New c Concept takes Prius brand down-market

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Toyota has made leaps and bounds in hybrid progress since the first Prius launched over a decade ago, making the current Prius one of the most fuel-efficient cars on the road today. It therefore only makes sense that a smaller, lighter version housing all of the technological upgrades that the current car now incorporates would simultaneously reduce fuel consumption and harmful emissions over its larger sibling. Enter the new Prius c Concept, a true compact model bearing Toyota's iconic hybrid nameplate. But isn't the Prius already a compact?

When the Prius first arrived on the scene the EPA dubbed it compact, and so it was. The second-generation Prius grew in size and functionality and therefore received a mid-size designation, despite many still considering it compact compared to other mid-size models including Toyota's own Camry.

There will be no questioning where the Prius c Concept fits in, unless the quibble concerns placement in the B- or C-segment. The name, incidentally, doesn't stand for its compact segment classification as some might suspect, but rather the c represents the car's "city"-centric purpose. And yes the lower case is intentional, and we're guessing that any inspiration from the smart fortwo was no doubt unintentional. Either way, if produced, the Prius c would be the brand's most fuel-efficient "cordless" (read non-plug-in) hybrid to date.

Unlike most concepts, less speculation is needed with respect to the Prius c when uttering the "if produced" phrase. Toyota says that this little blue hatchback is a preview of what we can expect from the new standalone Prius brand during the first half of 2012, which would make it the third model behind the production-ready Prius v multi-purpose family-hauler also introduced in Detroit earlier this month.

Where the Prius v pushes the ultra-green brand slightly up-market the new c will be North America's least expensive hybrid when available, which means that it will undercut the Honda Insight currently priced at $23,900.

Honda in mind, Toyota is smart to continue with a practical approach to the hybrid market, rather than taking a risky move into compact sports coupe territory like its archrival did with the CR-Z, now not selling up to expectations. The c's four-door hatchback body configuration takes after the current Prius, but offers a sportier, leaner design that should appeal to entry-level hybrid buyers who will likely be younger than Toyota's current HEV clientele.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hybrid, HEV, Toyota, 2011, Prius, Prius c Concept, Prius v, $10,000 - $19,999, Subcompact,

Organizations: Toyota

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