Since its US-market introduction in 2001, the groundbreaking Toyota Prius has paved the way for mainstream acceptance of the once unfamiliar hybrid technology. Today, the proliferation of mass-market cars coupling gasoline engines to electric motors in the quest for better fuel economy has left the Prius less of a unique proposition, but it is still very much a competitive and compelling choice. The distinctly styled 2018 Prius c is the smallest and most affordable of the available Prius models (c, regular Prius, V, Prime), but delivers low emissions and efficient motoring - hallmarks of the Prius lineup - in a big way.
What's New for 2018
For 2018, the baby Prius borrows a few aesthetic tricks from the crossover's playbook. As a result, the Prius c gains black rocker panels, wheel well moldings and roof rails, while a body-colored spoiler and silver-accented lower front and rear bumpers complete the subtle styling refresh. Two new colors, Sandstorm and Tide Pool Pearl, and new 15-inch eight-spoke wheels finish it all off. Rounding out the notable changes for 2018 is a now-standard rearview camera.
Choosing Your Toyota Prius c
Toyota makes it surprisingly easy to select a Prius c. With hardly any standalone options and four trim levels simply numbered one through four, choosing one of these tiny Prii is easier than ordering off a fast food menu.
For all versions, power comes courtesy of a 1.5-liter four-cylinder that works in tandem with an electric motor and battery. Combined output from this setup is 99 horsepower, which is routed to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission. Considering it's a member of the fuel-sipping Prius family, fuel economy is unsurprisingly impressive – the EPA rates the Prius c as being good for 48 miles per gallon city, 43 highway and 46 combined.
For those hypermilers who might get a little too intent on drafting and coasting, Toyota has made standard their Safety Sense-C, which is a suite of doodads intended to prevent a collision from occurring. These features include the pre-collision system (which provides audible and visual warnings of an impending accident), brake assist, lane departure alert and automatic high beams.
The first rung on the Prius c ladder is the One, with an MSRP of $21,525 (destination charge included). Among the One's standard features are a tilt and telescope steering wheel, automatic climate control and remote keyless entry.
A standard 3.5-inch display lets drivers scroll through a laundry list of information readouts, ranging in scope from the outside temperature to the hybrid system monitor. A 6.1-inch touchscreen in the center stack controls the audio, with AM/FM/CD/Aux functionality and, for Apple iPhone users, the ability to verbally cue up songs via Siri Eyes Free.
Next up is the $22,325 Two. It builds on the One by adding niceties such as two-toned seats, a six-way power driver's seat, cruise control, rear 60/40 split-folding seats and a cargo cover. The cabin is dressed up a bit over the One through the use of piano-black trim along with a smattering of chrome accents and soft-touch materials.
Opting for the $23,750 Three furnishes the Prius c with a few more amenities, including a navigation system and a push button start. It also comes with two additional speakers (for a grand total of six), weather and traffic updates, and SiriusXM radio. A $700 power tilt/slide moonroof is available.
At the top of the hierarchy sits the Four, for which Toyota wants $25,860. It adds to the fray LED foglights, a moonroof, specially trimmed seats, heated front seats and heated outside mirrors. For $300 buyers can upgrade to 16-inch wheels.
Two is not as bad as One, but Three is where you want to be, offering the best mix of features at a reasonable price point. Buyers stuck in the Snowbelt or other cold weather locales should consider the Four, if only for the heated seats and heated outside mirrors.
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