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Consumer Reports calls the Toyota Prius C "lackluster" and "cheap"

The Toyota Prius C has been denied the recommendation of Consumer Reports.


Generally speaking, if a review contains the phrase “That’s where the good news ends,” it does not bode well for the product being critiqued. That is essentially what has just happened to the all-new Toyota Prius C in a review by Consumer Reports. The website has torn apart the new full-hybrid vehicle calling it “lackluster” and “cheap.”

So was there anything that Consumer Reports liked about the Prius C? Well, it couldn’t all be bad, because the agency did give the vehicle credit for its solid gas mileage. Unfortunately for Toyota that is where the praise ended and the onslaught began. According to Consumer Reports, the Prius C is built on a “lackluster” platform, modeled after the Toyota Yaris. Aside from a less than stellar platform, Consumer Reports contends that the vehicle’s steering feedback is “dead” and the ride feels “busy and choppy.” The Prius C’s ride quality especially suffers during highway driving where acceleration is slow and road noise is abundant. Not to mention, it is a struggle to maintain highway speeds above 40 miles per hour traveling uphill.

As for the car’s interior, Consumer Reports described it as “cheap,” mainly consisting of “hard plastics.” Visibility wise, vision is obstructed by high head restraints and small rear glass. Lastly, the Prius C has little cargo room.

Although the Toyota Prius C starts at $18,995, Consumer Reports does not feel the price makes up for its shortcomings. The consumer website also stated that as the price climbs, the value of the Prius C does not. In the end, Consumer Reports could simply not justify paying $20,000 for a vehicle of this caliber. They even went as far as advising consumers to buy a used regular Prius rather than a brand new Prius C.

Further backing up Consumer Reports’ claims is an analysis by U.S. News and Rankings. The website, which analyzed 26 published reviews for Prius C ranked it 25th out of 41 Small Cars. Like Consumer reports, U.S. News indicates that the biggest complaint reviews had with the vehicle was its “underpowered engine” and “cheap interior materials.” That said, the majority of reviews did praise the Prius C for its high fuel economy ratings.

Despite the scathing Consumer Reports review, Prius C sales have been solid for Toyota. In its first month, the hybrid sold 4,782 units, outselling both the Prius V and subcompact Yaris.

Source: Consumer Reports


Aaron Turpen    May 31, 2012 - 2:09PM

Having driven a Prius c, I'm not sure what Consumer Reports expected out of this car. It's a very low-end vehicle in price point and has the best economy in that price range. It's not meant as a highway car and my short time on the freeway with it showed that while it wasn't as good as a larger cruiser, it was fine for a sub-compact. Not sure what they think of as "peppy" versus the Prius c, since the acceleration and drive were fine for me.

Vincent (not verified)    May 31, 2012 - 4:40PM

In reply to by Aaron Turpen

I just got mine with all the options, level four. It does make a difference. I bought it for one reason only. It was the car with the best rated gas milage in the world that does not need a plug. Where I am located, I have no access to plugs.
It is not meant to be a race car. I found the seats comfortable, acceleration into highway traffic was no problem and parking was greatly improved compared to my larger car. I took out the back head rests to improve visibility out the back window. I found the back visibility better then the regular Prius. I love the car and am very happy with it.
Yours truly, Vincent

bruce (not verified)    May 31, 2012 - 5:13PM

I drove one last week and ordered one a day later. It was much quicker than I expected and did just fine on the highway. Plus 53 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway is really quite amazing. My current ride is BMW 328 and while it might seem odd to go from that to a Prius c, this is a really nice little car with a better ride than my BMW. It will get 53 mpg in the city and frankly it has been 26 years since I paid under $20k for a new vehicle!

ChiefMechanic (not verified)    May 31, 2012 - 9:35PM

I'd wager that the next-generation Prius c should address many of the shortcomings that Consumer Reports had pointed out.

