Speaking with business paper Bloomberg in 2012, Chris Hostetter, Toyota’s strategic planning chief in the US, said that buyers have indicated “that they’re ready for a new Prius look”.
“Maybe our architecture has been a little bit similar for the last two generations. One of the avenues we’re exploring right now is to evolve it, and the other is to really evolve it,” Hostetter said.
If authentic, these new images also confirm that while the hybrid hatch’s familiar ‘wedge’ shape has been reimagined, its overall shape remains identifiably ‘Prius’.
Shown here with two distinctly different faces – a common approach for Japanese domestic models – this possible new Prius is clearly designed to present a more sporting look, while retaining the long tapered profile that contributes to the hybrid’s low fuel consumption figures due to its low co-efficient of drag.
It is also possible that the two designs shown here represent an effort to set the plug-in electric vehicle and regular hybrid versions of the Prius further apart with unique styling. Either way, it is unlikely to be confused with the Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell model which sports a distinctly more angular look.
Information posted by Taiwanese website Autonet suggests the hybrid system will include a 75kW 1.8 litre petrol engine, contributing to a total combined output of around 110kW, with fuel consumption improvements of around 7-8 per cent.
In its current Australian-delivered form, the 1.8 litre petrol-electric Prius offers a combined 100kW and lists fuel consumption at 3.9 litres per 100 kilometres. The brand has repeatedly suggested the new model would be at least 10 per cent more efficient. We’d be surprised if it were to be that small a gain.
The new model will reportedly measure 4550 millimetres long and 1770mm tall, making it 70mm longer and 25mm taller than the current Prius, but width remains unchanged at 1490mm wide.
Although larger, the new Prius is expected to weigh around 1280 kilograms, making it about 100kg lighter than its predecessor.
The TNGA platform could also make the new Prius a little more interesting to drive, thanks to the architecture’s lower centre of gravity.
That would gel with comments from Toyota engineer Satoshi Ogiso, who told CarAdvice in 2013 that the launch of the 86 coupe had inspired the Prius development team to inject a little excitement into the new-generation hybrid.
“Recently my name card shows product planning including Prius, and my second line says chassis design, so I should add the fun-to-drive image,” Ogiso-san said.
Toyota has sold more than five million of its Prius hybrids since it first appeared in 1997. Will this new focus on styling and improved handling make a significant impact on that already impressive number?
That angle is open to debate, but thanks to the use of the new and more cost-effective TNGA platform, a potentially more affordable Prius – which currently begins at $32,490 plus on-roads in Australia – would likely be the main force behind any major sales growth.