By on April 28, 2008

2-toyota-hybrid-x-concept.jpgWhile I don't care for the Prius, I can't deny that it has been successful in America. Not just at sales or income for Toyota, but for having one of the highest profiles of any car on sale here and for legitimately changing the automotive game. But it looks like the Prius's developmental future is a lot more conventional. Michele Krebs, writing for Edmunds' Auto Observer, reports a number of unfortunate developments for the next generation Prius, to be revealed at Detroit in January 2009. It's bigger – 3-4 inches, although not much heavier. The engine grows to 1.8 liters, and combined gas and electric power is up from approximately 110 horses to 160. But don't worry, fuel economy is up. So it's all okay, right? Wrong. Most successive generations of automobiles are able to make improvements in all areas. That does not mean the distribution of those improvements – which are often compromises and tradeoffs – is ok. Fuel economy will be up in the next Prius? Imagine how much more it could be up if they weren't trying to squeeze another 50 horses out of the car, or adding 4 inches to the body. Ms. Krebs also confirms that the Prius model range will grow (hopefully a smaller, lighter coupe is included), and reminds that a Lexus version with a 2.0-3.0 liter engine is still on the table. This is an example of Toyota losing the plot, trying to make the Prius appeal to more people – and in so doing, diluting the one of the single most focused products on the automotive market. But hey, it's all in the pursuit of sales numbers. [Thanks to starlightmica for the tip]

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43 Comments on “Next-gen Prius Bigger, More Powerful...”


  • avatar
    seoultrain

    As long as they maintain the illusion of being environmentally friendly, this thing could weigh 2 tons and get worse mileage than a Yaris. Toyota will milk the Prius for all its got.

  • avatar
    marc

    You just cant please some people. As a 2nd gen Prius driver, I am looking forward to gen3, with precisely these updates. (I am definitely interested in the Lexus version, but the teacher’s salary might not make that possible anyway, so I’ll stick to the Prius here.)

    People criticize the Prius for not offering an engaging enough driver’s experience. A more powerful engine could solve that (tho I highly doubt it will get to 160hp). Check.

    People criticize the Prius for not being truly midsized, just a well packaged compact. Increase dimensions a couple inches here and there without a weight gain. Check.

    People criticize the Prius for not having as good of mileage as it could. The next one promises even better mpg for the car that gets the best mpg in the US, maybe a true 60 mpg. Check.

    The Prius is not an Insight. It is the no compromise vehicle that could easily be found in almost every garage. These updates make that wonderful dream scenario more and more likely. And they make room for a smaller hybrid to slot in below in the near future. Hybrid Yaris anyone?

  • avatar
    SunnyvaleCA

    Perhaps they will be able to attract the CUV crowd with the new one. Then, come out with a smaller car to attract the Yaris crowd. Sounds like a convenient way to spread the synergy drive system to a broader market.

  • avatar
    Axel

    The 3-4 inches of metal don’t add that much weight, and you’d be surprised the kind of power boost you can get without sacrificing fuel economy with today’s engine technology. Making the car bigger and more powerful may in fact be the difference between 55 mpg and 50 mpg.

    The Prius’ biggest problem is folks think it’s a tiny, sluggish car. My parents were flabbergasted when I told them that technically it was a midsize. So if they can upsize and uppower the Prius and keep that magical, psychological “5″ in front of the MPG numbers, it makes perfect sense from a marketing standpoint.

    Toyota ain’t in it to save the planet, people. They’re in it to sell cars.

  • avatar
    offroadinfrontier

    As negative as it might seem, I think it’s a good idea. Sure, Toyota’s reasoning is more income (what business has other reasons?), but if future “Prius” models can wean people off of this CUV/SUV crap, I’m more than happy to see posts like this.

    One stipulation – Toyota needs to make sure to release versions with smaller engines/bodies, as well. For those of us who aren’t slaves to the SUV craze, a hybrid Yaris (or small coupe of some sort) would be heaven.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    This is consistent with the change from the gen1 to the gen2 Prius. Roomier, more powerful, yet a significant increase in mpg. Keep in mind, an increase in body length lends itself well to an improvement in aerodynamics, which will be the significant factor to increase highway mileage.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    @Axel:
    Toyota ain’t in it to save the planet, people. They’re in it to sell cars.

    Exactly. But the debate is whether their cars will sell as well if, in a few years, they aren’t seen as unique anymore. The marketing for the Prius is dependent on the product. Look what happened to the Scion xB from generation 1 to generation 2.

    Toyota can say “better in every way” but what if it could have been MUCH better in the ways that matter most? If the Prius stayed the same size but fuel economy jumped to 60 mpg from 50, wouldn’t that be more important?

  • avatar
    ash78

    I was actually hoping they’d offer a semi-traditional wagon.

    My only beef is the number of style compromises made to achieve a 0.26 Cx. For 0.27-0.28, you have any number of “normal-looking” cars to choose from (eg my ’98 Passat sedan is 0.27), so why not ditch the spaceship-inspired layout and go with something a little less extreme? I think that’s the next step in mainstream acceptance.

