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Melbourne show: Family affair for Toyota Prius

All in the family: Toyota's stand at this July's Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne will feature the Prius V wagon.

Prius V wagon set to join fellow hybrids on the Toyota stand at Australian show

Toyota logo23 May 2011

By RON HAMMERTON

THE roomy Toyota Prius V – the five-seat version of Toyota’s new twin hybrid wagons that have just gone on sale in Japan – will make its public debut in Australia at the Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne on July 1.

The Prius V – “V for versatility” – will join the small and sporty Prius C – “C for city” – and the regular Prius hatchback in a Prius family outing on the Toyota stand.

Toyota Australia, which has promised two new hybrid cars in Australian showrooms in 2012, says it is considering the Prius V and its seven-seat counterpart, the Prius+, for Australian showrooms, as well as the bob-tailed Prius C.

So far, the Prius+ is not on the list for the show, where Toyota will also stage the local debut of its upcoming FT-86 rear-drive sports coupe.

The Prius V and Prius+ share the same wagon body built on a stretched Prius platform with the standard Prius hybrid powertrain, but the Prius+ boasts a third row of seats, made possible by a more compact lithium-ion battery pack under the rear floor.

The Prius V retains the Prius hatchback’s original nickel-metal hydride batteries, which are bulkier but more affordable.

In Japan, where both of the Prius wagons have just gone on sale under Prius Alpha badges, the Prius+ commands a $A7480 price premium – about 27 per cent – over the Prius V, which itself is about $3400 more expensive than the base Prius hatchback.

8 center imageFrom top: Toyota Prius C concept, Prius+ concept, Prius plug-in hybrid.

While Japanese Toyota dealers are selling both variants, the North American market has elected to go with the five-seat Prius V from later this year, while Europe has chosen the Prius+.

Both vehicles are expected to be in tight supply for months, with 25,000 Japanese buyers already in the queue and Toyota able to produce only 3000 units a month.

The production rate also has been affected by parts shortages in the wake of the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

As GoAuto reported last week, the knock-on affect of the production problems has been to delay a decision by Toyota Motor Corporation on sending one or both of the wagons to Australia.

Toyota Australia sales and marketing chief David Buttner said he expected to be in a position later this year to announce an extended Prius family for local showrooms.

In the meantime, Toyota Australia will use the Melbourne show as a sounding board for the Prius V and Prius C, which Mr Buttner said were aimed at broadening the appeal of Prius.

“Prius V is a family-oriented five-seater designed to meet the needs of growing families with active lifestyles,” he said.

“The ‘V’ stands for versatility, which is reflected in the car’s compact exterior and more spacious interior.

“Prius V was designed from the ground up as a new, dedicated hybrid vehicle with a shape that evolved from Prius – it is not just an elongated version. It shares its platform with the current Prius while providing substantially more cargo space.

“Its versatility provides an added dimension to the Prius core values of great fuel economy, low emissions, proven technology and environmental stewardship.”

Mr Buttner confirmed the seven-seat Prius+ was also under study for the local market.

Toyota Australia public relations manager Chris Parker told GoAuto the company had no plans to display the Prius+ alongside its Prius V sibling at the show.

The Prius V was unveiled alongside the Prius C at the Detroit motor show in January, while the Prius+ was uncovered at the Geneva motor show two months later.

While the battery packs are different, both models use the same second-generation Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain as Prius, with a combined 100kW of power from a 73kW 1.8-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine and 60kW electric motor.

The wagons are 155mm longer than the hatchback, as well as 30mm wider, while fuel economy and CO2 emissions are about the same, at 3.8 litres per 100km and 89 grams per kilometre.

The second-row seats slide fore and aft, while the seat backs recline up to 45 degrees. A fold-flat front passenger seat permits long items to be carried.

While Mr Buttner said in January that Toyota Australia would launch two hybrid models in 2012, it is unclear if the new-generation Toyota Camry Hybrid is one of those.

The locally made petrol-electric Camry is earmarked for local launch in the first half of 2012 – a few months after the petrol version.

The Prius C has yet to be formally confirmed for production, although reports from the Detroit motor show suggested it would go into production in the first half of 2012.

The little five-door hatch looks to be a competitor for the Honda CR-Z, while also providing Toyota with the potential to take the hybrid price fight up to the Honda Insight.

Despite a $5000 price cut last month, the $34,990 Prius base hatchback is still $5000 dearer than the entry level Insight, at $29,990.

Prius sales have slumped 64.8 per cent this year, to just 225 sales for the first four months of 2011, while Honda’s Insight has wooed 221 buyers.

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