The Prius c uses the same 1.5L 1NZ-FXE engine as the second-generation Prius, but a smaller MG2 main drive motor and smaller traction battery for a total of 99HP. By the time the next-generation Prius c hits the market, it should have a higher-capacity lithium-ion battery (vs. the current NiMH). Pair that up with a bigger MG2 main drive motor (like the 60HP motor in the Gen-II Prius), the Prius c will have a lot more pep if it has the gen-II Prii's combined 130HP.

XRinger (not verified)    May 31, 2012 - 11:30PM

We got the C-2 to replace my wife's 2003 Corolla. She has fallen in love with this new car!
She found the C-2 test drive was way better than her test drive of the Kia Rio.
(Plus, I felt like I was sitting in a bucket on the passenger side. C2 is way better).
Rear-view of the C-2 is better than the 2012 Rio Hatch.
And if you want it even better, remove rear head-rests.. (We bagged one and left it in the cargo area).
The cargo area is small, but perfect for our needs. (groceries for two).
She also loves having her CD music collection playing off a USB stick..

I have the same kind of electric-assist steering in my 2009 Escape, but the C-2's handling 'feels' better. More like a sports car.

Google "Xringer's Prius C" and check out post #44. The poster got 50.2 MPG highway at 70 MPH! (average speed was 70mph for 40 miles in rolling hills).

My wife's C-2 gets 60-65 MPG making short trips around town. ( 50 to 50% EV mode).
70 MPG is possible if you know how to hypermile it.

There's a reason the Prius C is the 3rd best seller in the world.
Check out the PriusChat forum. Owners are loving the new Prius C.


Anonymous (not verified)    May 31, 2012 - 11:34PM

I"ve had the prius c for two months now, and yes it has a somewhat cheap look and feel to the interior, and its a little noisy on the highway, and its not a peppy runner, its also not a Cadillac. Its an entry level hybrid that gets you from A to B for the least amount of $ that doesn't plug-in, period. I've logged over 3500 miles averaging just over 50MPG. So the biggest surprise to me about the consumer reports article is their MPG listed 37 city and 48 highway. They must have Dale jr. doing their driving reviews.

XRinger (not verified)    June 1, 2012 - 1:27PM

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

"their MPG listed 37 city and 48 highway."
That's the first thing that made me think had mistakenly tested the wrong car.
'C' is for City. This car excels in heavy city traffic.

Or, maybe they pulled out of the driveway with a cold engine, got 1/4 mile up the street and saw 37 MPG and wrote down the number, just before it changed to 57 and then 67 MPG!

Bob (not verified)    June 2, 2012 - 5:31PM

In reply to by XRinger (not verified)

When I first read that I figured they transposed the digits on the city mileage. Had my C3 for two months now. On the one ten mile stretch I measured that was all at speeds between 25 and 42, with 7 stops, I got 76.6 MPG.

But when you read how they do their city test run, it becomes pretty clear:

Our tests. These tests are stop-and-go city-driving simulations on our test track, which has a total of 18 stops and 4 minutes of total idle time. Top speed is 40 mph. Two different testers each drive three runs for a total of six 2-minute, 40-second trials on every test vehicle. Total test time is approximately 16 minutes.<<

If you run the math on the above numbers, it works out like this: a city "run" is about 127 seconds long, of which, 40 seconds is spent at idle during three stops(Idle time actually helps the Prius). So "driving" time for each run is only about 87 seconds. With three stops, that's three 29 second long periods of movement, meaning three sessions of getting the car moving from a stop, which, as all Ptrius owners have witnessed watching the dash displays is when the MPG reading is at it's lowest, followed by a very short cruise, and then the slow down for the next stop. Rinse and repeat 6 times, take an average, and you get 37 MPG.

That test might simulate mid town Madhatten at rush hour, but it certainly doesn't give representative results for non highway driving for the rest of the world.

XRinger (not verified)    June 3, 2012 - 12:45AM

In reply to by Bob (not verified)

Sounds a little convoluted, but I guess it's what they think is worse case..

