The 2012 Toyota Prius C, launched at the Detroit Auto Show, gives Toyota a smaller, less expensive hybrid to compete with other subcompact hybrids, such as the Honda Insight.

While the Prius C shares the Prius family name, it is a radically different car than Toyota’s original hybrid. Compared to a standard Prius, the Prius C is some 19 inches shorter, 2 inches narrower and nearly 2 inches lower.

Thanks to a redesign of nearly every Hybrid Synergy Drive component, the Prius C is also some 500 pounds lighter than the current Prius.

Despite its smaller size and lower weight, the Prius C only returns better fuel economy in the city, where its 53 mpg rating bests the Prius by 2 mpg. On the highway, the Prius C delivers 46 mpg, 2 mpg less than the Prius. The combined rating for both models is 50 mpg.

The Prius C will be powered by a 1.5-liter Atkinson Cycle engine, good for 73 horsepower, and a 45-kilowatt (60-hp) electric motor-generator. The maximum combined output of both is 99 horsepower.

Inside, the Prius C includes a 3.5-inch color TFT information display, Bluetooth connectivity, USB iPod connectivity, automatic climate control, remote keyless entry and a tilting and telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, even on base models.

The Prius C will hit Toyota dealers this spring, at a starting price of around $19,000.


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.