The J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, a touchstone for the industry’s current successes and failures in new-car design and production, has just released the results of its 2012 Initial Quality Study (IQS). Lexus was the highest-ranked brand for the second year in a row with the fewest problems per 100 vehicles. The brand was followed by two other luxury manufacturers, Jaguar and Porsche, which tied for second place. Cadillac and Honda rounded out the top five.
According to the study, as the North American automotive industry continues to recover, vehicle manufacturers post the strongest improvement in initial quality since 2009 and are producing higher-quality vehicles than ever before. Still, quality was hurt by widespread glitches in technology such as touch-screen controls and voice-recognition software, said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates.
As manufacturers introduce increasingly sophisticated multimedia systems designed to enhance the ownership experience, owners more frequently cite these systems as a source of quality problems. For the first time in the 26-year history of the study, owners report more problems related to audio, entertainment, and navigation systems than in any other vehicle area. This is driven in part by a rapid increase in the fitment of new technology, such as voice recognition on mainstream models.
“Until recently, this type of sophisticated technology was found primarily on high-end models” said Sargent, “However, over the past few years it has rapidly found its way into the automotive mainstream. For example, in 2012, more than 80 percent of owners indicate that their new vehicle has some form of hands-free technology.”
Toyota and Lexus vehicles captured five segment awards (Yaris, Corolla, ES 350, LS and RX) and five Toyota manufacturing facilities in Japan and North America won plant awards, including one Gold, in the 2012 Initial Quality Study (IQS), more than any other automaker in both categories.
The study also found:
- Toyota has fewer problems than the premium brands industry average;
- 15 Toyota, Lexus, and Scion models ranked in the top three of the segments they compete in;
- Corolla is the highest performing non-premium model, it also ranks fifth overall;
- The all-new Prius v garnered second place in a closely contested segment; and
- The redesigned Camry scores even better than last year’s model
“We are very pleased with this year’s Initial Quality Study honors”, said Ray Tanguay, Senior Vice President and Chief Quality Officer Toyota Motor North America, Inc. “These accolades echo our enduring commitment to quality, value, and customer satisfaction”.
by Zach McDonald – HybridCars.com
For the first time ever, a hybrid has won the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, which took place last weekend at the famed Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, France. A pair of Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro cars finished in first and second place, and two diesel-powered Audi R18s finished third and fifth.
To win at Le Mans requires a rare mix of speed, handling and fuel economy, making it an ideal stage for hybrids to break into premier motorsports. For more than a decade, Audi has dominated the race- winning 11 of the last 13 contests-and the last six of those wins have come with the help of the carmaker’s diesel TDI technology. But this year, for the first time, the rules were changed to allow hybrids to compete for the top prize, which opened the door for Toyota to bring its market-leading gas-electric technology to the race, with a chance to break Audi’s iron grip on the event.
This weekend marked the first time the Toyota TS030 hybrid had ever competed in an event, and the car had only been testing on the track for five months prior to the Le Mans event. Toyota publicly downplayed its ambitions for 2012, saying it did not expect to win right away. Still, with hybrids expected to carry the day under the new rules changes and Toyota such dominant force in the consumer gas-electric market, some had hoped that the team might be able to at least give Audi a run for its money in this year’s race.
But the two Toyota hybrids were met with some bad fortune early on, with one of the TS030s having to be towed following a severe accident and the other falling back from the front of the pack after damage sustained during a brush with another car. Neither car was able to finish the race.
Still, the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans will go down as an important day for green motorsports. Not only did two diesel hybrids carry the day, but the field included multiple hybrid entrants that were in contention at various points in the race. Indeed, it would seem after this year’s race that entering a hybrid drivetrain is more than just a good public relations move at Le Mans-it may very well be a requirement for having any chance at winning the race.
Toyota has announced the development of a new vehicle-to-grid-like setup capable of sharing power between plug-in vehicles like the Prius Plug-in or RAV4 EV, and a home. The vehicle-to-home system (or V2H as the carmaker is calling it,) can cycle energy from an EV or PHEV into the home during periods of outage or to balance out the power load during peak hours of energy usage. The system will begin testing in ten Japanese households by the end of the year.
