Cars.com Recommends the 2012 Toyota Prius c

Everyone has the right to their opinion, especially when it comes to evaluating new cars.

But sometimes — only one other time, actually — we have to step in and let car shoppers know we have a different point of view that could impact the car they decide to buy.

Consumer Reports announced Wednesday that it wasn't recommending the 2012 Toyota Prius c due to low scores in the publication's testing. Its final rating of 53 is near the bottom in terms of cars this size; it sits below the Mazda2 and Scion xD, which both received a rating of 60. Consumer Reports does recommend the xD, however. The segment's best rating is 68 for the also-recommended Honda Fit.

CR's low testing scores for the Prius c stand in stark contrast to our impressions of the hybrid.

I stated in my Prius c review, which ran in February, "If value proposition were the 2012 Toyota Prius c's only feat, it would likely still be a sales success, but the mini-Prius is also surprisingly roomy — and has a comfortable ride and an impressive array of standard features."

The rest of our editorial team had similar positive impressions of the car.

Consumer Reports takes to task the advertised low price, stating their test car — a Prius c Two that cost $20,660 (including a $760 destination charge) — is too expensive. But the base model at $19,710 is extremely well-equipped and stands up affordability-wise against similarly equipped traditional subcompact hatchbacks. It beat all of them but the discount-priced Nissan Versa when taking fuel costs into account.

Add the extra $950 for the Two trim level that CR tested and the hybrid still beats the Chevy Sonic and Honda Insight on affordability.

Toyota Prius c

We won't nitpick every point of contention — Consumer Reports says the ride and handling are subpar, and we find them quite good for the segment; everyone differs on interior quality — but we find it odd that CR gives the Prius an overall score of 80 when it makes similar trade offs in areas of ride, noise and comfort versus traditional cars in its price point as the Prius c does.

Consumer Reports also says you'd be better off buying a used Prius liftback versus a new Prius c for the same money because it's a better vehicle.

While we might pick the Prius c over even a new Prius, used prices for the liftback are higher today than at any time in the past six months, according to Cars.com's inventory. This makes it a bad time to buy one on the used market.

The average price of used Prius models from the 2010, 2011 and 2012 model years — the current generation — is $24,128 for the month of May, according to Cars.com data. The lowest price in the past six months was $21,818 in January.

The Prius c gets an EPA-estimated 53/46 mpg city/highway. The Prius liftback gets 51/48 mpg. Both return 50 mpg combined in the EPA testing cycle.

We recently drove the Prius c on a 143.6-mile trip of mostly highway roads in pleasant weather, returning 52.7 mpg at an average speed of 55 mph. CR doesn't argue the Prius c's extreme efficiency, though.

We're not trying to play favorites with Toyota with this recommendation, either. We didn't choose the Corolla as a Best Bet because our editors faulted its driving experience; both the Toyota Highlander and Toyota Sienna also fared poorly in two recent Cars.com Shootouts.

Why isn't the Toyota Prius c officially a Cars.com Best Bet? While it meets the requirements for safety, mileage and editorial judgment, cars must have average or better reliability. We refer to Consumer Reports' annual survey for that requirement and plan on continuing to do so. The Prius c is too new for accurate reliability data, but the publication lists predicted reliability as above average.

Related
Research the 2012 Toyota Prius c
2012 Toyota Prius c Review
More Cars.com Reviews

Comments 

GT

Thank you Cars.com, for getting it. Well done.

Ziggy

I'd take 53 mpg and put up with a little wind noise and subpar comfort.

sheth

I don't understand why you guys feel an official response is necessary when you don't agree with consumer reports. Are you editorial partners? Consumer reports is all over the map with reviews and their complaints are usually very subjective. Furthermore I question their relevance in the digital age. Most of their content isn't available to read for free which means most people don't read their opinions. Their influence is vastly overstated and its a shame that this site is so afraid to disagree with cr. Their opinion is no more valid or noteworthy than any other publication.

sheth,
We generally wouldn't do it for anyone else. But CR makes news out of these so major media is saying the Prius c isn't a car you should buy. We disagree and want car shoppers to know they're not wrong to consider it.

It's perfectly acceptable, if not more so for the shopper in this segment to purchase and meets safety and mileage requirements for our recommendations/Best Bets.

We've only done this one other time and don't plan on doing it for every vehicle...trust me.

Ben

Of course Cars.com is free to have its own opinion, but I tend to trust Consumer Reports more. Why? Because they actually buy the cars they test rather than getting them for free from the manufacturer. Additionally, it's noted that the car was driven for 143 miles for it's test. Not bad, but compare that to CR testing every one of their cars for over 4,000 miles. When you live with a car day in and day out for months, it can easily leave a much different impression than a one or two day road trip.

