Still (Mileage) Champ: The 2015 Toyota Prius C

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Toyota Prius C
The 2015 Toyota Prius C.

If you've checked the TireKicker's Top 10 Fuel Savers list on the right of this page, you may be confused by the headline of this review.  If the Toyota Prius C ranks number seven, how can it be a champ?

A closer look at that list reveals that numbers one through six are pure electric vehicles (Honda Fit EV, Mitsubishi i-MIEV, Kia Soul EV, Nissan Leaf),  or plug-in hybrids (Toyota Prius Plug-In, Chevrolet Volt).  The Prius C is the highest-mileage pure hybrid that doesn't require plugging in to recharge.

That matters from a standpoint of complexity and cost.  The Prius C is a separate model from the Prius, smaller, lighter, perhaps a bit less refined but less expensive to buy  (its base price is $4,600 less than the Prius) and operate (the Prius C has an EPA fuel economy estimate of 53 city/46 highway to its big brother's 51 city/48 highway),

There are four trim levels of the Prius C available, One, Two, Three and Four.  The most basic, One, has a base price of $19,540.  Price and equipment rise from there.  When you get to Four, which was our test vehicle, the base price is $24,475, which is actually $275 more than the base price of the lowest trim level Prius. Comparably equipped, however, the big Prius ends up costing about $4,000 more than the Prius C.  So let's not compare apples and oranges.

The Prius C Four is very well equipped (click here for the list of standard features) as it comes, but as usual, our test vehicle had extra-cost options. Those included the Alloy Wheel Package (16-inch, 8-spoke alloy wheels and a power moonroof) for $1,150, a rear bumper protector for $79, clear protective film for $395 and carpeted floor mats and a trunk mat for $225.  With $825 delivery processing and handling fee, the as-tested price came to $26,034. Not exactly cheap, though considerably less than most full-size Priuses (Prii?) you'll find at dealers, which tend to be well into the mid-30 thousands and even close to $40,000.

Will the Prius C fit your needs?  Only a test drive will tell.  In the week of our test, we came to enjoy the car, and a lot of that had to do with how the fuel gauge seemed glued in place.  It takes a long time to come off "F" when a gallon of gas lasts 53 miles.