Feature: Toyota Prius family hybrids auto brands auto tech
Toyota Prius c concept. Click image to enlarge

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By Paul Williams

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Toyota Prius c concept

Introduced in Canada in 2000, the Toyota Prius has become synonymous with hybrid technology. However, since its introduction there has only been one Prius model.

True, that model has seen considerable development and evolution, transforming from a comparatively compact four-door sedan to a larger five-door hatch. But no wagons, vans, convertibles have joined the Prius “family.”

Well, forget the convertible (I guess…), but at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, Toyota did reveal that the current-model Prius is getting company.

Feature: Toyota Prius family hybrids auto brands auto tech
Toyota Prius v concept. Click image to enlarge

The Prius v (for “versatility”) will be built on the Prius five-door platform and will share its drive-train with the standard Prius, but it will boast over 50 per cent more interior cargo room. The boost in cargo room is accompanied, as you would expect, by a considerable boost in size, to 4615 millimetres in length, versus 4460 mm for the Prius, and to 1741 mm in height, versus 1480 mm for the Prius. The wheelbase will also be increased, from 2700 mm to 2780 mm.

So is it a van? Is it a tall wagon? Well, yes and no… it’s sort of both of those, and not really either.

At the front, the Prius v is clearly identifiable as a Prius, but its extended roofline transforms it at the rear to a tall hatchback style of vehicle, at least in profile. Nonetheless, the signature trapezoidal Prius shape is retained, and Toyota reports a low coefficient of drag of 0.29 for the Prius v.

Feature: Toyota Prius family hybrids auto brands auto tech
Toyota Prius c concept. Click image to enlarge

Toyota also reports that the Prius v will return U.S. EPA ratings of 42 miles per gallon in the city and 38 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 40 mpg, making it the most fuel efficient SUV, wagon or crossover on the market (Canadian equivalents would be 5.6 L/100km city, 6.2 L/100km highway, 5.9 L/100km combined, although our official numbers will differ due to the way Natural Resources Canada calculates fuel consumption).

The Prius v accommodates five, with a sliding second-row, 60/40 split-folding rear seat that can recline to a 45-degree angle. The front passenger seat folds flat, enabling the Prius v to transport long items. The available panoramic sunroof is made of resin, weighing 40-percent less than a comparable glass roof and, according to Toyota, will provide excellent heat insulation.

The Prius v will include many of the same features as the Prius, including its four driving modes (Normal, Power, Eco and EV) and a Smart Key system with push-button start, electronic shift lever, and centre-mounted digital combination meter. Hill Start Assist and a back-up camera are standard, and available options include dynamic cruise control, LED headlamps, pre-collision system and an advanced parking guidance system. The Prius v is expected to go on sale in Canada in late summer, 2011.

Feature: Toyota Prius family hybrids auto brands auto tech
Feature: Toyota Prius family hybrids auto brands auto tech
Toyota Prius PHEV (top); Toyota Prius. Click image to enlarge

If the Prius v is a bit too family-oriented for you, the Prius c (for “city”) may fit the bill. The “c” could also stand for “concept,” or “compact,” because this vehicle is not ready for production in 2011. However, the first half of 2012 is not too long to wait if you’re after what Toyota describes as, “the most value-oriented hybrid on the Canadian market, with the highest mileage of any ‘cordless’ hybrid.”

The Prius c appears to be a compact, four-door hatch; lower and sleeker than the current Prius model, and perhaps a variation of the new Lexus CS 200h. Don’t expect the headlights to remain flush with the cowl, as in the concept pictures, but you never know.

The fourth member of the new Prius family is the Prius Plug-in. It is effectively a standard Prius with the ability to operate as an electric vehicle (EV) for 20 km at speeds up to 100 km/h. The compact Lithium-ion battery is lighter and charges more quickly than a Nickel-metal hydride battery, and can be plugged into a standard 110-volt household outlet. Using 110v, the battery will fully charge in three hours, and if a 220v outlet is available, charging time is reduced to 1.7 hours. After the EV power is depleted, the Prius Plug-in operates like the standard Prius.

Prius Plug-ins are currently undergoing the first phase of a national demonstration program, prior to coming to market here in the first half of 2012.

With all the Prius models coming to market, you might think that Prius is set to become a stand-alone brand like Lexus and Scion. However, Prius will remain a family/brand within Toyota.

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