Toyota says the technology is being developed as part of the “ToyotaCity Low-Carbon Verification Project” it started two years ago, partnering the carmaker with 19 other companies in an effort to help households and cities optimize their energy management, with the overall goal of reduced CO2 emissions. Vehicle-to-home and other energy-balancing systems require a means to build up and store energy during times of lower usage so that it can be used later, when there is more demand and utilities tend to charge more for power. Plug-in vehicle batteries have long been identified as potential sites for this kind of energy storage, and in recent years a wide array of carmakers and charging station manufacturers have announced plans to develop such systems.
In addition to helping utilities avoid strain on the grid (and the environment,) V2H benefits electric vehicle owners in several ways. Most attractively, it helps to lower overall utility costs by diverting peak usage to off-peak hours, when electricity is cheaper. Those savings can help to offset the added cost of an electric vehicle battery pack by providing multiple uses for the pack. During emergency situations or when power is scarce or unavailable, V2H can also allow a plug-in owner to power his or her home for anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending upon the kind of vehicle.
Plug-in hybrids like the Prius Plug-in are particularly useful in this situation, because their engines can act as generators, converting gasoline to much-needed electricity. According to Toyota, a fully charged Prius Plug-in with a full tank of gas can power the average Japanese home for up to 4 days.
by: Zack McDonald – HybridCars.com
Toyota says it has plans to begin manufacturing the Prius in the United States for the first time. Last year, the carmaker recorded its 1 millionth Prius sale in the U.S., and despite supply shortfalls in the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, sold more than 136,000 Prii here for the full year. By 2015, the company expects annual North American Prius sales to reach 200,000 units, with total North American hybrid sales projected to hit 400,000 vehicles by that time.
Toyota executive, Koei Saga, told Auto News this week that the carmaker is currently scouting potential North American suppliers. “We are targeting 2015,” said Saga. “Around then we will probably introduce the next-generation Prius, so we are trying our hardest to realize local production of hybrid units then.”
The shift will hopefully spell the end of the dreaded Prius waiting list for American customers, a phenomenon that has been present during all the more major recent oil spikes in the U.S. Being able to meet demand when it is at its highest is one of the main reasons that Toyota started talking about adding production flexibility to the Prius line last year. Another reason is an overall desire on the part of the company to avoid the major losses suffered across the Japanese auto industry as a result of last year’s earthquake, which caused the carmaker to report its first quarterly loss in more than two years, and sent executives searching for ways to diversify their supply chains.
It’s been a long time since the Prius was a niche vehicle spotted mainly in California’s more liberal enclaves, and Toyota can no longer afford to lose potential sales to competing hybrids during production shortfalls. With the expansion of the platform to include not only the standard Prius but also the larger Prius v, the compact Prius c, and the Prius Plug-in, Toyota plans to make the Prius the best-selling vehicle platform in the world in the coming years.
Saga also told Auto News that Toyota plans to stick with nickel metal hydride batteries for the next generation Prius, despite moves by competitors to switch their hybrids to lithium ion. Still, the company says it could begin lithium ion battery production here in the United States to supply the Prius Plug-in and eventually other plug-in vehicle offerings.
The Sensational New 2013 Toyota Avalon Makes World Debut at the 2012 New York International Auto Show
Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. revealed the all-new 2013 Avalon premium mid-size sedan today at the 2012 New York International Auto Show. The new Avalon is re-conceived for the premium mid-size sedan segment with a progressive and emotionally styled exterior design.
When it arrives to dealerships late this year, the new Avalon will offer improved dynamic performance, a greater degree of refinement, and a highly spacious, comfortable interior experience with an abundance of outstanding convenience technologies.
