Toyota Prius C – A Six Month Review

Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

This saying speaks so truly of the rap that Priuses have 😿 There are a lot of Prius haters in the world and I get it – they’re not the prettiest things to look at and there are a million of them in California, but there isn’t much to hate on when you own one. Over the past six months ago, we’ve rolled along about 7,000 miles between tutoring, nannying, and our weekend expeditions, so Chad (my 4-wheel sidekick) and I have spent a whole lot of quality time together.

Size, Structure, and Safety

The ‘C’ along with the Liftback, Prius v, and the plug-in electric hybrid make up the Prius family. Being a subcompact model, the ‘C’ is the runt of the litter as it has been designed using some attributes of the itty-bitty Yaris. Don’t let its size fool you though, the trunk area is spacious enough to hold both Pete’s and my diving gear and the rear seats fold down to create a spacious storage area when needed. As far as comfort goes, I nanny 3 kids whom I transport to practices, and for that half-hour ride they manage to fit their backpacks, balls, shoes, and water bottles, while still managing to have a pleasant ride. Safety-wise, it has made the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s list of Top Safety Picks, which gives me peace of mind, especially when I have all the kiddos in the car. The Prius contains 9 airbags and its body is made of high-tensile-strength steel (say that 5 times fast), allowing a “crash cage” to form, protecting you and your precious cargo.

Pick-Up & Performance

This isn’t the type of vehicle that is celebrated for its 0-60 in 1.9 seconds capabilities (unlike Tesla’s roadster 👏🏽). Instead, Chad’s a slow starter, taking 10.9 seconds in his 0-60 MPH test by Motor Trend. Once you get going, increasing speed isn’t as big of an ordeal, though there are times when faster pick-up from the start would be useful (like when you want to do celebratory donuts in the dealership’s parking lot after purchasing your Prius). If you’re a tortoise like me and prefer to hover around the speed limit, its lack of horsepower may not be a huge issue for you, but if you are planning to rob a bank and are looking for a get-away vehicle, this probably isn’t your car of choice.

Its slow-and-steady-wins-the-race mentality is due to Toyota’s “Hybrid Synergy Drive” technology which integrates an electric motor through its continuously variable transmission (basically, it combines battery and typical combustion sources to power its engine). The continuous variable transmission is one of the coolest things about this car because it creates such a smooth ride; there isn’t any lurching when the car changes between gears… because it has only one gear👻! It also handles really well and has a great turn radius, making it a breeze to park. If you have the appropriate expectations, this car delivers in its performance – a slow opening, then a nice, smooth ride.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 10.52.23 AMFuel Economy

Now for the part we’ve all be waiting for – how great is the Prius’ fuel economy🤔? The ‘C’ has the best MPG of any non-plug-in-hybrid sold in the U.S. with a combined 50 MPG economy (53 city and 46 highway MPG). I find even this rate to be a bit conservative; I typically average 55 MPG on the highway and upwards of 65 MPG in the city! This probably sounds ridiculous and too good to be true, but pinky swear, I ain’t lying.

Does that not make you want to go on a cross-country trip just to see how far a tank of gas will get you?!

This is what scientists call the ‘rebound effect‘ – the incredible fuel economy makes people take unnecessary trips, negating the environmental good of the Prius’s low emissions. I am absolutely guilty of this, especially when I first got Chad 😬. My thoughts were “Why not make an extra trip to the dog beach this weekend?” or “Let’s go visit that relative that lives way out in the boonies now that it’ll only take us 2 gallons of gas to get there.” I understand why this is so contradictory to the purpose of saving gas, but on the flip-side, the freedom of getting to make these trips, without it having such an impact on our wallets, is a huge reason why people choose hybrid cars.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 10.52.37 AM


Go green without spending all your green. With less on the up-front cost of the car and less day-to-day spending on gas, the Prius is a real win-win for your wallet. If the Tesla is financially elusive, this is a great car to get you by until you’re making the big bucks and can afford one. Used Priuses are a real steal if you do some research and US News even ranks the Prius C as #5 amongst “used hatchbacks $10K to $12K.”

