By David Colman
For: Ultra Efficient, Handsome, Comfy Front Seats
Against: Nervous Electric Steering, Tiny Base Model Tires
The Prius is the Japanese version of the Swiss Army Knife. You can buy a lot of different versions to fit your needs. There’s original Prius, which Toyota now terms the “liftback” model in order to distinguish it from the recently introduced “V” version, a stretched model with roomier interior. Now a third version is coming on line called “c” for city transport. The Prius c is a smaller and significantly lighter offspring of the world’s most successful hybrid vehicle. It weighs nearly 600 pounds less than any other Prius, and costs significantly less as well. The c model will be offered in 4 levels of trim, with the base model retailing for just $18,950. If you bump all the way up to level 4, you’ll still lay out only $23,230.
Of course, nothing comes free when you cut size and substance, and the Prius c is no exception. It is the only current Prius with drum rear brakes instead of discs at all 4 corners. The tires fitted to the level 1 Prius c are small enough to work on any number of motorcycles. These R400 Bridgestone Turanzas measure just 175/65R15, and do not offer much in the way of adhesion. But of course, such low rolling resistance tires are an integral part of the Prius mileage equation because their hard tread blocks reduce contact patch resistance and promote extraordinary mileage. The base Prius c fulfills those expectations by returning 53 MPG in city driving, 46 MPG in highway mode, and 50 MPG combined fuel economy. These are the highest figures yet recorded for a passenger car without plug-in capability. Many of you will stop reading right here and get yourself on the March, 2012 delivery list for the Prius c based on mileage figures alone.