The new 2013 Avalon is the result of a North American-focused design and engineering effort. The new sedan’s dramatic exterior and interior design was conceived by a youthful and talented team at the Calty Design Research Inc. facilities in Southern California and Michigan. The car’s engineering development was principally led by a passionate and dedicated group based at Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. Continuing a North American focused theme, the 2013 Avalon will be assembled at Toyota’s facility in Georgetown, Ky. True to the future product mission set forth by Toyota Motor Corporation President, Akio Toyoda, the new Avalon’s more stylish, bold, sporty exterior design and luxurious interior styling are matched by an enhanced dynamic package, a combination that foreshadows the more compelling and passionate nature of future Toyota products.
Enhanced Avalon Dynamics
In addition to its stunning design, numerous structural and chassis improvements were made to the new Avalon to enhance the ride quality, straight-line stability and handling. The body structure gains improvements in torsional rigidity thanks to additional and strategically placed welds, improved body bracing, and high-strength steel in key areas in order to provide a stiffer chassis and optimize suspension performance. The new Avalon suspension relies on MacPherson struts with advanced valving and rebound springs to balance handling and agility with ride comfort. Coil spring rate and front and rear sway bar stiffness was increased from the current model to help improve body control and body roll. The Avalon’s electric power steering (EPS) system has been tuned to help deliver enhanced controllability and vehicle agility while also realizing superior linear stability.
The new Avalon offers three distinct drive modes that help tailor dynamic performance to the driver’s needs. The drive modes – Normal, Eco, and Sport -are made available through driver-selectable switches. In Sport mode, throttle response is enhanced and steering effort is weighted from center to offer a sportier character. Eco changes throttle response and A/C power usage to help improve fuel economy. Steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters help provide a sportier drive while in the D or S Mode, where the revised throttle helps improve shift response to help maximize engine power and vehicle performance.
Dynamic Exterior Styling
The new Avalon’s dynamic exterior styling defines a sleek and expressive profile that helps communicate a sense of motion for the vehicle even when it is at rest. The beltline has been lowered to accentuate a strong stance. Compared to its predecessor, the new Avalon is a bit more compact yet displays better proportions with a longer, sloping roofline, flared front fenders, and reduced front and rear overhangs, lower vehicle height, and reduced body-to-tire gap. New 17-inch and 18-inch alloy wheel and tire combinations fill the wheel well to enhance the vehicle’s dynamic exterior expression.
￼Key exterior design elements include the square Double-eye PES (Projector Ellipsoid System) headlamps with HID (High-Intensity Discharge)and elegant DRL (Daytime Running Lights) feature available that provide excellent night time visibility while helping define a narrower, more taut and muscular exterior expression. A wider, more assertive grille design provides a bolder front perspective. At the rear, high-performance LED combination tail lamps are adopted which are more integrated with the revised rear-body styling. The dual rear tailpipe outlets further the more cohesive design theme.
Modern Interior Experience
Design elements enhancing comfort, convenience and technology help create the luxurious experience that will prove tempting to buyers of the next Avalon. The 2013 Avalon offers a modern, spacious, premium interior highlighted by abundant rear seat legroom, while featuring a myriad of available features. Beyond mere dimensions, the new Avalon’s interior design enhances the cabin’s sense of spaciousness and comfort. The front seat’s hip point has been lowered by 10 millimeters (0.4 inches) to help create improved headroom. The new power front seat design with increased side bolstering is more supportive and offers an expanded range of downward adjustment. In addition, the structural components of the sunroof and the headliner design have been optimized to help increase the cabin’s roominess. A concave dash panel design, located in front of the passenger, helps create an expansive feeling. While the rear overhang has been reduced by 1.7 inches, the luggage compartment capacity is 16.0 cubic feet, an increase of 1.6 cubic feet as compared to the outgoing model.
The Avalon’s premium interior attains a high level of refinement by reducing wind, engine and road noise inside the cabin. The resultant interior is even significantly quieter and more comfortable than the current Avalon and it creates an ideal environment to enjoy conversation, music or Toyota’s available multimedia system, EntuneTM. Sound absorbing materials have been strategically placed around the cabin and body structure while not inhibiting a reduction in overall vehicle weight. The windshield and front side-glass panels utilize acoustic glass that helps control sound intrusion into the cabin. Reductions in wind noise have been realized by optimizing exterior shape, specifically cowl and louver sealing, outer mirror shape and position, and wiper-blade position, which have all been developed to dramatically reduce wind noise generation. Exterior gaps and steps have also been minimized to reduce wind noise around the door glass areas.