Besides the typical cost of wear-and-tear on a non-hybrid car, there’s the battery. When I brought up to friends and family that I was looking to purchasing a Prius, most mentioned something along the lines of –

Why a Prius? You’ll have to replace that dang battery after just a few years!

I mentioned the daily gas savings and the environmental good of decreased emissions, but still, the battery issue lingered. I researched, and this is what I found: in California, it is law that Prius batteries be under ‘defect and performance warranty‘ for 10 years or 150K miles. This warranty, legalized by California’s EPA (and others, such as Oregon, Washington, and New York), helps incentivize people to buy Priuses who may otherwise overlook them because of the need to replace the battery. Toyota states that Prius batteries are designed to last for the lifetime of the vehicle, which they mark as being 180,000 miles, though many live well into the 200K mile club without the need of a battery replacement. In fact, many Priuses outlive the expected lifetime of their batteries! There are accounts of people who have driven their Prius over 400K miles and never replaced their battery 👏🏾. So, if you are in the market for a Prius but are having second thoughts due to battery replacement situation, both Toyota’s quality batteries and the EPA has your back.

Our Verdict

To be honest, before Chad, I drove a rickety ’97 Toyota Camry so my standards aren’t extremely high, but the experts at Kelley Blue Book give it a 9.2 out of 10 and it is ranked as the #1 subcompact car and #6 hybrid car by US News. Not too shabby for this technologically-advanced, economic green machine. If you’re considering purchasing one of these lovely vehicles or are already an owner of one, give yourself a hearty pat on the back – we’re saving the world one Prius at a time. Just kidding, sadly it isn’t that easy, but you should feel great to part of the 132 million gallons of gas that Prius drivers save each year (click here to customize your estimated fuel savings based on your lifestyle).

Even if this post hasn’t made you start searching ‘Prius C for sale near me,’ I hope it’s brought you insight into why there are so many dang Priuses out there. They are comfortable, storage-efficient, easy to drive, and how about that stellar 50 combined MPG?! During my research, the main drawback of the car is that people want to drive it too much (remember the rebound effect?), so this really says something about the misconception that they are cheap, cramped, and uncomfortable. The really special thing about Priuses is that they combine the quality and reliability of the Toyota brand with green technology, so you don’t sacrifice the benefits of great fuel economy for a lemon that’ll die-out in a few years. If you’re still a hater through-and-through, go test-drive one! The worst thing that could happen is that you convert and leave the lot with one.

If you would like to read more about what we’ve discussed here, we urge you to read these articles that we found to be helpful during our research:

  • Toyota‘s self-review on the Prius’s gas savings and technology.
  • Another Toyota article about why changing the Prius battery shouldn’t dishearten potential customers.
  • CBS’s Money Watch article on the Prius’s reliability from an investment perspective.
  • USA Today‘s article on why the Prius is more than just a gas-saver.
  • The Washington Post‘s discussion of the rebound effect.
  • US News‘s review on the used 2014 Prius C.
  • The Department of Energy‘s calculator of your estimated fuel savings.

Thanks so much for your read and please comment with any pointers and feedback – we love to know how we can improve and what we’re doing well!

Happy driving,

Pete and Kiana

We have received no compensation to write this post – all opinions are our own.

6 thoughts on “Toyota Prius C – A Six Month Review

  1. bought a second hand one about a month ago … I’m a convert, best vehicle buy yet! Cheap, comfortable but slow … so saves on speeding tickets 🙂

    1. Hi @calmkate! We are so glad to hear that you love yours as well! Definitely slow, but we’re saving the planet together 😉

      1. absolutely, it drives so comfortably I can see the danger of doing more trips … 🙂

  2. My brother in law has one! Every time he stops at a light, people think he’s an Uber driver. LOL (he lives in Cali)

    1. Hahaha that is so funny! I had something similar happen to me in my VW Golf (this is Pete, not Kiana) when I was driving slowly late at night trying to pick up my brother. A drunk guy thought I was his Uber and tried to get in my car and got really upset when I kept driving.

      1. Haha! I’ll tell him he is not alone!!

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