    My wife does so much stop-and-go driving, but doesn’t like the idea of driving something that appears so “unique” and purpose-built (when it doesn’t really have to look that way).

  • avatar
    improvement_needed

    as long as they create a new ‘prius lite’ – something the size of a fit, or rabbit would nice, i say: make it as big as you want…

    there’s been the idea for an entire model lineup of pre-i… – time to start making it happen!

  • avatar
    Mj0lnir

    I’m with ash78.

    It’s ugly, and I think they’re sacrificing sales for .01-.03 CD.

    Can we all agree that 500,000 cars at 45mpg is better than 250,000 cars at 50mpg and 250,000 cars at 30mpg?

  • avatar
    AKM

    So, when will we see a Prius SUV?

    It would compete with the RX400h, but no matter…
    It would also allow car mags to do comparos with the MINI SUV. How fun would THAT be?

  • avatar
    Drew

    For those of us who aren’t slaves to the SUV craze, a hybrid Yaris (or small coupe of some sort) would be heaven.

    Yep. I have high hopes for the Honda CRZ.

    Like every other initially promising car for the last 5 years, I’m sure I’ll be disappointed. But for now, I can dream.

    Or maybe the new Toyota RWD coupe will be offered in a fuel-sipping model that’s still tossable. Fingers crossed.

  • avatar
    alex_rashev

    It’s perfect. 160hp car the size of a previous-generation Camry, AND a great way to get us all into wagons without the boxy shape that snobby people hate.

    All of a sudden it stops being an econerdwagon and turns into a full-blown family car.

    An electric AWD variant with a tow hitch will slaughter the less-than-butch looking crossover entries, too. They better be working on it.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    So, they’ll increase the size of the Prius. Then introduce a “lite” version that is probably the same as the 1st gen Prius?

    Sounds like nothing ever changes in the life cycle of a model. It’ll get too big and they’ll rename it.

    The AWD idea is a great one, use the regenerative energy of the brakes towards powering the rear wheels. A small motor on each rear wheel…just enough to assist in gaining traction or even with engine braking. Use a switch like the Nissan Cube if you’d like but make it low-speed only.
    Plus no additional tunnel space needed for a transaxle and driveshaft.

    We have some AWD Ford Escapes in the fleet at work, and they’re quite handy for most applications…definitely not a 4WD “take down a dirt trail” vehicle but adept to driving through winter conditions. And just the right size for most families…however, not as efficient as the Prius due to it’s roots.

    @ash78:

    If you want a more normal looking hybrid with very similiar efficiency, why can’t people consider the Civic hybrid? Although it’s just as weird looking to me. But the problem why it doesn’t sell as well is that it’s not a Prius and not weirdly shaped. If most Prius consumers are wanting to make a statement about what they’re driving, they want to stand out.

    Ask MOST people what hybrids are on the market: Prius will be the first thing to pop in their mind. A GM will be the last. Other Toyota and Honda offerings may come up and possibly the Fords. Because it stands out the most and that’s what Toyota wanted as much as the aerodynamic efficiency.

  • avatar

    The Prius is NOT a no-compromise vehicle. I spent a week driving one on Toyota’s dime, and it has unacceptable power levels. It ekes out a midsize classification but is too narrow to be comfortable, and the teardrop shape severely compromises rear seat headroom.

    That being said, gas mileage was damned impressive, particularly in traffic.

    I have no problem with the Prius growing if teh fuel economy doesn’t suffer (or even improves), particularly if power increases.

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    @”But the problem why it doesn’t sell as well is that it’s not a Prius and not weirdly shaped.”

    Poppycock.

    First thing I do when I’m looking for a new car is hit http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/hybrid_sbs.shtml

    I see the Prius getting 20% better MPG in the city. 48 MPG vs 40 MPG really stands out.

    Then I click the check box to compare the two and get these figures:

    Passenger Volume 96 ft3 (HB) versus 91 ft3 (4D)
    Luggage Volume 16 ft3 (HB) versus 10 ft3 (4D)

    and I think wow not only does it get better mileage than the Civic it also has more usable seating and cargo space.

    Then I remember back to hearing that the Prius is more reliable than the Civic. (Is it true? I don’t know but that is the public perception)

    The last thing I look at on that page says the Civic is better in one way.

    EPA Air Pollution Score Civic 9, Prius 8.
    (Scoring ranges from 0 (worst) to 10 (best).)

    I never once think about what it looks like. Make the Civic get better mileage than the Prius and give it a hatch and it’d sell just as well.

  • avatar
    gfen

    Had to buy a new car to haul my children in and stopped to look at the Prius..Its a weird car. With the child seats in the back, there’s ample room…except there’s not enough headroom in the front for my melon.

    I’m not sorry, though. I didn’t really want one, this was a convienent answer to rule it out.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    I wasn’t trying to make this a Civic vs Prius post. But for some who think the Prius stands out too much, there are always other alternatives that are often overlooked initially. The Prius is a much better package, because it is a more specialized product than a Civic, Camry, or whatever hybrids are out now.

