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Our Take: 2018 Toyota Prius c

, Contributing Writer -

Seven years into its current model cycle and following a mild refresh last year, the 2018 Toyota Prius c scores points for its excellent fuel economy, surprising interior room, and steering feedback. But it's held back by a low-rent interior, paltry performance, and, on upper trims, pricing close to the superior Prius Liftback.

Best Value

Available in four trim levels, pricing starts at $21,525 for the Prius c One model and rises to $26,555 for a Moonglow Pearl Prius c Four model equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels. With a single drivetrain, the choice comes down to equipment levels.

Standard fare includes the usual power features as well as automatic climate control, a 6.1-inch touchscreen, 15-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, LED high- and low-beam headlights, a rearview camera, and a suite of advanced safety features that includes pre-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams.

Price is the only reason we'd pick a Prius c over the latest base Prius Liftback, which means opting for a One model that looks like this:

  • Model: 2018 Toyota Prius c One
  • Engine: 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine / 60-hp electric motor / 19.3-kw nickel-metal hydride battery pack
  • Output: 73 horsepower (engine), 60 horsepower (electric motor), 99 horsepower (system net) / 82 lb-ft (engine), 125 lb-ft (electric motor)
  • Transmission: CVT automatic
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • MPG: 48 City / 43 Highway
  • Options: None
  • Base Price: $21,525 (including an $895 destination fee)
  • Best Value Price:$21,525

Performance

Toyota Prius C

The Prius c's performance highlights include excellent fuel economy – an EPA-estimated 48 miles per gallon in the city, 43 on the highway, and 46 combined – plus a number of advanced safety features. It comes into its own in urban areas where communicative steering and a small footprint make scooting around town and parking in tight spots a breeze.

On the highway, however, it isn't nearly as much fun, as its meager system horsepower struggles to move the Prius c with any alacrity. In addition, when pushed, the engine sounds noisy and unrefined, while low speed, battery-only EV mode lasts less than a mile due to its smallish 6.5 amp-hour NiMH battery.

Style

Unlike the Prius Liftback, the Prius c doesn't look like a hybrid and garners kudos for its conventional design and single rear window. In addition, the four long doors allow easy access to the interior, where it's possible to seat four six-foot adults in relative comfort, while the hatchback body means a very usable 17.1 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seat up.

On the flip side, despite a number of recent upgrades, the interior, a veritable cornucopia of hard plastic trim that lags well behind competitors like the Hyundai Ioniq, is accessed via doors that close with an econobox-sounding, hollow thud.

The Best and Worst Things

Excellent fuel economy and a spacious interior should make the Prius c an appealing subcompact, but a bargain-basement interior and poor performance will probably tip the scales for many buyers.

Right For? Wrong For?

Toyota Prius c

A starting price of $21,525 and EPA-estimated numbers of 48 miles per gallon in the city, 43 on the highway, and 46 combined should be enough to attract eco-friendly buyers – especially those who are price-sensitive – to the Prius c.

The Prius c's mediocre performance will cause many buyers – those who identify as enthusiasts most of all – to look somewhere else.

The Bottom Line

Despite excellent fuel economy and remarkable interior room, underwhelming performance, a cheap-looking interior, and better competitors – including the Kia Niro, Hyundai Ioniq, and even the new Prius Liftback – make the Prius c an also-ran in its class.

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Used Toyota Prius c in 20149

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