LA Auto Show, 2012: On the way home in a 2013 Toyota Prius c

My long haul returning to Sacramento from the LA Auto Show tested the limits of my weekly driver, the 2013 Toyota Prius c. I left Los Angeles just after 3 p.m. and arrived just after 11 p.m. Minus three stops, it was about seven hours of driving time, including the northbound negotiation of The Grapevine along Interstate 5.

The north-south route negotiating the infamous mountain pass seemed more ominous than the drive to my Hollywood hotel, about eight miles from the Los Angeles Convention Center.

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And there were a few reasons: It was nightfall, there was sporadic rain and crosswinds and Interstate 5 had more than its usual massive amounts of 18-wheeler truckers and their varying driving habits.

2013 Toyota Prius c hybrid, Interstate 5, near The Grapevine, Nov. 27, 2012. Images © James Raia/2012

As a subcompact hybrid, the Prius c couldn’t be asked to perform automotive miracles while cresting the gnarly road that peaks at an elevation of more than 4,000 feet. Suffice is to say, the Prius c was adequate in the mess of weather, 18-wheelers and the always aggressive nature of Southern California drivers.

Following the mountains, Interstate 5 has long, barren, flat stretches and that’s where the Prius c did surprisingly well. The flow of traffic mostly exceeded the speed limit and often I drove averaging 75 mph.

It was a long, safe haul and for its car segment, the Prius c fared well. In addition to its status in the expanding Prius family of hybrids, the Prius c (“c” is for city) has several strong features:

* The navigation system is intuitive and provides a strong visual and easy-to-understand voice commands. In some instances, however, the voice command was given at the last minute.

* The cargo area without the rear seats down is big enough for a carry-on size suitcase, a computer laptop bag and two pairs of shoes. Handles or sturdy hooks are needed above the rear doors.

* The button clusters on the steering wheel that control the stereo and engine readouts are small but well placed for use without driver distraction.

And there a few concerns:

* The rear windshield wiper is small and cleans only about half of the window surface.

* Extended as far back as possible, the driver’s front seat legroom is ideally positioned for someone my size (6-feet tall, 190 pounds). Anyone larger or taller may have issues.

* And, finally, the impressive economy of the 2013 Toyota Prius c:

Sacramento to Los Angeles, round-trip, Nov. 27-29, 2012:

Miles driven: 816.8.
Total electric miles: 29.9 (4 percent).
Total driving time: 16 hours, 50 minutes.
Miles per gallon (mpg): 46.1.
Average speed: 49 mph (highway/city combined).
Fuel cost: $64.98.

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