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Toyota’s seven-seat Prius wagon set for 2012 debut

People's hybrid: Prius V will come with both five and seven seats Down Under.

Pioneering Prius set to spawn first family-friendly hybrid people-mover in Oz

9 Dec 2011

AUSTRALIA’S first seven-seat hybrid people-mover is heading our way under Toyota’s Prius eco-banner as the Japanese giant ramps up its petrol-electric model range, despite sluggish hybrid sales to date.

The Prius V wagon has been confirmed for local release in the second quarter of 2012, with the five-seat version to be joined from launch by the seven-seat version, which is known in Europe as the Prius+.

The decision to import both variants was confirmed to GoAuto by Toyota Australia senior executive director of sales and marketing David Buttner, who said the two configurations would give families a choice of vehicle at two price points.

He said the vehicle would also give Toyota an effective replacement for the sub-Tarago Avensis people-mover that was discontinued a year ago.

The Prius V will become the third Toyota vehicle to carry the Prius nameplate in Australia, following in the wheel-tracks of the closely-related Prius liftback – which is in for a facelift early next year – and, from March, the Prius C compact hatchback.

Also in the first quarter of 2012, Toyota’s other petrol-electric car, the Camry Hybrid, is set for a total makeover in line with the just-released seventh-generation NG Camry.

The Plug-In Prius will almost certainly be next in line for an Australian release, although no date has been set.

To date, Toyota has struggled to fire the public’s imagination with the Prius, sales of which have slumped 52 per cent this year to just 733 units, although at least part of the blame can be attributed to shortages caused by the Japanese earthquake in March.

The Prius V – as the wagon is also known in the United States, where it was revealed at this year’s Detroit motor show alongside the Prius C hatch – shares its platform and drivetrain with the standard Prius that is now in its third generation.

8 center imageBut the five- and seven-seat models vary considerably under the skin, with the five-seater using the Prius hatchback’s existing nickel-metal hydride batteries under the rear cargo floor, and the seven-seater adopting more compact but more expensive lithium-ion batteries to free up space for the foldaway third seat.

Mr Buttner said he was impressed with the packaging of the seven-seat version, with the batteries positioned in the centre of the vehicle to make way for the rear-most seat well.

He confirmed that although seven-seater goes under the Prius+ name in Europe, Toyota Australia had elected to sell both variants under the Prius V nameplate – the V standing for versatility.

The vehicle is known as the Prius Alpha in Japan, where all models are made for global consumption.

In the US, where the five-seater has just been launched, the Prius V’s fuel economy has been rated at 5.6 litres per 100km, compared with 3.9L/100km for the smaller and lighter Prius hatchback.

The Prius V will get a tweaked version of the Prius hatchback’s petrol-electric powertrain that drives the front wheels.

As in the Prius, a 73kW 1.8-litre Atkinson-cycle petrol engine combines with an electric motor to produce a combined 100kW.

The vehicle offers a massive 970 litres of cargo space in its five-seat guise, along with generous rear seat knee room and head height.

The Prius C – which will be called Aqua in Japan – made its debut in production guise at the recent Tokyo motor show ahead of its showroom release this month.

The Yaris-sized five-door hatch will become the entry-level Toyota hybrid, with Toyota electing not to offer the alternative Yaris hybrid in Australia.

The Prius C – standing for city – will target younger buyers and, although it has five doors, it will compete head-on with the just-released three-door Honda CRZ hybrid.

Toyota is predicting sub-3.0L/100km fuel economy from the petrol-electric 1.5-litre drivetrain, making it one of the most fuel efficient cars on the globe.

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