In the real world, worse case is lunch time in Somerville Mass.

It's the worse place to drive on the east coast.
It's the 13th most populated town in the USA, with about a zillion trucks, buses and cars parked on both sides of narrow (cow path) streets, that are filled with the worse drivers in north America.. And it's got some pretty good hills to climb!

We did the round trip to city hall (20 miles in one hour) and still got 62.9 MPG..
62% in EV mode (12.3 miles) and engine shut down at stops is what does the trick..
This car is amazing.

Anonymous (not verified)    June 1, 2012 - 3:14PM

Really like my C. My commute is about 80/miles and I am avg. 55 mpg vs my subaru's 22 mpg. I bought it for the fuel economy not to race. The acceleration is sufficient for me to pass cars that are going 55. It does lose acceleration going up hills and I would'nt want to drive it in the rockies. Also, I have no problem with the interior. I am 6'1 and there is sufficient interior room.

pearlsport (not verified)    June 2, 2012 - 10:00AM

Here is another good example of why I stopped being a subscriber to CR a few years back. They have failed to research the product's intent and target, understand the purpose for it's design, and report on it as a complete package on whether or not it meets what it was designed for and what it is intended to accomplish. I am an owner of Prius C level 2. I bought it for what it is and what it is supposed to accomplish. I can honestly tell you that it exceeded my expectations to the "Nth Degree". Yes, Toyota used alot of plastics in the dash, but they did with style. No, it's not Burled Walnut, but it looks good and was tastefully done and fits extemely well. It was not designed to be a highway cruiser, hence the "C", which had CR even done a little research, would have discovered the "C" stands for CITY. DUH! But in actuallity, it performs very well on the highway and accelerates admirably enough to not have people driving up your tailpipe. It handles very well. There is plenty of feel to the steering, and it handles twisty roads with ease and control. Its fit and finish are typical Toyota quality, and the ride is as expected for a subcompact: firm, but it's not bone jarring. The seats, front and rear, are very comfortable, and there is not one squeek, rattle or clunk when driving on rough roads. The noise level is on par with other subcompacts at highway speeds. I will admit that the rear headrests do impair rear vision somewhat, but not too bothersome. As I rarely have anyone in the back seats, I removed them and put them in the back. Easy enough to put back in if needs be. The styling is appealing: it looks very good and maybe even a little sporty. It has all the modern bells and whistles, bluetooth, interfaces, steering wheel controls, auto temp/air conditioning, etc. And last, but not least, the MPG is incredible. I've had mine for 2 months and 1,600 miles, and always do better than the sticker. I drive mine normal, combo city/urban/suburban/highway, and never get less than 53 mpg. Usually 55 to 60 mpg, and I'm not hyper-miling either. If I hyper-mile I can get 70 mpg, and sometimes on a short run to corner store, the engine never has to start: all on electric. Did Toyota pull it off as the Hybrid for masses and at an affordable price? You bet they did, and in spades. Best investment I ever made in purchasing a car, and I've had plenty over the years. This is nearly a 5 star vehicle in the Hybrid marketplace by comparison. Go back and do your homework Consumer Reports/U.S. News and Rankings. Try judging it and rating it in the category it is intended; Non plug-in Hybrid and come back when you've finished your education.

XRinger (not verified)    June 2, 2012 - 11:29AM

In reply to by pearlsport (not verified)

I'm not sure, but the "cheap, hard plastics.” sounds very familiar.
Perhaps CR just plagiarized someone's bad review??

After riding around in a 2003 Corolla CE (without power windows etc) for 10 years, the interior of the 'c' looks top notch to me.
I don't recall the 2012 KIA Rio EX looking much better, when we test drove it.

Or plan was to buy the 2013 Rio with ISG, but when the 2013 information came out, it turned out ISG (idle Stop Go cuts off engine at stops), Plus the package required, put the price within $150 of a Prius C-1..
We did a test drive in a C-1 and it Wowed us! But, we went for the C-2 to get the cruise control. CC is a must-have for fun road trips..