The new Avalon’s interior utilizes premium materials and a high degree of craftsmanship to offer an upscale experience. Rich, supple leather trims the steering wheel, shift knob, and seat upholstery helping add visual and tactile appeal. Hand-crafted, decorative stitching is adopted for the steering wheel, and soft-touch materials on the dash panel and door trim elevate the vehicle’s sense of tactile luxury. Smoked chrome-metallic accents are applied to the instrument panel, center console, door panel, and steering wheel surfaces to help add distinction and exceptional feel. Available push-button controlled soft white ambient lighting illuminates key regions of the interior to help convey the sense of luxury. The new Avalon’s center console includes a convenient console tray that is ideal for the storage of electronic hand held devices. The new Avalon’s console area is equipped with a USB port, AUX input terminal and three 12-volt power outlets to help facilitate device interface and charging.
The new Avalon will offer innovative technologies such as advanced capacitive touch switches with positioning and sensitivity that makes them ideal for vehicle system controls. Other premium in-car technologies include three color display screens that support the multi-information display, the audio/navigation interface, and the climate control panel. An easy to use Display Audio system with 6.1 inch touchscreen is standard on the new Avalon; while a JBL Synthesis Premium Audio system, HDD Premium Navigation with 7” screen, dynamic radar cruise control, heated and cooled front
seats, heated rear seats, and a three-zone air conditioning system are also on the list of available features and equipment.
Like all Toyota models, the new Avalon will feature Toyota’s Star Safety SystemTM standard, which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist, and Smart Stop Technology brake-override system.
The new Avalon helps to prioritize occupant safety with a best-in-class10 airbags system. A Pre-collision system is also available that is designed to “sense” an impending frontal collision and can help mitigate damage. A variable ratio brake pedal is adopted that varies the initial and final pedal effort ratios to help realize excellent brake pedal feel.
In addition to a rearview monitor, Avalon offers an available Blind Spot Monitoring system which is designed to help detect vehicles behind the outer mirrors and to help alert drivers in addition to a new Rear Cross Traffic Alert system (RCTA) that can alert drivers of cross traffic when they are backing up.
After a tragic year in Japan and a strain on the parts supply chain, Toyota still managed to find a way to produce over 1.25 million vehicles and 1.14 million engines in North America alone, along with completing three major expansion projects in the United States.
In total, Toyota produces 12 models in North America: Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Matrix, RAV4, Sequoia, Sienna, Tacoma, Tundra, Lexus RX350 and Venza. What’s more, the following United States expansion projects were completed in 2011:
- Toyota Motor Manufacturing, West Virginia completed an expansion resulting in increased 6-speed automatic transmission production bringing the plant’s total employment to approximately 1,100.
- Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama began 4-cylinder engine production in the fall, resulting in 240 new jobs.
- Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi began Corolla production in the fall, adding 2,000 jobs.
Looking forward, Toyota expects to assemble its 25 millionth vehicle in North America this year (2012), and will begin producing its all-electric RAV4 at its Woodstock, Ontario facility.
Toyota’s manufacturing site in Kentucky produced the most vehicles in the United States with 371,694 units produced, where over half of which were Camrys. Toyota’s Indiana plant put in a lot of work as well, producing just under 244,000 units, many of which were Sienna minivans. However, it was Toyota Manufacturing of Canada with the top number, producing 458,729 units, nearly all of which were Corolla sedans and RAV4 crossovers. Also of note is Toyota’s Virginia engine plant, which produced nearly half a million four and six cylinder engines. Kentucky was just under, producing over 415,000 four and six cylinder engines.
