Toyota is cashing in on the success of its Prius hybrid by launching a new sub-brand to include a more spacious five-seat MPV and a new supermini.
The MPV, called Prius V, and the supermini, called Prius C Concept, have been launched at today’s Detroit motor show and will join the standard five-door hatchback and its plug-in variant in the four-strong Prius family of vehicles in North America.
Toyota has racked up almost one million Prius sales in 10 years in the US alone and sees the name as a prize asset having becoming almost a by-word for hybrids.
The Prius C Concept will provide the inspiration for a Yaris-sized Prius supemini that will launch in North America in the first half of 2012, a car Toyota claims will be the most efficient and best value hybrid car in any segment yet.
Toyota is keen to offer an even more efficient smaller hybrid at a lower price point and to that end will aim the production version of the C Concept at “young singles and couples who want an eco-sensitive, high-mileage, fun-to-drive Prius”.
Its modern styling takes cues from both the standard Prius and the recently refreshed Vitz (Yaris) supermini in Japan albeit with a much more striking front end. The Prius’s slippery shape has been successfully scaled down to supermini proportions, although concept car features such as its heavily sculpted bonnet, big chrome-effect alloys, large glass rear screen and headlight design are unlikely to carry over into production.
Whether the C Concept has a future in Europe is not clear. The firm has already confirmed a hybrid version of the Yaris for Europe in 2012, and it is not thought Toyota would want two cars competing against one another in a segment.
Technical details have also not been revealed at this stage. It’s unlikely that the Yaris will be able to accommodate the 1.8-litre petrol engine from the Prius and Auris powertrains. But Toyota does have 1.33 and 1.0-litre motors at its disposal.
The Prius V is also unlikely to have a future in Europe, given the presence of the Verso in Toyota’s European range. “A hybrid Verso would be ideal,” said a Toyota source, “but that won’t happen for now as it’s mid life-cycle. We don’t want to be importing cars to Europe that could steal sales in a segment we already cover. The US doesn’t have anything like the Verso, so a Prius MPV makes sense, filling in a gap in the model range with a name people know.”
The Prius V has more than 50 per cent more load capacity at just over 960 litres than the standard conventional hatchback, with an low, wide access at the rear to allow for easy loading.
It shares its platform and 1.8-litre petrol-electric Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain with the standard Prius and its styling is unmistakably Prius, growing slightly in height and length to allow for the extra load capacity. An extra row of seats isn’t added but the rear bench slides to allow for extra loading capacity.
US sales of the Prius V, which will also be the launch vehicle for Toyota’s new Entune infotainment system, get underway in the US in late summer.