A Closer Look At The Prius c

In 2011, Toyota introduced the Prius c to the United States. Despite its booming popularity in Japan, it didn't catch on in the U.S. The lukewarm reception of this car led Toyota to finally discontinue it in 2019.

So what was the Prius c all about, and why wasn't it so popular in the U.S.?

Why Toyota Thought The Prius C Would Be Popular In The States

Prius c

The Toyota Prius c is the third member of the Prius family. The “c” stands for city. It's a hybrid subcompact/supermini hatchback car. Its high gas mileage and compact design makes it a great car for maneuvering around a city. Toyota built the Prius c with efficiency, reliability, and cost-effectiveness in mind. Unlike the Prius V (which stands for versatility), the c model was designed for the city commuter of the 21st century. It was an “inspiration for future small, entry-level hybrid[s]” and has a "smart car" feel.

Toyota rolled out the Prius c in Japan before it brought the car to the states. The Prius c was quite popular in Japan. In fact, it was the most successful nameplate launch in the previous 20 years. It continued to be wildly popular in Japan in the subsequent years. It was the top selling new car in Japan between 2013 and 2015.

So naturally, Toyota was sure that the Prius c would achieve the same level of popularity in the U.S. After all, the car offered many great features:

  • Low price: The Prius c was cheaper than other similar models. It came with a base price of $21,530.
  • Compact size: The Prius c was easy to maneuver around crowded cities.
  • Great gas mileage: Like all the other Prius models, the c had great gas mileage (48 mpg city and 43 mpg highway).
  • Lots of features: The Prius c featured nine airbags. It also had the popular Entune system, which links navigation, radio, and entertainment all in one place.

Despite all these great features, the Prius c didn't sell well in the U.S.

Why Toyota Discontinued The Prius C In 2019

After 8 short years of having the Prius c in its U.S. lineup of Prius models, Toyota gave it the axe in 2019. Toyota never explained why they made that decision. There are a few theories floating around, though:

Poor Sales

Sales down

It's not specified how many units of the Prius c were sold in the U.S. between 2011 and 2019. Yet, we know that as of January 2017, 1,380,100 units of the Prius c were sold across the world. A vast majority - 1,154,500 units - were sold in Japan alone. So that leaves only 225,600 units for the U.S. and Australia. That's not a lot of units sold over the span of 5 or 6 years. So it's likely that poor sales is the main reason Toyota decided to discontinue the Prius c in the U.S. in 2019 and in Australia in 2020.

Why didn't the Prius c sell well in the U.S.? We can think of a couple of reasons:

  • Americans have a "bigger is better" attitude. In America, cars are seen as status symbols rather than a practical way to get around town. The Prius c was built with practicality in mind, and many Americans weren't interested in that.
  • The Prius c's base price is only $2,000 lower than the base price for a regular Prius. Buyers figured that they could get a bigger and more comfortable Prius for only $2,000 more.

The Corolla Hybrid

A couple years before Toyota discontinued the Prius c, Toyota came out with the Corolla Hybrid model. It offers the best of both worlds: the size and comfort of a Corolla and the efficiency of a Prius. A Corolla Hybrid had a base price that was only $2,000 higher than that of a Prius c. Buyers figured that they'd get more value out of a Corolla Hybrid than a Prius c.

If You Own A Prius C, Hold Onto It

The truth is, the Prius c is a gem. Prii are known for lasting a ridiculously long time. As long as you take care of your Prius c, it'll serve you well for years. A couple of tips:

Given the low sales volume of the Prius c in the states, it's possible that this car will become a collectible down the road. All the more reason to hold onto it!