Toyota could alleviate the glare problem a bit with a white background for the navigation system's maps. The gray looks nice enough, and I liked how street names popped up in labels, but it doesn't matter how it looks if I can't see it. Route guidance was very good with this system, as it showed useful turn graphics on the screen and the audible prompts included street names.
The hands-free phone system incorporated all the features I have come to expect from a good tech car. After pairing my phone, my contact list became available on the touch screen. I could also use voice commands to place calls by name. Toyota takes the features one step further with a text message function, but the iPhone doesn't support the protocol that would allow messages to appear on the screen.
Of course, my connected iPhone's music library was available via the touch screen. More impressively, when I chose Pandora from the audio sources menu on the Prius C's touch screen, it automatically launched the app on my phone. That functionality is due to an improvement in car-iPhone connectivity, and is becoming available in other vehicles as well.
Toyota does not give the Prius C much in the way of sound system options. Our Three-trim car had an unbranded six-speaker system, with no upgrade options available. Within its limits, the system sounded good. The bass was robust, although it began to sound like it was underwater with the volume up high. Definition was also good, supported by tweeters in the door panels shooting across the cabin at each other. Turning the volume knob way up resulted in bad distortion all around, but the system sounded nice at moderate volume.
At the heart of the 2012 Prius C is Toyota's excellent hybrid power train, which helps the little car consistently hit an average of over 50 mpg. Toyota shrank the hybrid system for the Prius C slightly, making it more appropriate for the smaller car. Toyota could explore other fuel-saving technology, such as direct injection, to further improve the economy.
The Prius C gets to show off new cabin technology, the navigation system being one intriguing component. This new, flash memory-based system shows maps in 2D and 3D, and would be a good upgrade across the Toyota model lineup. The Entune app system worked particularly well in the Prius C, giving it very modern external data integration matched by few other automakers.
That the touch screen is so susceptible to glare is a sad flaw in this otherwise excellent cabin electronics package. This one design fault can prove exceedingly frustrating, as it detracts from the general utility of the cabin tech.
|Model||2012 Toyota Prius C|
|Power train||1.5-liter gasoline-electric hybrid system, continuously variable transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||53 mpg city/46 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||51.2 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard flash memory-based with traffic data|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard, with voice command and integrated address book|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single-CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||Pandora, Bluetooth streaming, USB drive, auxiliary input, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Six-speaker system|
|Price as tested||$23,245|