidence when pushing the car into corners.  However, it behaves very well in its natural habitat – the busy city streets, jammed highways, and packed parking lots.

Please enjoy this small city car mashup video:


When you consider the amazing fuel efficiency and the low starting price ($18,950) of the Prius C, it’s difficult to come up with a better city car value equation.  My fully loaded test car retailed for $25,120. How did it pickup the extra $6000+ over the starting price?  On the outside, you get the fog lamps upfront, heated side mirrors, and optional 16 inch alloy wheels.  On the inside, you get 6.1 inch touch screen with navigation, Entune, and all kinds of other techy features.  You also get cruise control, keyless entry, push button start, tilt/telescopic steering wheel,  and optional tilt/slide moonroof.  Yes, all these are great convenient and luxurious features.  However, you have a choice to refuse all of these options and get a great, simple, and frugal car for a low starting price!

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give it a Buy It!   If the Prius C has enough room for you and your stuff, then there is really no other competition for the entry price and efficiency.  It’s a definite Buy It.

Andre Smirnov
Andre Smirnov

Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, writer, and software engineer. On the weekends – you may find him at a car show, an auction, watching a race, or tinkering with a car in the garage. When not working or spending time with the family – he often scours the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.