2012 Toyota Prius C Preview

  • New 1.5-liter version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system
  • Combined fuel-economy rating of 50 mpg
  • Sticker price under $20,000


The Toyota Prius C is a new entry-level 5-door hybrid that is smaller, less expensive, and more fuel-efficient than the standard Prius.

Exterior Features

Compared to a standard Prius, the Prius C is 19.1 inches shorter in length and is 542 pounds lighter, making this a much smaller model. To get body-color door handles, fog lights, a power sunroof, and aluminum wheels, buyers must upgrade to one of the two highest Prius C trim levels.

Interior Features

Automatic climate control is standard on all Prius C models, and the base Prius C One trim level includes Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, a stereo with a CD/MP3 player, an auxiliary audio input jack, and a USB port. Power door locks with remote keyless entry and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel are also included on the Prius C One, along with a 3.5-inch data screen with a trip computer and hybrid system status displays.

Optional Features

To add extra equipment to the 2012 Prius C, upgrade to a higher trim level. The Prius C Two adds cruise control, center console with armrest, height-adjustable driver's seat, split-folding rear seat, and other amenities. The Prius C Three gets Smart Key entry and push-button ignition, touch-screen audio system, and three years of Entune multi-media connectivity and services. The Prius C Four is equipped with 15-inch aluminum wheels, heated front seats and side mirrors, and SofTex leatherette upholstery. A power sunroof can be added to the Three and Four, and the Four is also available with 16-inch alloy wheels.

Under the Hood

Every 2012 Prius C is equipped with Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system comprised of a 1.5-liter, Atkinson-cycle, gasoline 4-cylinder engine, and a 45-kilowatt electric motor juiced by a 144-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Combined, this hybrid powertrain generates 99 horsepower, which is delivered to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The Prius C offers EV, Eco and Normal driving modes. Select EV, and the Prius C can travel for one mile at up to 25 mph before the battery is depleted, according to Toyota. Eco mode is designed to maximize fuel economy, while Normal mode provides more aggressive throttle mapping and climate control operation, the company says.

Fuel Economy

According to the EPA, the new Toyota Prius C gets 53 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 50 mpg.


The 2012 Toyota Prius C is equipped with 9 standard air bags, traction and stability control, and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist. This diminutive hybrid is also equipped with Toyota's Smart Stop technology, which keeps the car from accelerating if the brake pedal is pressed at the same time, the company says. A first-aid kit is available as a dealer-installed option.

As this preview is published, the 2012 Toyota Prius C has not been crash-tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.