If your aim is maximum MPG that includes a Fun driving experience, get yourself a C2..

If you want a sports car, get yourself a real sports car. If gas prices stay above $3.50, you might find some good deals on muscle cars too.

Dave C. - Clif… (not verified)    June 3, 2012 - 1:55PM

I've had my C2 for two months now (2200 miles) and couldn't disagree more with the CR review. My overall milage for the entire two months is 58.8 MPG.

Of course, it isn't a sports car and I don't attempt to drive it like one. I almost always have it in ECO mode except when I'm faced with an uphill start and have a monster truck on my tail.

The turning radius is phenominal - second only to Tony Hawk on a skateboard - which adds a little fun.

Jessy (not verified)    June 3, 2012 - 7:36PM

Have tried Prius C2 without any expectations, and after the ride, I signed up for one. Had this car for 2 months now, and I'm really pleased with it. It's much better than what I'm expecting. Can't understand the CR review...

Ross (not verified)    June 13, 2012 - 3:17AM

Comsumer reports obviously didn't spend more then 5 minutes with a Prius c if that they probably looked at the engine and went what 99 horsepower "no we can't have this" . Most Americans drive tail to tail rushing from point to point or stoplight to stoplight riding in their 'horsepower number obsession' machines. Yes it's not a speed demon, but if u turn Eco off and not even half petal to the metal it CAN accelerate and well and manuever! I absolutely agree with everyone on here that the Prius c is an amazing car and after having a reglar prius hybrid and before that two bigger sportscars, I still stand by this car. It is a smart car for a different generation of "consumers" for a different world.....that report in concurrence with myself: it's fuel efficiency 3months 3 fill ups 59.2 mpg lifetime average, amazing turning radius, sleek design, roomy, quiet and it makes it easy to wave at the people that passed me to get two seconds ahead to the red light when I pull up beside them laughing and enjoying the great sound system in my level two. I'm a believer....can't wait for the next gen c!

Carmen (not verified)    June 22, 2014 - 10:59AM

I have learned to take consumer reports with a grain of salt. I purchased a Prius C the very same month they were introduced. I needed a super economical car and after test driving it, I purchased it on the spot. Yes, it is small, and I found several problems.......rear blind spots and too small rear window. On the plus side however, I found the ride very acceptable. I did not expect it to drive like my BMW 328i which I traded in after 150,000 miles because it became extremely expensive just for basic maintenance. The gas savings on the Prius C is quite impressive,and often far exceeded the advertised 53mpg. I drove my Prius C for 60,000 trouble free $$$$ saving miles. I unfortunately was involved in a very severe auto accident. I was traveling 50+ miles on a state highway, dropped my coffee.....did not see the sudden traffic stop and ran into a car. My Prius C was totaled but I walked away with minor bruising caused by the life saving airbags. The insurance paid a very fair price and I promptly replaced it with another Prius. I actually need a larger car so I bought the regular lift back. However, I would not hesitate to recommend a Prius C to anyone.

Richard Lee (not verified)    June 24, 2014 - 8:33AM

Thanks for posting Carmen.. It's good to see long term reports. We have had very good luck so far.. No damage to the car or us.. ;)
MPG is still great and no recalls.. It still looks great too. But, it's still got less than 20,000 miles on it..
So it's not fully broken in yet..


Chris (not verified)    November 3, 2016 - 3:33AM

I don't understand. My major concern is that if CR falsely reported the mpg for the prius c it should be a really big deal. maybe even front page news. you can't say the manufacture's sticker is of by 10 mpg and not get sued right? From what some commenter's have posted maybe it was the way they drove the car compared to the base prius. i am confused. I am attracted to the prius c because of price, however i am concerned that maybe CR is right that i should just buy an older base prius instead of the C. After all the base prius should get slightly better mileage any way?