By Clint Williams
Green Right Now
Prius is now plural.
The Toyota Prius hit the highway in 1997 and quickly became synonymous with hybrid. Toyota will sell about 250,000 of its flagship green cars this year and cumulative worldwide sales are more than 3.6 million units.
The Prius is now more than one car. Toyota has broadened the options for drivers wanting envy-inducing gasoline mileage. In addition to the original mid-size liftback, there is the entry-level compact Prius C and the larger Prius v, which Toyota, and probably no one else, calls a wagon.
Finally, there’s the Prius Plug-In, which is just like the regular Prius except it can go all-electric for about 15 miles, making a total of four Priuses.
Toyota says the letter "c" represents "city" in the Prius c name, but it could also stand for "compact" and/or "cheaper."
Notice we didn't say just "cheap." The MSRP on the Prius c Four we drove was $25,589. The Four is the top of four trim levels and includes a standard SofTex®-trimmed steering wheel, heated leather-like front seats, automatic climate control, sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, satellite radio, and a smartphone integration system that adds Bing search functions, streaming Internet audio and traffic, sports and stock information.
The interior layout is more conventional than that found in its siblings. For example, the gearshift is mounted on the floor, not the dash.
The Prius c features a 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine compared to the 1.8 liter found in the larger versions. Working with an electric motor, the Prius c offers 99 horsepower compared to the 134 horsepower of the Prius with no letter.
Commuters will love this car because of the fuel economy. We got 52.2 mpg is a week of typical driving.
The Prius v – as in versatility – is six inches longer and three inches taller than the regular Prius and that translates into a lot more room for stuff. The Prius v has 34 cubic feet of cargo room – more than the Honda CR-V – compared to the 21.6 cubic feet found in the regular Prius.
The rear seats slide forward and fold flat to give you more than 67 cubic feet for cargo. There is also "basement storage" under the rear cargo platform.
The bigger car has the same drivetrain as its smaller sibling. The gas-electric combo generates 134 horsepower channel by an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission. Don't expect any driving thrills. Getting to 60 mph from a standing start will take you about 10 seconds.
But people kicking the tires on a Prius of any sort aren't looking at 0-60 mph times. They're looking at mpg. And the Prius v delivers 44 miles per gallon in city driving and 40 mpg on the highway, according to EPA estimates.
The cabin is comfortable and family-friendly with plenty of storage nooks: dual glove boxes, a center console utility tray and a large center console.
The array of safety features includes electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, brake assist and seven airbags.
The MSRP on the Three model (again, four trim levels) that featured a navigation system, a rearview camera, satellite radio and HD radio was $29,189.
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