In the mid-sized pickup truck market, there’s one and only one truck that completely dominates the segment. And that title belongs to the Toyota Tacoma. And with major contenders like Ford withdrawing from the niche, the Tacoma stands out even more as the clear winner. But even though the Tacoma is the undisputed sales leader year-in-and-year-out, is the truck really that much better than the competition? The experts at pickuptrucks.com have the answer. The verdict: the Toyota Tacoma lives up to every ounce of its reputation as a dependable mid-sized truck, finding itself ahead of the pack when it comes to off-road ruggedness and is an overall standout in real-world performance.
Mark Williams, editor-in-chief of Pickuptrucks.com and his team pitted seven trucks in a free-for-all comparison test in multiple categories. The lineup included the 2012 Chevy Colorado, 2011 Ford Ranger, 2012 GMC Canyon, 2012 Honda Ridgeline, 2012 Nissan Frontier, 2012 Suzuki Equator, and the 2012 Toyota Tacoma. The trucks were thrashed, beaten and bruised on the dynamo, on the drag strip, in the desert, and on the highway — all to find out which truck is worthy of winning the high-budget, high-stakes comparison test.
To begin with, let’s have a look at the Tacoma on paper. With a starting price of just $22,100-$29,900, depending on the model, this purpose-built truck has the option of a 2.7-liter inline-four cylinder gasoline engine that puts out 159 horsepower with fuel economy rated at 10.0 L/100 km in the city and 7.7 L/100 km on the hwy. Upgrade to the 4.0L V6, and the output is bumped up to substantial 236 horsepower. Transmission offerings are diverse, with a 4-speed automatic, a 5-speed automatic, a 5-speed manual, and a 6-speed manual. Some rugged options include mud-guards, skid plates for the underbody, Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC). As a result, the Tacoma was given 372 points out of 400 in value judging and 142 points out of 160 in expert impressions as tallied by Williams and company. And while the Honda Ridgeline and Nissan Frontier came close to the Tacoma’s overall score of 514, the Toyota Tacoma won outright.
Another defining element of the Shootout happened to be the unladen quarter-mile testing. The testers collected data from the trucks every 200 feet as the trucks paced as fast as they could down a quarter-mile drag strip. To nobody’s surprise, the Tacoma finished near the top again, crossing the finish line with a time of 16.43 seconds at 85.1 mph. It was second only to the Chevrolet Colorado, which was equipped with a less-fuel efficient V8 engine, edging the Toyota by less than a quarter of a second in quarter-mile acceleration. Also nearly identical between the Chevy and Toyota was 0-60 mph acceleration, at 8.12 and 8.17 seconds, respectively.
The PickupTrucks.com team then filled the beds of all the trucks with 40-pound bags of rock salt, until each truck had its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating maxed. Being that each truck had different capacities, each truck carried a different load. For the Tacoma, it was 22 40-pound bags. It was the same story as before, with the Tacoma finishing just behind the V8-powered Chevy Colorado, accelerating from 0-60 in 9.27 seconds and crossing the quarter-mile finish in 17.18 seconds at 80.94 mph. But what’s the point of all that pep if the truck isn’t capable of stopping quickly? This is where the Tacoma stood out in a big way.
During empty testing, the Tacoma was the far-and-away winner, with an average stopping distance from 60-0 mph at 40.5 meters. The Honda Ridgeline finished a full 4.5 meters longer in second place, which ended well ahead of the rest of the pack, all in the 45s. During loaded stops, Toyota, once again was the standout winner with 43 meters, with the rest of the group bunching up over 3 to 5 meters longer.
While Toyota was a standout performer and victor in the aforementioned testing, it might have been its off-road performance that stole the show. Toyota’s TRD off-road package ended up being the proverbial gun to a knife fight, scoring 50 out of 50 points in hill climbing, which was double that of the Honda and five points ahead of the Suzuki. The Tacoma scored a perfect 50/50 again in the off-road course, edging the Nissan and the Suzuki once again.
So no matter what the job calls for, according to pickuptrucks.com, the Toyota Tacoma is the best tool in the box.
