Everyone knows about the Prius, but how about the other Prius? The one that costs less — and saves you money on gas?
It's the Prius c.
What It Is
The Prius c is not as well-known as the eponymous Prius — Toyota's popular five-door hatchback hybrid — but it's basically the same thing in a smaller and more affordable package.
Prices begin at $21,530 for the L trim and top out at $22,955 for an LE with push-button ignition and a larger, upgraded touch screen.
For reference, the Prius everyone knows about starts at $24,200 and runs to $32,375.
Toyota has changed the Prius c's trim structure. The previous One, Two, Three and Four trims have been replaced — and winnowed down — to base L and top-of-the-line LE.
The new top-of-the-line 2019 LE is also substantially discounted compared with last year's top-of-the-line Four — which listed for $24,965.
It saves you money upfront.
It averages almost 50 mpg — saving money down the road.
It has more backseat legroom than its larger brother.
What's Not So Good
It has limited options/amenities.
It isn't in a hurry.
It has less cargo capacity than the other Prius.
Under the Hood
All trims come standard with a 1.5-Liter gas engine paired with an electric motor/battery pack.
The combo makes 99 horsepower — less than the 121 horsepower produced by the better-known Prius' larger 1.8-Liter engine and battery pack/motor.
Mileage is also a bit less: 48 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway, versus 54 mpg in the city and 50 mpg on the highway for the c's larger brother.
But if saving money is your goal here, consider the $2,670 you won't spend on the c — as opposed to the slight difference in what the c's bigger brother will save you on fuel.
That $2,670 you didn't spend on the c could buy about 1,100 gallons of gas at today's price of roughly $2.40 per gallon. If you average 45 mpg, that's equivalent to free gas for about 50,000 miles of driving.
On the Road
The c has adequate speed. It just needs more time to get up to speed.
That's the difference between the economy cars of the past and those of today. You may need to get a running start to merge onto a highway, but the c can easily maintain 70-75 mph once you're on the highway.
And there aren't many cars that will average close to 50 mpg on the highway.
Except the other Prius.
In stop-and-go city traffic, meanwhile, the c is almost electric-car quiet — because in stop-and-go driving, it functions as an electric car — with its gas engine off (and therefore silent) much of the time.
It's also an easier car to drive in city traffic because of its smaller exterior proportions.
At the Curb
The c is a subcompact five-door hatchback — which means it's about 18 inches shorter than the compact-sized regular Prius (180 inches bumper to bumper versus 162.4 inches for the c).
Being smaller, it can fit in spots that the larger Prius has to pass by. But, being smaller, it also has less trunk space than the regular Prius.
However, both of them are hatchbacks, and that layout gives each proportionately much more room for cargo than sedans larger than them both.
The larger Prius has 27.4 cubic feet of total cargo capacity — comparable to a small crossover SUV's capacity. But the c still has 17.1 cubic feet of capacity — which is more than most full-size sedans.
Surprisingly, the c has more backseat legroom (35 inches) than its bigger-but-not-as-roomy-back-there brother, which only has 33.4 inches of legroom in its second row.
Both trims come standard with Toyota's Safety Sense package, which includes lane departure warning and automated emergency braking.
Two things not available with the c are all-wheel-drive and a plug-in option that lets you charge the battery externally, using a 120-volt household outlet. Both of these features are available with the other Prius.
Hybrids are falling out of favor — in favor of electric cars — which is odd, because hybrids solve the two biggest problems with electric cars.
You never have to worry about range because if the battery runs low on charge, the hybrid's gas engine will kick in to keep you going. And you'll never have to wait for the batteries to recharge because the hybrid recharges itself as you drive.
Also, the hybrid's batteries should last longer — probably for the life of the car — because they're used part-time rather than all the time.
One of the hidden costs of electric vehicle ownership is having to replace the battery pack before the car reaches the end of its useful service life — which can cost several thousand dollars.
Odds are you'll never have to worry about that with the c.
The Bottom Line
The c saves gas — and money.
Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.