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2012 Toyota Prius C: Fuel economy champ

Toyota may be positioning its Prius C as an entry-level hybrid car, but its real value comes from its impressive fuel economy.

Habanero orange outshines the Golden Gate Bridge's International Orange paint job. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

It seems like the Prius C model should come after the Prius B, and before the Prius D. But Toyota shows no interest in alphabetical naming when it comes to its Prius lineup. Toyota recently expanded the cars it calls Prius, adding to the standard model the Prius V, a plug-in version, and now the C.

The C means City, which explains the smaller dimensions of the car. The Prius C is a nice, modern little hatchback a foot and half shorter than the standard Prius. Its size makes it easy to park and maneuver through narrow lanes.

But its real virtue is fuel economy. Although the EPA estimates put it on level with the standard Prius, at 50 mpg, we found it did consistently better, turning in an average of 51.2 mpg after a week of driving in the urban confines of San Francisco, hills included, and the fast-moving freeways of California.

It also serves as a showcase of new Toyota cabin technology, such as a new navigation system. The new Entune system uses your connected smartphone to bring in traffic data, local gas prices, Bing search, and other useful apps and information.

Read CNET's review of the 2012 Toyota Prius C.

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