TechnologyTell

Vitamin C: 2013 Toyota Prius C Entune Invisible (Well, Nearly)

Sections: Infotainment, Installations

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2013 Toyota Prius C Photo Shoot 031

The 6.1-inch touchscreen in our test 2013 Toyota Prius C could prove hard to see in the sunlight. In fact, I had trouble capturing it in photos unless I held the camera at a low angle, as I did here. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

Our 2013 Toyota Prius C was the most fun I’ve ever had in a Prius of any size, making the most of its compact footprint, light weight, and hybrid powertrain to remain both fun-enough-for-a-hybrid to drive and frugal. But I was annoyed that I couldn’t see the 6.1-inch Display Audio screen half the time.

Our test Prius C was fitted with the Display Audio package that includes AM/FM/CD with MP3 and WMA playback capability, six speakers, SiriusXM radio, HD radio with iTunes tagging capability, AUX and USB jacks, and Bluetooth voice recognition with hands-free calling. Those features all worked great, in my experience. The screen used Toyota’s easy-to-navigate Entune interface, so I had no trouble punching up an album I wanted to listen to or dialing in a radio station, and navigation via the Map app was simple, as is the norm for Entune systems in my experience.

But early in the test week, I noticed the screen itself could be hard to view because sunlight easily washed it out. I even attempted to fix the issue by going into the settings menu and increasing brightness and contrast to their maximums, which did have some effect, but not enough

2013 Toyota Prius C Photo Shoot 032

This photo taken from just right of and slightly lower than my point of view in the driver’s seat shows how little I could see on the infotainment screen sometimes, even without direct sunlight beaming onto the screen surface. (Lyndon Johnson photo)

This wasn’t a big deal, as most of the week was spent commuting, with the only commands I gave the system being handled by voice recognition — especially the “play album” command, which I used a lot to cue up albums from my 16 gigabyte USB test stick. But it did become a problem one day when I was partially relying on the map app’s navigation feature to guide me to a newspaper interview I had to conduct at a remote farm. Unable to see the screen at a glance unless a treeline alongside the road just happened to be blocking the sun from coming in the cabin, I had to rely on the Entune mistress to guide me in by the sound of her slightly robotic voice.

I think there are multiple reasons for the screen’s tendency to wash out in the sunlight so easily. Surely screen angle plays into it somewhat, and the Prius C’s blessedly tall, easy-to-see-out-of windows’ tendency to let in a lot of sunlight must have a role as well. Finally, the screen’s semi-glossy appearance probably isn’t doing it any favors. Window tint would probably help the situation, but if you keep your tint within legal limits in most jurisdictions, it might not be enough on its own. The ultimate solution would be to either set the screen into a slightly recessed area, as the smaller telematics screen in the dashboard cluster does, or cant it more toward the driver’s eyes. Perhaps a mix of both would work, installing a small lip-like “hood” over the top edge and sides of the screen and rotating the entire center stack slightly toward the driver.

But perhaps the biggest thing that would help is if I were a foot shorter. At 6’3″, I can’t help but think my eyes were always going to be slightly out of the optimum line of sight for the Prius C’s Entune screen. I kept the driver’s seat lowered all the way to its lowest setting, but I still felt like I sat up pretty high relative to the car’s beltline. (Part of that feeling had to do with the car’s relatively large glass area that I enjoyed so much, but I digress.) Perhaps those who have tried out a Prius C and who are shorter than your humble author would be so kind as to chime in on whether the screen was hard for them to see?

Would I let the screen’s susceptibility to sun glare stop me from considering a Prius C? Not a chance. The rest of the car was too fun, as hybrids go, to consider that — and besides, if I were to consider buying a  Prius C, it wouldn’t be for its cutting-edge infotainment system. I’d buy it just to get better than 50 MPG every week on my commute. If the screen continued to bother me later, maybe I’d add an aftermarket double-DIN head unit and see if there was a way to mount it slightly cockeyed in the opening so as to increase its ease of viewing.

Disclosure: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

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  • Bill B

    For best visibility of the Display Audio screen, somewhat counterintuitively, you need to turn the contrast all the way *down* and the brightness up.
    2012 Prius c owner, been there…

    • Lyndon Johnson

      That’s interesting, Bill, and it’s something that (of course) I didn’t think to try. Next time I have trouble seeing a Toyota screen, I’ll be sure to do that.

      Do you have problems with sunlight making your Prius C’s screen basically unreadable? That was my biggest issue. I’m wondering how much my tallish frame plays into that.