Toyota has deemed its Prius hybrid so successful, the company is launching other new models bearing the Prius name. The Prius C is the third model in the lineup, following the original Prius liftback and the slightly larger Prius V. The Prius C is designed to be a small, entry-level Prius.
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Toyota styled the front end with its corporate design language, including the Toyota nose bump. Toward the rear, the car has a sporty, swept-back look.
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The architecture of the hybrid power train is the same as that of the other Prius models, but with a smaller engine and electric motor. The total output of this system is 99 horsepower, and it averages over 50 mpg in a variety of driving conditions.
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Technically, the Prius C could seat five, with a little room left over for cargo. But passengers would be cramped and it wouldn't be comfortable for long trips.
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The taillights are a bit too large, considering the overall design of the car.
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The Prius C sits on a very conventional suspension, which gives it a decent but unremarkable ride. The seat padding seems to account for some of the shock absorption.
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The cargo area is not large, suitable for a few grocery bags maybe, but not a standard CNET editor.
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The interior is covered in hard plastics, which cheapens the feel, but the two-tone cloth seats look nice. The Prius C showcases new Toyota navigation technology, along with the Entune app integration system.
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Electric power steering is immediately obvious when you turn the wheel of the Prius C. Loose steering-wheel tuning marks the car out for utilitarian cruising, not cornering antics.
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As with Toyota's other hybrids, the shifter is merely a drive selector, with the standard Park, Reverse, Neutral, and Drive positions. It does offer a B setting as well, which maximizes regeneration.
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Similar to the Prius, the Prius C uses a completely digital instrument cluster.
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Touching the steering-wheel controls causes this display to show up on the instrument cluster. In practice, it is not all that useful, as you can quickly learn the button positions.
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This new display, to the right of the speedometer, has a variety of useful screens dealing with the operation of the hybrid system.
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On this screen you can program in the current price per gallon of gasoline, and see how much the Prius C costs to drive.
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This new navigation head unit, standard in the Prius C Three trim, shows maps in 2D or 3D. The new maps have a nice look, but the head unit is difficult to see when the sun is out because of the glare.
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Toyota retains the power-flow animation display on the main screen, although it can also be called up on the instrument cluster display. This screen shows when the battery is being charged and whether power to the wheels is coming from the engine or electric motor.
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There are a good number of digital audio sources available to the stereo, including Bluetooth streaming, Pandora, and iPod.
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The audio system only has six speakers, but the sound quality is decent, with good separation and some real bass. At higher volume the quality quickly disintegrates.
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Entune offers access to a variety of apps, most powered through a connected phone's data plan.
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The gas prices app is very useful, letting you quickly find the lowest per-gallon price at stations around the car.
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We searched on the term "fries" using Bing, and it came up with these results in the San Francisco Bay Area. The results are tied to the navigation system, so can be quickly set as a destination.
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The Bluetooth hands-free phone system does everything we would expect, and it also has text message integration. Unfortunately, few phones support the protocol that lets the car display text messages.
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