As the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-in begins to arrive at U.S. dealerships, Toyota wants potential buyers to be aware of the fact that the plug-in Prius is eligible for the State of California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program (CVRP). Designed to promote the use of clean vehicle technologies, the $1,500 CVRP incentive is available on a first-come, first-served basis, and is in addition to the $2,500 federal tax credit offered on the 2012 Prius Plug-in hybrid. The Prius Plug-in is eligible for the State of California’s green HOV sticker, allowing it access to the carpool lane during rush hour―a distinction other Prius hybrids no longer share.
Now that the Prius Plug-in is officially in the U.S., Toyota has also released its EPA-confirmed fuel economy numbers. According to Toyota, the Prius Plug-in has an EPA-rated electric-only range of up to 11 miles. Additionally, during “EV Mode” driving, the Prius Plug-in is rated at 95MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent). In hybrid mode, the plug-in Prius returns an EPA combined mileage rating of 50 mpg. Total driving range for the plug-in Prius is listed at up to 540 miles.
The base MSRP for the Prius Plug-in is $32,000, though the Advanced version starts at $39,525. Initially, the Prius Plug-in will only be available in the following 14 states: California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. A nationwide rollout is scheduled for 2013.
The market for plug-ins has been soft of late, with GM last week announcing that it would suspend production of the Chevy Volt until it could sell off inventory. But there are signs that the Prius Plug-in may be entering the market at exactly the right time. Sales of Toyota and Lexus’s plugless hybrids were up 60 percent last month, as gas prices in many parts of the country roared past the $4-per-gallon mark. If gas were to continue on that trend going into the summer months, it’s possible that prices could break record highs this year―a turn of events that would undoubtedly help to build some steam behind not just the Prius Plug-in, but the electric vehicle market as a whole.
Toyota Confirms Prius Plug-In's Eligibility for an Additional State of California Consumer Incentive and Its EPA Mileage Rating
As the 2012 Prius Plug-in models begin to arrive at Toyota Santa Monica and Toyota Hollywood, Toyota Motor Sales, Inc. announces that it has been approved for the State of California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program (CVRP).
Designed to promote the use of Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEV) and related clean vehicle technologies, the CVRP is a consumer incentive made available in addition to the $2,500 Federal Tax credit¹ offered for qualified vehicles (more information available at: http://www.irs.gov/businesses/article/0,,id=219867,00.html). The 2012 Prius Plug-in also offers consumers eligibility for the State of California’s HOV lane sticker (information found here).
The CVRP program offers rebates to individuals, business owners, non-profit groups, and government entities that purchase or lease new eligible zero-emission or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Under this program, the Prius Plug-in is eligible for a $1,500 rebate that will be provided to consumers on a first come first-served basis. These grants are available when a vehicle is either purchased or leased for 36 months or longer. The CVRP is funded by the California Air Resources Board (ARB). Additional information about the CVRP incentive and application resources can be found on the EnergyCenter.org website.
The first-ever Prius Plug-in Hybrid, combines the benefits of the third-generation Prius Liftback’s Hybrid Synergy Drive with a dedicated electric driving (EV) capability, in a package that is priced more competitively than most currently available plug-in hybrids or pure Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV). The Prius Plug-injoins the Prius Family, which includes the third-generation Prius Liftback, the versatile new Prius v and the all-new subcompact Prius c, which will be available in March of 2012. The Prius Plug-in features a new Lithium-ion battery, which boosts its overall fuel economy and offers convenient charging times of only 2.5-3 hours using a standard 120V outlet or 1.5 hours using 240V.
While in EV Mode, the Prius Plug-in is rated by the EPA to drive up to 11 miles. It’s also capable of traveling up to 62 mph using electric power alone. During EV Mode driving, the Prius Plug-in is rated at 95MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent). In hybrid mode, it has an EPA combined mileage rating of 50 mpg. This means that when the EV Mode is depleted, Prius Plug-in still obtains the same estimated high fuel economy rating as Prius Liftback. With its Lithium-ion power and extended electric vehicle mode, the Prius Plug-in is EPA-rated for a total driving range of 540 miles.
