What it is: The Prius is Toyota’s now legendary 4-door hybrid hatchback that has had everybody from tech entrepreneurs to soccer moms pining over it’s fantastic fuel economy as well as the undeniable ‘cool’ factor of driving a cutting edge technology car. Toyota has turned the Prius into a family of cars which include the original Prius, the Prius v (which is a slightly larger version) and now the Prius c, a slightly smaller version. The Prius c is still looks mostly like the Prius with a body that features 4 doors as well as a hatchback, but it the appearance has leaned away from soccer mom and more towards the young 20 something. Toyota has definitely targeted this market with the fantastic entry price point of approximately $19,000, a full $5,000 less than the Prius. You still get all of the cool hybrid technology that allows you to have a stunning 53 MPG in the city. The four trim levels, which Toyota refers to as One, Two, Three, and Four offer a great way to customized the vehicle to your liking. You would think that the base trim level, One, would cut out all of the niceties at such a low price point, but I was pleased to find things like power windows, remote keyless entry and Bluetooth phone connectivity offered standard. The big jump in features is with Three which offers Toyota’s new Entune integrated touch screen navigation. The big feature of entune is the ability for your car to piggyback on your cell phone’s data plan (aka tethering) and it gives you access to internet enriched content like streaming Pandora radio or finding local GPS-enabled gas prices. The Entune service does require you to run an application on your Apple, Android or BlackBerry phone and the service is complimentary for three years. No pricing details at this time for subsequent year, but I will conjecture that since your data plan is doing all of the heavy lifting and the content comes from third party providers like Bing, iheartradio, Movietickets.com, etc. that the price will be minimal. So all of the cool features are great, but the real question is, “How does it drive?” The answer is much better than you think a hybrid would drive and probably better than most cars in a similar size/price. It is a hybrid powertrain vehicle, so propolsion is made up of two components, a 1.5 liter four-cylinder gasoline engine (73 hp and 82 lb-ft torque) as well as a battery-powered electric motor that generates 60 hp. The electric motor really boosts the low-end acceleration meaning things like accelerating for an on-ramp are a breeze. The acceleration does get a little wheezy when you get above 50mph, but it will get you to any highway speed legal in Texas without a hitch; it just may take 5-10 extra seconds. The handling of the car is very good, but like most all front wheel drive cars, some torque steer is noticeable under acceleration from a dead stop. To be honest, it’s refreshing that we have hybrids that generate enough power to even generate torque steer though. The base ‘One’ trim comes with 15” with 16” standard on higher trims and optional 17”s available as well. It would be nice to have a little bit wider rubber gripping the road, but the slightly smaller tires allow much higher fuel economy. MPG: 53 city / 46 highway Upsides: Out of this world fuel economy and a smoking price. Downsides: Interior plastic is definitely economy, even on the higher trims. Wrap-up: Toyota hit it out of the park with this car. It is priced extremely aggressively and there really isn’t anything else out there that can compete. The Prius c has an excellent balance of appealing to younger entry level buyers but not ostracizing other demographics while still not coming off as bland, which is something Toyota has been battling in their last generation of cars. The Prius c should be hitting dealers in early March. Fun Fact: The Prius family of hybrids get such fantastic fuel economy due to the brakes of the car recovering energy while the cars brake. The energy is then stored in a series of batteries inside the car and then the energy is released whenever you accelerate throug the electric motor. One has to think that eventually all cars will be equipped with a similar energy recovery system eventually.

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