I haven't driven the Prius C so I don't know what it's actually like, but I do know it's basically a Yaris hybrid and I was very unimpressed with the my last Yaris experience.

Lance

I don't agree that CR is irrelevant because it's not free. If you're forced to view advertisements then it's not free. CR isn't "free" because it doesn't support itself through advertisements. And I think that is the main reason they are so listened to and followed by the media. I've found in life that the best advice is often not "free". Are they perfect, absolutely not and consistency is sometimes questionable. But they test a lot ways that others don't report on. I don't know how many times I've read reviews of SUVs that don't even show a picture of the storage area or report any numbers on capacity. But they have the 0-60 and slalom speeds all right!

I don't really have an opinion on the Prius C because it's not a vehicle that I'm interested in but I agree that it seems strange to have to "justify" ones recommendation just based on one particular magazines contrary review.

I read CR but I also read about twenty or more other mags and blogs in doing research on a vehicle purchase. I've found CR to be pretty good at predicting real world mpg and repair data. I've found that CR can be an easy target for many because they aren't perfect. Who is?


I also agree with another poster in that living with a car for a few months is vastly more informative than a couple of days or hours. However, with the caveat that this type of testing is totally impractical for almost all media reviewers.

Ben,
Your points are perfectly valid. The 143 mile test was just one solid trip we could easily point to for this story, not the totality of the testing the car went through for evaluations. While the purchasing of the car is a benefit for CR, we do get a chance to test various trims of the cars via automaker events (we pay our own travel btw). So Consumer Reports can't say how the sport suspension on the Four trim level was or how the seat fabric on the One trim level felt etc.

But again, we're not debating their testing methods and think CR has a very good track record especially with situations like the Lexus GX.

If Cars.com bought our cars in the same manner, how much more would we be trusted? If we did it tomorrow would your opinion instantly change?

And if we could should we?

We're open to debate and value you taking the time to voice your opinion.

sheth

The.buying their own cars thing is a gimmick. I can't believe people go for that. It's meaningless. They claim that they are getting a better representation of a production car but there is no proof that other sources get specially prepped cars. In fact, test drives by other sources are full of criticism. All of these cars are mass produced so the idea that certain cars could be specially made for journalists is nonsense.

WTF

Press cars are probably in worse shape anyway as they are usually flogged and abused.

I will never understand why you choose to refute only certain things that CR writes. Intended or not this comes across as blatant promotion for the Prius C (and Honda Civic).

Lance

I don't believe anyone said that journalists are getting "prepped" cars. The only comment was that CR buys their cars which means they have them for an extended period of time to test.

If someone wants to believe that a test drive and review that may take a few hours or even a couple of days is more thorough than a car driven for months more power to them. Not saying the review is necessarily better but given the same parameters,having a car longer and driven in rain, sleet, cold/hot, etc. can certainly add to the overall perception of the car IMO

sheth

Lance

Consumer reports has said that buying the cars ensures they don't get specially prepared or selected vehicles like other sources. I didn't make that up. Crs position is that you can't trust any for profit reviews. They are incredibly arrogant and the fact that other publications are afraid of them only makes matters worse. Their auto reviews are extremely short and dull. I don't see why have to act like they are unparalleled car experts. They are becoming irrelevant.

Lance

@sheth
I fail to see the arrogance in CR that you perceive. Maybe it takes one to know one.

And if they are so irrelevant as you say, why are other publications afraid of them? If they are afraid of CR could they also be afraid of their major advertisors? I personally don't believe either is the case.

Six

Everyone is entitled to be wrong, even CR or Cars.com. I don't think CR's review will be a deal breaker for people that want the C's mileage at the C's price point.

sheth

lance:

i guess you are a subscriber or someone who takes their advice. CR is arrogant because they are the only source of information that constantly reminds people that they are the only source worth trusting. They propagate the notion that because they dont take ads their positions are absolute truths. That is nonsense of course, especially when their inconsistencies are easy to spot as is their bias towards vehicles from Asia. This is a magazine that trumpets its objectivity but doesnt even provide an explanations for its mysterious "road test scores" in which imports tend to radially outperform domestics with similar performance.

Lance

@sheth
Gee sherlock, er I mean sheth, yeah, I take their advice for what it's worth. What gave you your first clue? I stated I read CR along with many other auto review type mags and blogs to research cars. There are inconsistencies in all of them. You like to point them out in here all the time along with crying about any critical comment whatsoever of a GM product.

