Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
With a 48-mpg fuel-economy rating in the city, the 2018 Toyota Prius C is America’s most fuel-efficient subcompact. The comfortable and sporty 4-door hatchback is also Toyota’s smallest and most affordable hybrid with a starting price just over $21,000. For 2018, Toyota has updated the exterior design of the hybrid and has added a rearview camera to its extensive list of standard safety equipment.
You'll Like The 2018 Toyota Prius c If...
If you’re looking for ultimate fuel economy for your money, you’ll like the 2018 Toyota Prius C. The hatchback is America’s least expensive hybrid and there isn’t another subcompact available that can match its fuel-economy ratings of 48-mpg city and 43 mpg on the highway. The Prius C also has a stellar reputation for reliability and comes standard with many high-tech active-safety systems.
You May Not Like The 2018 Toyota Prius c If...
Some may find the new 2018 Toyota Prius C too small for family use. They should consider the larger and more fuel-efficient Prius, which costs a few thousand dollars more, as well as the new Kia Niro and Hyundai Ioniq hybrids. Both are larger than the Prius C and start around $23,000.
For 2018 the Toyota Prius C hybrid hatchback gets an updated look with sporting intentions. Toyota has added SUV-inspired black roof rails, black side rockers and black wheelwell moldings as well as lower-body guards with silver accents. Toyota has also added a standard rearview camera to all Prius C models.
Far from bare-bones, the 2018 Toyota Prius C subcompact offers the standard Prius’ center-mounted gauges, which take a little getting used to, and multifunction steering wheel that carry over directly from the larger Prius liftback. The Prius C has comfortable and supportive seats up front, and a back seat that’s good for two adults or three kids. Those rear seats fold to nearly double the 17.1-cubic-foot cargo area. Fit/finish is admirable, but there are more hard plastics than we normally like to see. Visibility is excellent, and the futuristic shape of the dashboard and climate controls is kinda cool.
With the Prius hybrid and plug-in Prius Prime taking on radical styling cues seemingly brought back from an apocalyptic future by Doc Brown, Toyota has taken a more sporty and conservative approach to the design of the new Prius C. And it’s the best-looking of the bunch. For 2018 the small hatchback gets an updated look with SUV-inspired black roof rails, black side rockers and black wheelwell moldings as well as lower-body guards with silver accents. It works, while its sweeping headlights with standard LEDs and distinctive taillights remain firmly rooted in the Prius design language, and the "boomerang"’ shape within the rear doors is unique.
Toyota says the “C” in Prius C stands for “city,” and that’s where this little hybrid hatchback earns its money. In the congested urban sprawl of Los Angeles, the 2018 Prius C is fun to fling around with a playful chassis and precise steering. It feels sturdy, offers impressive agility and it’s confident in the curves. And its compact size makes it easy to maneuver in traffic and you can park it almost anywhere. It’s not as sporty as a Mazda3 or Honda Fit, but the Prius C isn’t a bore either, and the ride is comfortable, even over the potholes of West L.A. If only it had a bit more oomph for passing and merging. Acceleration is adequate, with a satisfying jump off the line. But the hybrid’s 99 horsepower can offer only so much thrust, so 0-60 mph takes a leisurely 12 seconds, and highway passing can be a roll of the dice.
When you include the $895 destination charge, the base 2018 Toyota Prius C One hybrid subcompact has a modest Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) around $21,500. That climbs to around $26,000 for the Prius C Four, still not terribly expensive. Those prices start about $3,000 less than that of the traditional Prius liftback, but for the price of a Prius C Four you can get a well-equipped Prius Two Eco, which gets 58 mpg in the city. There are also less expensive gasoline-only cars on the market, such as the Hyundai Accent, Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit, but none hold a candle to the Prius C’s fuel economy. If gasoline ever rises above $4/gallon, that advantage turns into big savings over the years, beyond any psychological lift you get from using less gas. Before buying, be sure to check KBB.com’s Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying in your area, and know that when you buy, the Prius C should hold its value as well as the rest of the Prius family.
Like other Prius models, the 2018 Toyota Prius C hybrid comes in trim levels designated by spelled-out numbers. The Prius C One comes with standard LED headlights, power mirrors, Entune audio, Toyota Safety Sense-C, a rearview camera, automatic climate control, cloth seats and Bluetooth phone controls. Prius C Two models add cruise control and a center-console storage compartment, while Prius Three models get push-button start. Prius C Four models get heated faux-leather seats and a power moonroof. Audio systems all include a 6.1-inch touch-screen display and USB input, but Three and Four models get navigation and a few other amenities.
Because of the 4-tier model lineup, individual options are sparse for the 2018 Prius C hybrid, and are confined to the Three and Four models. The Prius C Three model can be fitted with a power moonroof, and the Four model can be upgraded with 16-inch alloy wheels.
TOYOTA SAFETY SENSE PStandard on every 2018 Toyota Prius C is the brand’s Safety Sense P suite of driver assists. It includes Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beam headlights and Toyota’s Pre-Collision System with autonomous braking, which first warns you of a potential forward collision and will then apply the brakes for you if you do not take evasive action. EV/ECO MODEIn standard driving mode, the 2018 Toyota Prius C achieves awesome fuel economy and qualifies as a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV). But the hatchback offers the driver two other modes to help improve that performance. In Eco mode, the powertrain’s parameters are retuned for ultimate efficiency, and in EV mode the Prius C can be driven emissions-free for one-half mile.
Under the Hood
Lift the hood, and the 2018 Toyota Prius C will look familiar to any Prius driver. Using a smaller version of the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive found in the larger Prius, the Prius C teams a 73-horsepower, 1.5-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine with a 60-horsepower electric motor energized by a compact nickel-metal hydride battery located beneath the rear seat. It combines for a peak of 99 horsepower, sending it through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) to the front wheels. Normal, Eco and EV drive modes let drivers amp up the thriftiness, from Normal’s already good settings to Eco’s subtle adjustments of throttle response and climate control to maximize efficiency. The EV takes gasoline completely out of the equation for short periods of time at speeds below 25 mph. 1.5-liter inline-473 horsepower @ 4,800 rpm82 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm45-kilowatt electric motor60 horsepower, 125 lb-ft of torqueTotal System output: 99 horsepowerEPA city/highway fuel economy: 48/43 mpg
With a 48-mpg fuel-economy rating in the city, the 2018 Toyota Prius C is America’s most fuel-efficient subcompact. The comfortable and sporty 4-door hatchback is also Toyota’s smallest and most affordable hybrid with a starting price just over $21,000. For 2018, Toyota has updated the exterior design, giving it some sporty black trim and a more rugged small-SUV vibe in the process. It has also added a rearview camera to the Prius C’s extensive list of standard safety equipment, which includes a Pre-Collision System with autonomous braking, Lane Departure Alert and Automatic High Beam headlights. Four trim levels are available, which Toyota has lazily named One, Two, Three and Four. Key competitors include the Toyota’s larger Prius, which starts around $24,000, and non-hybrids like the Ford Fiesta, Chevy Sonic and Honda Fit.