It will be available in two models, the Prius Plug-in and the Prius Plug-in Advanced. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid model comes equipped with an abundance of standard features including LED Daytime Running Lights, Smart Key on three doors, Display Audio with Navigation and Entune™ with integrated backup camera, Touch Tracer Display, heated front seats, Remote Climate (A/C only), EV/ECO/POWER modes, unique15-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels, enhanced Multi-information Display and much more.
The Prius Plug-in Advanced model adds additional standard features including Premium HDD Navigation with Entune™ and JBL® GreenEdge™, Plug-in Hybrid Applications through a user’s smartphone (Charge Management, Remote Climate, Vehicle Finder, Charging Station Map², and ECO Dashboard²), Head-up Display, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Pre-Collision System, LED headlamps with auto on/off feature and integrated fog lamps, SofTex-trimmed seating, an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, Safety Connect and more.
The base MSRP for the Prius Plug-in Hybrid is $32,000. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid Advanced has an MSRP of $39,525. Both Prius Plug-in models are eligible for up to $4,000 worth of government-supported consumer incentives ($2,500 federal tax credit¹ and $1500 worth of the State of California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program), in addition to offering eligibility for California’s High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane sticker.
It’s been twelve years since the Toyota Prius first came on to the American stage. Thought of as a science experiment then, and in many ways it was, now in it’s third generation the Prius Liftback IS the face of Toyota.
While the hybrid and plugin electric market may only be 2.5% of all vehicle sales in the U.S., the Prius accounts for more than 50% of those sales. The most shocking statistic is that 96% of all Prius’ sold, are still on the road today. Looking to expand the sales of the Prius, Toyota have expanded the sub-brand of Prius into four models, with the goal of the Prius family of vehicles surpassing Camry in sales.
The first expansion of the Prius family was the v, not quite a crossover, yet more than a wagon, it was Toyota’s move to get growing and active families more space to fit their lifestyle without compromising fuel economy or the integrity of the Prius name. The Plugin Prius will be the current Liftback model that will have the ability to drive 15 miles on pure electric, then revert back to a standard Prius Hybrid once the charge has been depleted. The last component is the source of our review, and that is the Prius c. It is a B-segment car, which will be competing against the likes of Toyota’s own Yaris and iQ, along with the Mazda2, Ford Fiesta, Chevy Spark, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent.
Powering the Prius c is an updated version of the venerable 1.5 liter inline four cylinder engine. It has been updated to improve efficiency with lighter weight valve springs, lighter tension weight piston rings along with a few other items like the elimination of an accessory belt so now that the power steering, air conditioning and water pump are all driven via electric motors to reduce drag and friction and improve fuel economy. This is paired with a Ni-MH battery pack that is about 2/3rds the size of the one found in the Liftback, which provides an additional 25.9 horsepower to the 73 horsepower engine. The transaxle in the Prius c is an all electric unit that has no belts.
Fuel economy is the raison d’etre in the Prius family and the Prius c will deliver that in spades. Rated by the EPA 53 city, 46 highway and 50 combined. We had the opportunity to drive for a short 25 mile loop that was an equal mix of surface roads and highway. On the surface roads we pulled down 63.5 mpg without really making an effort to maximize fuel economy, and at the end of the loop we had a combined 54.7 mpg, and that was while driving highway speeds of 70-75 mph. Keeping with the rest if the Prius family, the c also has start/stop technology, so that the car is running only when it needs to when stopped in traffic. If you are in stop and go driving, this is an excellent way to save a few extras drops of fuel.
Lest you think this B-segment car is cramped inside, it is not. Front seat passengers have plenty of room, no fear of rubbing shoulders with your passenger. For back seat passengers, two normal sized adults will be able to ride comfortably. We had the drivers seat set for us at 5’11”, then jumped in the back seat behind and were able to get in and out with no problem, and our knees were not touching the back of the driver seat either.
The rear seats do fold in a 60/40 arrangement allowing for good load flexibility, bicycles and snowboards will have no problem fitting inside. With the seats up there is 17.1 cubic feet of space in the hatch area, which should be more than enough room for day to day items, or runs to the grocery store.