You have admitted in the past that you are a Detroit fanboy so I can see why you have a chip on your shoulder towards CR. It does put a lot of emphasis on repair records and such and even the most biased must admit that the Asians had a good handle on that aspect for many, many years. American manufacturers are slowly coming around but are not quite there yet. I'm sure when they do, CR will give them credit so you can quit pouting.

Bernie

The Prius C has terrible over the shoulder visibility.
I would rate the car as unacceptable.

sheth

Lance,

Never said I was a Detroit car fanboy, you said that. I like all types of vehicles but I do get sick of double standards. I don't rely on consumer reports or any other source to tell me what to think. Consumer reports does not explain is road test scores and imports typically rate far higher than similar domestics. That's called bias. For the record, reliability doesn't factor into their test scores, only their recommended list. Shop your claim that they are rating imports better due to quality is nonsense. Their statistical data gathering is also totally flawed and inconsistent with what I've seen and heard from friends and family regarding car problems. I like fairness, sorry if that makes me a fan boy in your world.

Lance

@sheth
You make a lot of claims about CR with absolutely nothing to back them up but your opinion. Taking the word of a few friends and relatives over a survey of hundreds or thousands of owners is smart? I have had the same brand cars and had totally different experiences but I would not base my buying decision on one bad apple or one good apple.

I read CR and many others to get information to add to my persoanl evaluation to make a decision. You seem to think talking to a few people works for you. I read a lot of car reviews that do comparos or rate cars and there is no hard explanation of the road test portion so it is hardly just CR. For example, just read a rating on The Car Connection on the new 2013 Altima. Midsize car expected to get a class leading 27city/38hwy. They gave it a "7" out of ten in fuel economy. No explanation. I can't understand why it didn't get a ten in that particular category. So, like I said, CR is not perfect or alone in consistency but they are hardly biased. I've heard that "flawed" thing before but people usually equate it with the people that are responding to the CR surveys as too stupid to think for themselves which is pretty condescending IMO. Gee, imagine that, actually asking thousands of people how many repairs they've had to get an idea of reliablility when all they had to do was talk to a few friends and relatives. They could save so much money using your methods. Maybe you should contact them.

I think the main problem is that you think anyone with a different opinion from yours is biased. Easy to say, hard to prove.

GT

For me it boils down to this: I'm thankful for rationale being inserted into the conversation via Cars.com... as opposed to Consumer Reports highly subjective,arguably biased, almost arrogant review of the c... appreciate the car for what it is, a low cost hybrid entry, opening the market to those who previously were priced out. It doesn't claim luxury and amenity, it claims and delivers reliability, proven hybrid tech and unbeatable fuel economy. Consumer Reports, you are not the king of the world.

Mark Schaffer

Bernie,
My over the shoulder visibility is very good and with proper adjustment of the mirrors I don't need to do much of this. Also, since my wife and I rarely have passengers we removed the rear headrests.

Bryan

Bravo for Cars.com making it's opinion known as it's one of the many reasons I come to this site. It's obvious some people like Sheth just have an axe to grind.

Derrick G

I don't really see the need for this post. CR hasn't made any media release yet. It's not on PR Newswire or CR's blog or their Pressroom; the video wasn't even on their video page when this was done (it is now). It just seems petty, especially since it's in response to a post on Autoblog, not anything released directly to the media from CR. In fact, CR hasn't even officially announced this at all except to online and print subscribers.

For the record, CR isn't saying the Prius C is a terrible car or everyone should avoid it like the plague; rather they're saying it didn't score high enough for them to put their name on a recommendation. While 53 might be a fail on a test, it's actually just to the right of dead center of Good on their scale. But that's still not exceptional and I don't see why anyone would expect them to recommend a car that was just in the center.

A big reason for the C's low score versus the regular is the performance. Passing is especially sad, a full second slower 45-65. Yes, CR heavily weights acceleration because that's time in a lane heading towards oncoming traffic. Even the Versa was .7 seconds faster. Also, the C was rated much lower for noise and also the headlights were much worse, something I've never seen Cars.com score. Then there's that the trunk can only hold one suitcase and one duffel while the larger version can get in two more suitcases. Despite its larger size, the regular version also managed a full MPH faster through the avoidance maneuver, another heavily weighted part of their tests. The Versa managed 3 MPH more.

It doesn't look like to me that the C is really much of a performer compared to the regular version or even other small cars. I don't see why Cars.com feels it necessary to make it sound like CR is somehow wrong not to recommend it.

