Price cuts put hybrids in contention
Price cuts put hybrids in contention

It's been an eye-opening fortnight, living with a pair of petrol-electric cars - the funky Toyota Prius C and surprisingly sporty Camry.

More hybrid vehicles:

It took Toyota 15 years to add fresh body types to the Prius.

We now have a trio, with the recent addition of the C and V models. Toyota has taken its sharpest pencil to the pricing, with the C costing $23,990, regular Prius $33,990 and V $35,990.

Toyota Prius. Supplied picture
The latter has remarkable versatility - seven-seat people mover, cargo carrier and overnight sleeper. Yet it has the incredibly low fuel use of 4.4L/100km.

But it's the C that I want to talk about mainly.

Its $23,990-$26,990 range might sound a lot for a hatch the same size as the $16,990-$25,490 Ford Fiesta. But keep in mind the C is fitted out like a high-spec Fiesta.

It has gadgetry galore, an auto transmission, climate control, Bluetooth, cruise control, electronic stability and seven airbags.

Buyers also get snazzy touch screens for the trip computer and easy-on-the-ears audio system.

Toyota Prius C. Supplied picture
Rare in small hatches are a full-size spare, reversing camera and a sensor key - favourite features of mine that come standard in the entry C model.

The latter system allows your key to be left in your pocket, which is handy when approaching a locked car with your arms full.

My test car was the $26,990 i-Tech variant, which adds the delight of sat-nav, alloys, LED headlights, self-folding mirrors and a higher-class interior.

The C achieves the difficult marriage of feeling both youthful and up-market. Along with the low price and high-tech gadgetry, the car's fashionability should appeal to Gen-Ys. I can also see the car popping up as the second or third vehicle in the garages of some well-heeled people across the generations.

It's a lovely city car, offering a serenely quiet cabin, lots of agility and a thirst that only occasionally needs slaking. Unlike a diesel, it will never give you smelly hands or wake the neighbours in the morning.

The revitalised Camry Hybrid has also had a haircut, by $2000 to $34,990.

It's a car that puts to bed any ideas hybrids are not sporty - it's a delightful drive.

The range of hybrid cars on the market is still limited, so the technology is not going to be the first choice for everyone.

But there's no doubt the little C's groundbreaking price tag is a game-changer.

It'll add petrol-electric power to many more shopping lists.

The West Australian

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