2018 Toyota Prius C Four Review

Harder to make a case for this one


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Light and nimble to drive, comfortable front seats, good visibility, excellent fuel economy numbers
Negatives: Incredibly low rent for the money, feeling dated, sacrifices style for fuel economy, mushy silicone steering wheel buttons make pushing them a dull experience, makes it look like you've given up
Bottom Line: There are numerous compact cars out there that offer far more than the Prius C in terms of style, technology, and driving fun, but the C is very good when it comes to efficiency. That, unfortunately, is really its only significant merit.
 View Our 2018 Toyota Prius c Overview
The regular Prius (in both hybrid and plug-in form) gets so much attention due to its ubiquity, efficiency, and design combination that the C gets pushed to the back of the line. It's the cheapest Prius available, but it still delivers very good efficiency numbers, if not the best. It comes in four trim levels (One, Two, Three, and Four, unimaginatively). We drove the top trim C for a week with its additional standard features. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

5.5

 

Anyone who buys the C isn't looking for an adrenaline rush, and our tester was consistent with those expectations. It's small and underpowered, but it does have a light curb weight to help it along.

Ride Quality: The C feel light and flighty. It's decent over bumps, but the general ride doesn't inspire confidence, especially at freeways speeds.

Acceleration: Mash the pedal, and the low output combined with the uninspired CVT makes for geologic speeds. 0-60 takes over eleven seconds. Tweets are faster.

Braking: The regenerative brakes are decent have provide decent progression.

Steering: The C's steering is incredibly numb and far too light. The regular Prius actually has better steering feel, relatively speaking.

Handling: Though it exhibits some body roll, the light curb weight and small size gives it some tossability.

Technology

5

 

Only the completely redesigned 2018 Toyotas like the Avalon and Camry get the new Entune system. The C still suffers from the same boring, low-tech system that plagues most of the lineup. No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto here, either.

Infotainment System: The 6.5" screen is just okay. It tends to wash out in bright sunlight, and the purplish screen with low-res icons looks about as exciting as the C itself.

Controls: We like the fac that the C still has normal physical buttons for the infotainment and knobs for audio. The single climate control knob and the accompanying triangular buttons are just weird.

Styling

4.8

 

There are some mild updates for the C for 2018, which helps its aging design. It's actually pretty well proportioned, but it's still in need of a redesign.

Front: Even the new LED lights and foglights can't give this maw presence, but they do look better than before. The tiny upper grille and the bigger lower grille give it an awkward front view.

Rear: Most of the C is pretty conservative, except for its strange taillights. The thin rear glass and large tailgate section don't help the tall-ish look from the back.

Profile: The dark trim around the wheel wells prevent the small wheels from looking smaller. We're not sure why the roof needs to slope, thereby sacrificing headroom for rear passengers. It adds nothing to the economy look.

Cabin: The cabin is very low rent for the price. A lot of dark plastic, mushy steering wheel control buttons, and low grade materials make for a boring place to sit.

Comfort

6.4

 

The interior comfort is actually betrayed by how boring the C looks inside. Its seats might look low rent, but they're quite supportive and well-cushioned. Too bad not much else in the cabin looks or feels very good.

Front Seats: These basic buckets are actually very good when it comes to comfort, if not appearances.

Rear Seats: Rear legroom is shockingly quite good, but the headroom for six-footers suffers a bit.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Other than the drone of the CVT, it's actually relatively quiet, but the road noise is noticeable at higher speeds.

Visibility: Visibility out the front and sides is good, but the small rear window and the big C-pillar obstructs rearward visibility, necessitating use of the rear camera.

Climate: The automatic climate control system in the C Four works well despite its controls' odd looks.

Safety

6.5

 

The C does decently in a more restrictive safety testing environment, but it's not a the top of the pack. The VW Golf, Mazda3, and the regular Prius score better. It does benefit, however, from a standard set of Toyota Safety Sense tech.

IIHS Rating: It only scores an "acceptable" in the small offset crash (driver only, passenger side wasn't rated), but it did score "good" in the other crash tests.

NHTSA Rating: The Prius C did well, scoring four out of five stars in crash tests.

Standard Tech: Toyota Safety Sense standard equipment includes a Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert, and automatic high beams. It also comes with a Star Safety System that's packed with Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist, and Smart Stop Technology that brings the car to a stop in an emergency when the gas and brake are both depressed accidentally.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

6.5

 

Cargo space in the C is good for the segment. Oddly, there are no measurements for the cargo volume with the second row folded flat.

Storage Space: The spaces that exist in the cabin are on the small side, including a cubby at the front of the center console and a slim compartment and small armrest at the back.

Cargo Room: There's 17.1 cubic feet behind the second row. The Honda Fit and the VW Golf have about the same amount behind the second row, but we're guessing both of those competitors are more spacious with all the seats folded flat, based on our experience.

Fuel Economy

8

 

The 46 mpg combined rating is very good but not the best in the industry for a dedicated gas-electric hybrid. Our numbers were not as good as we'd hoped. The Kia Niro hybrid gets 50 combined and drives far better.

Observed: 37.5 mpg

Distance Driven: 73 miles

Driving Factors: We flogged the little Prius C as hard as we could within legal limits. Then again, pushing the envelope in this car rarely results in breaking the law.

Audio

6

 

The Prius C has a 6-speaker audio system that's just okay. We didn't expect much in the way of bass and fullness, and that's pretty much what we got. We didn't notice any errant distortion, but the sound experience here is lacking.



Final Thoughts

For those interested in a fuel-efficient hatchback, the Prius C wouldn't be our first choice. Though it gets good gas mileage, it's no longer a great value given the other cars in the segment that look, feel, and drive far better. Gas-powered compacts out there will do 36 mpg+ without sacrificing the style and tech that the Prius C feels like it has to in order to justify its marginally better efficiency. It's time for Toyota to redesign this one or just get rid of altogether.

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