Derrick,
The news broke a day or two before their release but yes, they did promote it. Basically, when we woke up in the morning and our local TV news is telling us -- and everyone else -- not to buy a Prius c...that's when we started discussing putting this post together.

The paper July issue of Consumer Reports claims 'the engine starts as soon as the foot comes off the brake.' Sorry but this is how GM and Honda hybrids work, not the Prius family. It is another factual error.

I too am disgusted with the subjective "score" Consumer Reports gives because they have yet to post how they come up with it. I remain amazed to see their annual car report giving the Prius top marks in almost every category yet their "score" does not reflect the marks.

Also, their MPG rating is suspect. It appears to use heavy acceleration during 'cold-start' for short, trip distances. Although their mileage rankings are in the correct order, they are non-linear suggesting the MPG score is heavily, 'cold-start' weighted.

Bob Wilson, Huntsville, AL

WTF

Toyota ad money.

Hi Derick,

You posted something I appreciate but don't see in the CR score, "... full second slower 45-65 ... a full MPH faster ... 3 MPH more." These are quantitative numbers that are more useful than the CR score.

If we had these numbers tied to specific tests, we could apply our weighting. So a parent might want their kid to have excellent maneuvering but not be interested in the 'pocket rocket.' But CR does not give these metrics in a form, list or table that lets us compare them to other cars including those in other classes.

Look, I drive a 2003 Prius which is two seconds slower to 60 mph than Prius c. Yet I don't have close calls because it doesn't accelerate fast enough nor failed to steer around a problem. I defensively drive and that avoids getting in a situation of having to do maximum performance maneuvers. It also keeps my mileage high.

We live in a free country and no doubt there are fans of CR's score but I'm not one. When they provide quantitative numbers, I'm with them but "score" gives the illusion of a metric and obscures the raw numbers.

Bob Wilson, Huntsville, AL

Oughtamobile

Sheth,
Why do you hate Consumer reports so much? They employ automotive experts and are true journalists. You can count on what they say about any given car because they don't solicit advertising from the car makers and actually purchase the cars they review, so they don't owe anybody anything and can write the truth.

sheth

Consumer reports does not employ journalists. They consider their testers to be scientists. Cr uses faulty methods for collecting data and they are seen as infallible just because they don't take ad money. They are not consistent and.they don't explain how they arrive at test scores. They are in the business of self optimizationpromotion because that's what drivers subscriptions. They are seen as an authority for reasons I can't understand.

Jason

Unfortunately for you, getting defensive and essentially reviewing a review that disagrees with yours takes away whatever credibility your review had. You had your chance to comment on the car, you did; feeling the need to go "Nuh uhh" when Consumer Reports didn't agree with you is at the very least unprofessional. It doesn't help you much being that Consumer Reports has a much longer track record than cars.com does has a much more in depth testing method and goes out of their way to avoid conflicts of interest.

Everyone is entitled to be wrong, even CR or Cars.com. I don't think CR's review will be a deal breaker for people that want the C's mileage at the C's price point.

Ben

Consumer Reports made a rebuttal to this Cars.com article here with more information about why it's not a good car: http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2012/06/the-toyota-prius-c-isnt-a-good-car-and-heres-why.html

WTF

Are we going to see another promotion from Cars.com to rebut this now?

Skankzilla

I once heard a saying, "If you need to explain yourself, then you have lost."

sheth

Looks like cr doesn't respect this site nearly as much as the reverse is true. This has to hurt considering cars.com is constantly referring to consumer reports for quality ratings. No good deed goes unpunished.

Derrick G

David,

Exactly how did they release it beyond posting the review? Everything I've been able to find seems to relate back to the Autoblog post and it's still not posted to their press room.

Bwilson4web,

CR's 0-60 score for the first gen Prius was 1.3 seconds slower than the Prius C, for the record, not 2 seconds. But even it was .3 faster in the passing test, where you're facing on-coming traffic.

Your contention that CR doesn't provide performance data to compare is absurd. There's a table for the tested models in the print edition and a compare feature online, which is where the data I mentioned came directly from.

The regular Prius does NOT get top scores in any test category except transmission. EVERY other ratings factor that goes into the score is Very Good or Good.

Everyone makes mistakes, including very apparently, you.

sheth

Cr does provide test data but it does not explain how it drives test scores. They offer numerical scores with no backup. It's absurd.

Hey David, nice review! I think that the Prius C is a pretty good new addition to the Prius line.

Ed

Danny

Thing about CR is that in different parts of the magazine, it appears they have conflicting info. For example, on one page it highly recommends a particular car. Then in another page it describes that same car as having one of the worst reliability records.

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