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Comparison: Toyota Prius Family

June 4th, 2012


he Toyota Prius family has now expanded to four models for 2012: the standard 3rd-gen Prius Liftback, the Prius c subcompact hatch, the Prius v people-mover and the advanced Prius Plug-In range-extending hybrid. Prius lineup sales are red hot, but with four similar models some buyers may be left confused on which will suit their needs. Let’s break it down.

2012 Prius

Prius Comparison 2012 Toyota Prius

The classic Prius Liftback is still the lineup’s bread-and-butter model and offers a happy medium between price, mpg and performance. Its 50 combined mpg rating ties it for the best of any hybrid car and though the rear seat is a little tight the well-designed hatchback should meet your needs nicely as a daily driver. It may be a little small to take a vacation in, but its acceleration is acceptable if not very sporty.

We recommend the standard Prius Liftback if you can only own one car and place savings and earth-friendly motoring at the top of your list.

2012 Prius c

Prius Comparison 2012 Toyota Prius c

The Prius c subcompact is the newest entry in the family, and it’s smaller in every dimension than the Liftback and, more importantly, around $5,000 cheaper. Toyota did a good job here avoiding the low-rent interior feeling that plagues other subcompacts, though taller passengers may complain in the rear. Toyota has also worked hard at sportier handling, though you’ll feel the lack of power when climbing steep hills or with a car full of passengers.

We recommend the Prius c to those who seek the cheapest car on the road to own and operate, when considering base price and fuel costs over 5 years of ownership. While it ties the standard model’s efficiency mile-for-mile your fuel costs will be lower if you live in a big city.

2012 Prius v

Prius Comparison 2012 Toyota Prius v

The Prius v seeks to solve the problem stopping many potential buyers: the Liftback’s lack of interior and cargo space. Set the two cars side by side and the V is only marginally larger. Though it’s a little roomier and holds more of your stuff, it still seats just five as original plans for a third-row seat were canned in the United States. With the same powertrain as the Liftback acceleration is fair at best.

We cannot recommend the Prius v over the other available models. There are several other excellent hybrids, like Toyota’s own Camry Hybrid and the Kia Optima Hybrid, that offer great mpg with sedan roominess and much more power for everyday needs.

2012 Prius Plug-In

Prius Comparison 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in

Though pricing starts at $32,000 you can bank on a $2,500 Federal EV tax credit and more in some states like California, bringing the car’s price to a more-manageable range. With an 11-mile EV mode and short charge time even with a standard outlet, the Plug-In makes the ideal car for someone who runs lots of short errands during the day.

The Plug-In is for the buyer who loves all the latest technology and doesn’t mind paying a little more for it. You probably won’t save money over the Liftback over your total time of ownership, but you will save tons of fuel, lower foreign oil dependence and do your part toward greener motoring.

2012 Toyota Prius Family By the Numbers
Prius Prius c Prius v Prius Plug-In
MSRP $24,000 $18,950 $26,550 $32,000*
51/48/50 mpg 53/46/50 mpg 44/40/42 mpg 51/48/50 mpg**
Annual Fuel Cost $1,150 $1,150 $1,407 $1,000
Cargo Capacity 26.1 cu.ft. 17.1 cu.ft. 34.3 cu.ft. 26.1 cu.ft.
Passenger Volume 94 cu.ft. 87 cu.ft. 97 cu.ft. 94 cu.ft.
Peak Horsepower 134 hp 99 hp 134 hp 134 hp
0-60 mph 9.8 sec. 11.5 sec. 10.4 sec. 11.5 sec.

*: Before Federal and state tax credits.
**: Plus 11-mile EV-only mode




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