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Detroit show: Toyota reveals expanded Prius family

Look and C: Toyota expects its new Prius C to take on the Honda Insight.

New larger Prius sibling, affordable compact version and plug-in variant revealed

11 Jan 2011

TOYOTA has fired a return salvo at the Chevrolet Volt by presenting a plug-in hybrid version of the Prius at Detroit, along with two other new siblings.

The global giant announced its intention to expand the Prius range with a new more spacious version (called Prius V), the Volt-chasing plug-in variant (Prius PHV) and a smaller, cheaper model (Prius C) to directly challenge the Honda Insight.

The world’s largest car-maker, which has been hit hard by safety recalls in the US, focused on its hybrid strengths at the North American International Auto Show this week.

Prius V is expected to go on sale in the second half of this year in the US while Prius C and the plug-in hybrid will follow in the first half of 2012.

All three models could make it to Australia, although Toyota Australia could be reluctant to import anything that could take sales away from its locally produced Camry Hybrid, which is currently selling below forecasts.

8 center imageLeft: Toyota Prius C. Below: Toyota Prius V.

“The V is under consideration (but) we are yet to decide if or when it would come here,” said Toyota Australia spokesman Mike Breen.

The company does not need to make a decision on the Prius C any time soon as it would not be available until at least 2013 and a decision on the PHV is also unlikely to be made in the immediate future.

Toyota Australia is currently conducting a two-year trial with five plug-in Prius hybrid prototypes that ends in the middle of next year.

“We are conducting the trial, so we would be in a good position to decide when it concludes,” said Mr Breen.

The Prius PHV is Toyota’s answer to the Chevrolet Volt and similarly runs on all-electric power until the batteries are depleted and a petrol engine – expected to be the same 1.8-litre petrol engine as the regular Prius – kicks in.

While the Volt has a claimed electric-only range of up to 56km, the plug-in Prius has a claimed range of only 30km.

Toyota says it will be able to travel at speeds of up to 100km/h on electricity alone.

It will be the first Prius to adopt lithium-ion battery technology, which is more advanced than the current nickel metal hydride type.

In the US, the new compact battery can be fully charged in just 1.7 hours using a special 220 volt outlet and takes three hours using a regular 110 volt plug. Toyota says it can be given a short charge to extend the range at any time.

Toyota currently has 150 plug-in Prius models on trial in the US.

The Prius C was presented in Detroit as a concept car but is very much a production reality.

It is expected to challenge the Honda Insight, which recently undercut the Prius on price, although Toyota would not say if it would be cheaper than the Insight.

Toyota said the Prius C – which stands for city – would be the most fuel-efficient ‘cordless’ or non plug-in on the market and will cost less than the regular Prius.

Toyota said it is aimed at compact car buyers interested in a vehicle with superior fuel economy at an entry price, especially young couples and singles with an interest in green driving.

It is not yet clear whether it will run the same powertrain as the regular Prius or will have a smaller petrol engine, nor if it will run lithium-ion or nickel metal hydride batteries.

The Prius V – which stands for versatile – is based on the current Prius and uses the same powertrain, but has been stretched and consequently offers 50 per cent more interior space.

It has seating for five, a 60/40 folding rear seat that can slide back and forth, and a plastic panoramic sunroof with folding sunshades that is 40 per cent lighter than a glass equivalent.

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