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Published: Thursday, 3/29/2012

Small Prius c among hottest cars in years

LOS ANGELES TIMES
The Toyota Prius c is almost 20 inches shorter than the classic Prius hatchback. It also is about two inches narrower and shorter. Toyota says the vehicle gets about 50 miles to the gallon. The Toyota Prius c is almost 20 inches shorter than the classic Prius hatchback. It also is about two inches narrower and shorter. Toyota says the vehicle gets about 50 miles to the gallon.
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LOS ANGELES -- Toyota Motor Corp. has been saying it has a hit with its new Prius c five-door hatchback, which is the smallest hybrid in the Prius family, and now there's some independent analysis that shows this is one of the hottest small cars to hit the market in many years.

In its first three days on the market earlier this month, Toyota sold more than 1,200 of the subcompact hybrid. It starts at $18,950, but a midgrade version has a sticker price of $21,635.

To put the 1,200 sales in perspective, Edmunds.com auto analyst Jessica Caldwell pointed out that many cars didn't sell even 1,000 units last month.

Ms. Caldwell said the "c" has the opportunity to make a dent in the subcompact market, which includes well-reviewed vehicles such as the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, and Hyundai Accent.

According to Edmunds.com data about what car shoppers are researching on the Internet, the new Prius model is "already the third-most-considered vehicle in the subcompact segment with 10 percent of those shoppers taking a look," Ms. Caldwell said. "This is pretty significant because awareness is generally low when a vehicle launches, so the fact it came on so strong shows a lot of interest and market receptiveness."

But data also show some risk.

The new Prius may cannibalize sales the automaker might have otherwise notched. Nearly 18 percent of the shoppers researching the Prius plug-in electric hybrid also are looking at the "c," according to Edmunds. And more than 11 percent of the buyers researching the larger Prius v station wagon as well as more than 5 percent of those considering the new Camry hybrid also are eyeing the "c."

At 157 inches, the new Prius is almost 20 inches shorter than the classic Prius hatchback. It also is about two inches narrower and shorter. Toyota said the vehicle, which gets about 50 miles to the gallon -- is designed for driving in traffic-congested cities and for easy parking.



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