2012 Toyota Aqua hybrid (2012 Toyota Prius C)Enlarge Photo
A few days back we took a look at two similar, yet very different Hondas.
The 2012 Honda Insight and 2012 Honda Fit share a platform, but different bodystyles and the use of Honda's Integrated Motor Assist hybrid technology in the Insight, makes each model unique.
The same could be said of the upcoming 2012 Toyota Prius C, and the 2012 Toyota Yaris. Two similar subcompacts, but one using Toyota's efficient Hybrid Synergy Drive. Which one should your money go on?
Predictably, it's the hybrid that triumphs here. Just as when we compared Insight to Fit, the reasonable gas mileage achieved by the Yaris is no match for that of the Prius C. Unlike the Honda Fit, the Yaris is also most efficient with a 5-speed, manual transmission.
In city driving, the EPA figure of 53 mpg for the Prius C is 23 mpg higher than that of the Yaris, and the 38 mpg highway economy of the 1.5-liter, manual transmission Yaris is no match for the Prius C's 46 mpg. That results in a combined figure of 50 mpg for the Prius, and 33 mpg for the Yaris.
However, early figures suggest owners are getting a little more from every gallon in the Yaris, at just under 40 mpg average. We'll see how Prius C owners do when that car goes on sale.
The Prius C uses a downsized and lightened version of the regular Prius' drivetrain. Now at 1.5-liters in capacity, peak power, combined between electric motor and the gasoline engine, is 99-horsepower. That isn't far off the 106-horsepower produced by the 1.5-liter, VVT engine in the Yaris.
As such, performance from each is likely to be similar, with a slight edge to the manual-transmission and lighter-weight Yaris.
The leaked Prius C manual suggests an all-electric range of about 1.3 miles at speeds of under 25 mph. The torque of the electric motor suggests it should feel peppy enough at lower speeds.
2012 Toyota Yaris SE - First Drive Equipment and practicality
2012 Toyota Yaris SE - First DriveEnlarge Photo
Unlike the Insight and Fit battle, the Prius C and Yaris have broadly similar dimensions, so there shouldn't be a lot to choose between the two for interior volume.
Equipment levels are strong in the Prius too. Although the base model will lack keyless entry, cruise control and an immobilizer, you do still get EV and ECO modes, just like you would in a regular Prius. You'll also get "ECO Savings" displays, encouraging you to drive more economically by comparing your gas mileage with that of your old car.
The Yaris is also well-equipped, particularly on models higher up the range, closer to the Prius C's purchase price. Even the base Yaris gets an eco driving indicator, with a full trip display to let you monitor your economy.
Yaris models start from just over $14,000 and go to a couple of hundred dollars over $17K.
Information from the 2012 Detroit Auto Show revealed that the Prius C will start at under $19,000 when it hits the market in the spring, so like any hybrid you're definitely paying extra for the technology.
Data on the EPA's fuel economy website suggests that over 15,000 miles with a 45 percent highway, 55 percent city split, the Prius C will save you around $500 at current gas prices. That figure would likely increase if much of your driving is confined to the city, so purchase price doesn't tell the whole story.
The result here is less divided than the Insight and Fit comparison, where the former was the undisputed economy champ and the Fit a more practical, faster vehicle.
Over most objective criteria, the Prius C should match the Yaris, and it also manages its impressive economy with a CVT automatic transmission. You'll need a manual gearbox to get the most mpg from a Yaris, and this may not be to all tastes.
The reality is that few are likely to choose between top-spec Yaris and base-spec Prius C anyway, instead comparing the £19,000 Prius with the $18,350 Honda Insight, and balancing passenger space with economy and price.
The Prius C may look expensive beside a regular subcompact, but that economy and the resulting low emissions should make it a very attractive buy for green-minded buyers looking for a smaller vehicle.