In the upper trim levels Toyota have made Softex synthetic leather an option. Listening to their consumers, Toyota have eliminated the use of natural leather in the Prius family of cars. The Softext in our test car, was comfortable, had a quality feel to it, and was grippy so that we did not slide around in the seat.
There will be four trim levels to the Prius c, One, Two, Three and Four. Stepping up to trim level’s Three and Four will net you a smart key, which offers the ability to not have to take the key out of your pocket to get in the car, or need it for starting. The upper two levels also get you the top end audio system with navigation. It has a 6.1 in touch screen with AM/FM/SirusXM/HD Radio and also will play CD’s along with MP3 and WMA files through a six speaker system.
All trim levels have bluetooth as standard but trim levels Three and Four allow for advanced voice recognition. The top end audio system also includes Entune. Entune is a system that Toyota have developed that works with the data connection on your smart phone to supply Pandora, iHeart Radio, OpenTable, MovieTickets.com along with real time traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports scores and weather to you.
You register on a specific Toyota website with your cars VIN number, and then you can assign up to four different phones to the system so that everyone can taylor the system to themselves, if multiple people in a household share the car.
The Prius c also contains a 3.5 inch TFT display to the right of the offset digital speedometer. There are multiple levels of menus to explore within. Items like energy monitors, drive information, scoring the last 100 drives and how economical the current one is, 5 minute consumption. There is an ECO Savings level where you can program the current cost of gas in, and also the mpg of another vehicle to see how much you are saving with the Prius c. It also calculates the current cost of your current trip, and past trips, and brake it down into a cost per mile. It will also grade you on how economically you are driving and braking on a scale of 1-5 and display it in a bar graph.
Many people worry about safety in cars that are as small as the Prius c. To address this Toyota is including nine standard airbags along with items like ABS, traction control, vehicle stability control, brake assist, brake force distribution and smart stop.
Smart stop is a system that intervenes when both the brake and gas peddles are pressed at the same time. In a panic situation one might press down hard on both peddles without meaning to. The system senses this, and disengages the gas, it also incorporates a hill assist into the system so that if you are on a hill and stopped, you do not roll backwards when transferring from the brake peddle to the gas peddle.
Pricing for the Prius c in trim level One starts at $19,710, Level Two is $20,760, Level Three is $22,395 and Level Four is $23,990, all prices include the $760 destination fee. While this is certainly on the higher end of the B-Segment price structure, cars like Ford’s Fiesta can quickly top $20,000 as well once they are optioned up. The base price of the Prius c is about a $2,000 premium over the Yaris to give some context.
Out on the road the Prius c drives very well. While the handling can’t be called sporty, it is very competent. It is very agile, has a better ride quality than the Prius Liftback or v, and also transmits less road noise through the tires than the Liftback or v as well. The Prius c engineers took extra time to mitigate as much NVH from the car as possible and their work shows.
Acceleration in city traffic from 0-40 miles an hour is good, though not quick. Merging onto the highway the power can be best described as adequate. It is able to get on to freeways and merge without drama, and while you may feel you need to be going faster or accelerating quicker, once you look at the speedometer, you will see you’ve already gotten up to the speed of surrounding traffic. The car can engage an EV mode where it can run up to a mile with a max speed of 25 miles an hour.
The Prius c was able to run 75 miles an hour on the highway with no issues, it was not moved around by semi’s going past, it felt very stable, and the interior is quiet enough to hold a conversation in a normal tone of voice.
While the other versions of the Prius have never excited us all that much, we feel that the c is the first Prius that we can get behind. It truly was a fun and satisfying car to drive. In a time when gas is again approaching $4/gallon in the U.S., having a car that can pull down 50 mpg is an attractive proposition. And when that proposition asks very few compromises from you, it’s even more so. No the car is not a sports car, or a sporty car, what it is, is a small car that gets the job done, can be well equipped, and you don’t mind driving. While in the past, and even now with the Liftback and the v, the Prius’ could be described as automotive appliances, the c does not have that vibe, it feels like a car first, a hybrid second.