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Toyota Oz contemplates baby Prius C concept

Downsized: Toyota will guage public reactions to the Prius C light-car at the Australian motor show to determine whether it will go on local sale.

Customer reactions to Toyota Prius C at upcoming Australian show to decide its fate

Toyota logo23 Mar 2011

By MIKE COSTELLO

IT might be confirmed for sale in the United States in the first half of 2012, but Toyota will take a cautious approach to the Prius C small car by gauging customer reaction at the Australian International Motor Show in Melbourne in July.

If the reaction is positive, the Prius C could join a growing Prius hybrid family that potentially will also include the seven-seat Prius+ hybrid people-mover and Prius Plug-in Hybrid Vehicle (PHV) on the Australian range.

The Prius C concept was unveiled at the Detroit motor show in January this year as a near-production reality, promising more compact dimensions and better efficiency than the current Prius from which it borrows its Hybrid Synergy Drive platform.

Toyota boasts that it will have a “surprisingly spacious interior in a compact package”.

Toyota Australia senior executive director sales and marketing David Buttner said the car would appeal to a different demographic than the standard Prius. “We are bringing it to the Australian motor show to test its appeal among buyers who we expect will come from a different group to those attracted to the current Prius.

8 center imageLeft: Toyota Prius C Concept. Below: Prius+ and Prius plug-in.

"They are compact-car buyers, including young singles and couples, who want a mainstream city car that provides outstanding fuel economy while being fun to drive."If the C concept were to go on sale here it would be cheaper than the current Prius, bringing it closer to Honda’s new Insight, which undercuts the Toyota by almost $10,000 at entry-level pricing.

The Prius C was displayed in Detroit alongside the Chevrolet Volt-rivalling Prius PHV plug-in hybrid and the spacious Prius V as part of the Japanese giant’s plan to expand its current Prius range.

Toyota Australia is taking a similar toe-in-the-water approach to any local introduction of the PHV plug-in model as it is with the Prius C, waiting on feedback from customers taking part in an ongoing trial.

Toyota has put 600 PHVs – including five in Australia – into field trials to “demonstrate plug-in technology, educate and inform the public, evaluate performance, and better understand the benefits to future customers”.

Unlike the current Prius’ Hybrid Synergy Drive system, the plug-in Prius can be – as the name says – plugged-in to a power outlet like an EV car.

Toyota claims the PHV be driven up to 20km on battery power alone, at speeds of up to 100km/h. Its lightweight lithium-ion battery has a quicker recharging time than traditional hybrids, taking about 100 minutes on 220 volts.

Toyota Australia has confirmed the Prius line-up could also feature the family-sized seven-seater Prius+ displayed at Geneva earlier in March.

The Prius+, which is closely related to the Prius V from Detroit, uses a lithium-ion battery pack instead of the current Prius model’s nickel-metal hydride unit.

GoAuto reported from Geneva that Toyota Australia had it under consideration, and the company’s Manager Public Relations Mike Breen told GoAuto today that this was still the case.

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