Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Prius C - game changer?

It may be premature to call the 2012 Toyota Prius C the best thing since pre-sliced bagels, but it may just be The Little Car That Could.

For starters, priced at about $20,000.00, it’s the lowest-priced and first truly affordable gas-electric hybrid. Its official mileage in the city is 2.8L/100 K, or 53 mpg to those who still don’t get metric. Since the Honda Civic hybrid lawsuit in the U.S., we’re skittish on official mileage figures, but this seems promising.

Is Toyota the only car-maker who has figured out something that others are missing? There’s a whole generation of car buyers out there who are not exactly in love with the traditional internal combustion engine – they’re not romantically attached to muscle cars or overpowered Italian designer buggies. The charmingly named Generation Y cut their teeth on the three “R’s” – reduce, reuse, recycle. To a lot of them, the internal combustion engine is a planet killer.

For the first time in generations, rites of manhood do not include a driver’s license – but rather, an iPhone. According to a Deloitte LLP survey “the smartphone has replaced the car as the ultimate mobile device.” So Gen Y wants 1. an affordable car 2. that doesn’t pollute and 3. they can plug their phone into.

Enter the Prius C. The base model comes standard with a 3.5 inch information screen, Bluetooth, automatic climate control plus USB and iPod connectivity, features that you don’t usually find in a $20,000 car.

Not everyone is impressed with the Prius C. It’s been derisively referred to as a hybrid Yaris, underpowered and sluggish, and plasticky inside. Some kvetch that the base model doesn’t come with heated seats. Others complain that it doesn’t look enough like a Prius!

The fact is, the same Deloitte LLP study found that 57 percent of Gen Y prefer a hybrid-gasoline car. There are currently 80 million Gen Y in the U.S. – the biggest consumer group since the Baby Boomers. The Boomers fell in love with horsepower happy cars like Mustangs, Hummers and exotic rocketcars. If the auto industry wants to survive, they better start pandering to Gen Y – they’re going to be the game-changers.


  1. I've wondered why hybrid's don't get better mileage. I have a regular Mazda Protege which gets 37mpg on the highway, so when I hear a hybrid gets 40, I'm just not impressed. Sounds like Toyota is on the right track. Nothing like a disastrous recall year to put a car company through its paces, LOL!

    1. They say the greenest car is the one already on the road. Those Mazda Proteges were bulletproof and I'm not surprised to hear it gets awesome mileage. Hybrids do best in the city, where the stop and go traffic is more conducive to their brake-regenerative system, which engages the electric motor. Let's hope the latest crop of hybrids are an improvement!

  2. The Hummer is "horsepower happy?" The "real" Hummer, or the rebadged Yukon? Either way, I still gotta wonder...

  3. Thanks for your comment! From my perspective, a Hummer or a Yukon under any badge is more car than anyone needs. That was my point. Unless you've got one mean ass payload, what's wrong with an F series pickup?