2012 Toyota Prius c

The Toyota Prius is known worldwide for its outstanding fuel economy ratings, and in March, a new addition to the Prius family, the 2012 Prius c, will hit the market. The c joins the third-generation Prius, Prius Plug-in Hybrid and Prius v.

The Toyota Prius c hatchback is the smallest and lightest Prius model. It’s 19.1 inches shorter and 542 pounds lighter than the third-generation Prius, Toyota says in a press release. Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive technology and the reduction in size and weight makes the Prius c the most fuel-efficient model, according to Toyota. The automaker says it will average 53/46 mpg city/highway, which are the highest fuel economy ratings for any vehicle without a plug, like an all-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle.

The 2012 Toyota Prius c has a lot of standard features for its class.

As a small hatch, the Prius c is expected to appeal to young buyers who live in the city. “For those of you who don’t already know, Toyota says the ‘c’ means ‘city’ and younger drivers are expected to make up a sizable portion of buyers for one of the four grades of standard equipment the urban-oriented car will be offered with,” says HybridCars.com.

Toyota says the Prius c will start at less than $19,000, which makes the Prius c very affordable for a hybrid, considering standard equipment includes nine airbags, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, Bluetooth and USB port. The Prius c’s closest competitors, the Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda Insight and Honda CR-Z, can’t match the Prius c in terms of price, fuel economy and available features. The only Honda hybrid with standard USB and Bluetooth is the Civic Hybrid, and it costs $24,050 and has lower fuel economy ratings of 44/44 mpg compared with the Prius c.

The Prius c has 17.1 cubic feet of cargo space.

Car reviewers haven’t tested the Prius c, so we don’t know how its performance stands compared with these Hondas, but based on the Prius c’s specifications, it could be competitive. The Prius c has a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine that makes 73 horsepower, and an electric motor that makes 60 horsepower, for a combined output of 99 horsepower. The CR-Z makes 122 total horsepower, the Insight makes 98 and the Civic Hybrid makes 110. Excluding the Honda CR-Z, which is Honda’s version of a sport hybrid, the Prius c should compete with the Civic Hybrid and Insight in terms of performance.

The 2012 Toyota Prius c goes on sale in March 2012 with a starting price of less than $19,000.

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