Toyota just presented the latest member of the expanding Prius family, the Prius c, along with the NS4 advanced plug-in hybrid concept car. With the Prius c, Toyota has effectively flanked its segment defining, and hybrid sales leading, Prius liftback with the larger Prius v wagon and now a more compact and affordable model. Shortly, these variants will be joined by a Prius liftback in plug-in form.
The Prius c will square off against the Honda Insight, offering an attainable entry point into the realm of high efficiency. It measures 19 inches shorter than the regular Prius, riding on a six-inch shorter wheelbase, marking the c as significantly smaller. Correspondingly, the Prius c uses a Hybrid Synergy Drive system with a smaller-displacement engine. Where the Prius employs a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, the Prius c will use a 1.5-liter unit. Toyota claims its fuel economy will be better than 50 mpg in the city, pointing out that it will best any non-plug-in vehicle on the market. For comparison, the Prius is rated at 51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway. That pegs the Prius c at 52 mpg or greater. (And note that Prius owners routinely claim to experience even better fuel economy in the real world.)
Beyond being a fuel miser, the Prius c promises to have a “sportier dynamic character,” something that should add to its youthful appeal. Banking on reaching tech-savvy drivers, Toyota is stuffing the small five-door model with electronic features, such as Bluetooth connectivity, steering-wheel audio controls, and Entune infotainment system. Entune enables the car to receive data from a smart phone and connect with specific apps, such as Open Table, Bing, iHeartRadio, and Pandora. The system will also provide music streaming, voice recognition, and email text-to-speech capabilities.
The success-bound green machine goes on sale this spring.