2012 Toyota Prius C Three

The Prius c might just be the most sensible and desirable model in the Prius lineup, which now consists of the small Prius c; the conventional Prius; and the biggest model, the Prius v. After all, hybrids make the most efficient use of their powertrains in urban settings, and the Prius c is an ideal city car. It's small, it's nimble, it's easy to get in and out of, it has great outward visibility, and it has strong off-the-line acceleration for dashing around town. I'm not bothered by the thin carpeting and other cheap interior trim bits; the overall interior aesthetics are just fine, the radio works well, the gauges are clear and bright. As for the Habanero color of our test car, all I can say is, "wow." I know that Prius owners generally like to telegraph the fact that they're driving earth-friendly vehicles, but this color is garish and gross.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

I was pleasantly surprised by the Prius c. The safety-cone orange paint would never be my choice but this odd-looking little hybrid looks better in person than in pictures and it's far less nerdy than the original Prius. Inside, it's pretty basic and the majority of the cabin is covered in hard plastics. The two tone color scheme -- on the doors, seats, and dash -- and multiple textures dress it up a bit though, creating an environment that looks simple and clean rather than cheap. The steering wheel rim doesn't have any contouring for where your hands rest but it's nice and thick and the slightly straightened-out bottom reduces its size visually. It also makes extra room for the driver's legs, which is never a bad thing in such a small car.

The Prius c's highway performance is about what you'd expect from a 99-hp hybrid. It doesn't accelerate with any urgency even with the throttle pinned to the floor so merging and passing don't happen quickly. (On my first night with the c, I took the interstate to get home and on the final curve on the entrance ramp, I flattened the throttle and watched as the digital speed readout slowly crept up one mile per hour, sometimes two, at a time.)

By contrast, the c is actually quite enjoyable for darting around town. The short front overhang and compact footprint, direct steering, and eagerness to accelerate from a stop make it feel almost sporty on city streets. The ride could isolate bumps a bit better but the majority of the time it was acceptable. I used the Prius to bring home six oversized bags of mulch and they fit under the compact's hatch without a problem. The rear seats don't fold flat which could be an issue when transporting lighter cargo but the bags were heavy and large enough to stay put on the slightly angled load floor. The extra weight put more strain on the engine although it had a positive effect on the ride.

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms

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