    Wow, the EPA really dropped their MPG ratings with the new formula. I only remember the 07 ratings…thanks for correcting me.

    When you consider passenger room, it’s not as much about the volume as to where the room is…the Civic has more headroom and room in the front while sacrificing inches in the rear seat to the Prius. The Prius exceeds with cargo room not just for size BUT because you can make use of the folding rear seat.

    And that is why I’ll always prefer a 3rd or 5th door to a trunk. Especially since I own a compact wagon (Mazda 3) and the replacement for our Volvo DL sedan will be a wagon of sorts as well.

    I don’t recall the Civic having any reliability issues but I recall the Prius having a few recalls for randomly shutting down at cruising speeds. However, in terms of long-term costs, I would prefer to have a vehicle that has more parts in common with a high-volume seller (other Civics) due to parts availability.

    I’ve driven both an 05 Prius and an 07 Civic hybrid. One trump card that the Civic has over the Prius and one that matters to me quite a bit is a much more enjoyable driving pleasure…low-resistance tires are never going to be super-sticky but the car is much more fluid to drive in turns and even around town.

    Would I buy either one? NOPE. They’re hybrids, a stop-gap in technology. And even if they aren’t that, they’re still being developed. When the hybrid is an electric with fuel motor assist (for charging or extra power) and has electric motors at each wheel, then I’ll be much more interested.

  • avatar
    ash78

    @TEXN3

    Civic Hybrid is definitely a good choice, but I was speaking more to Toyota’s business choices than to consumer options.

    The Prius is well past the early adopter stage, so I was just stating that I think some more mainstream styling and configurations would be in order. It doesn’t have, in my mind, any sort of elitist cachet to it anymore.

    So build a little coupe that bests the current version, but then offer a larger sedan/hatch and a wagon variant with slightly worse mileage would probably be the best move for Toyota, both from a market share and CAFE point of view.

  • avatar

    With Toyotas current styling theme i wouldn’t be surprised to see that hulking bloated thing driving around. But ah people will buy them and will drive them because its the Prius. Even if it does get less MPG than previously because of it’s size changes. Why can’t we all just get along and have some nice clean, efficient diesels?

  • avatar

    @ash78

    The rompin’-stompin’ success of the Camry hybrid shows how well a sedan version of the Prius hybrid with worse mileage would do in the market. Turns out, folks still want to be seen in a green machine, stealth environmentalism just isn’t quite as palatable. That said, you better believe the Prius (2nd and upcoming 3rd generation) is on my shortlist of cars to purchase in the next couple of years when the Lumina gives up the ghost.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Getting bigger and more powerful worked for Gen2, so why not for Gen3?

    When have Americans ever looked at a car and said: “no thanks, too big.”

    Besides, longer can actually help mileage by improving aerodynamics.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    I remember when the latest generation of the RAV4 came out there were a host of folks getting all critcal about the size increase and how it would hurt sales because of the than Highlander being about the same size.
    What these folks failed to do is anticipate the follow-up punch that was coming from Toyota in the form of the larger “new” Highlander. Needless to say the new Rav4 is a major Hit for Toyota and I see far more new Highalnders than all of the new GM CUVs combined here in the NYC Metro area, indicating that Toyota is still able to sell these things even in today’s marketplace.

    We also see many folks in TTAC make claims that the Scion TC is not a proper replacement for the Celica. Once again they are missing the point and will continue to fail to understand why Toyota is so successful with so-called lackluster products. While the TC is not the sportscar that the last Celica (GTS) was, it can be had for about a whopping $7000.00 less than a Celica GTS. Now I have driven a base Celcia, a Celica GTS, and a TC and must admit that the TC is far more fun than the under-powered base Celica and in the REAL world, it is also far more enjoyable than the high strung GTS. One again, needless to say the TC has been a major sales success for Toyota when the Celcia was not. The high revving, low torque engine in the GTS was of limited value in an everyday car, while the torquey 2.4l egnine from the Camry work wonderfully in everyday use. It “FEELS” powerful while the GTS engine did not until you basically abused it.
    Styling was also a major factor in the TC success. It looks like a real car as opposed to a wannabe race car. Something that many ADULT men and women truly want.

    I remember when the first Avalon came to market and we had a number of critics claiming that no one wants a larger camry. Three generations later I would say, WRONG!

    I write all of this because IMO Toyota knows what it is doing with its latest plans for the Prius. As I have come to learn, right here in TTAC, the Prius is now a brand on to itself. Today there are a lot of folks that are EXPECTING more and different Priuses. As an example my childess uncle and wife have two priuses and would happy trade one in for something different yet the same.

    The Prius has two very importatnt elements to it, the drivetrain and the body. It is the combination of the two that is making this car so popular. Yet the actual Prius drivetrain can and WILL be used to underpin many different types of vehicles.

    Now it is a given that Toyota has a great deal of good sense. Now if ToMoCo would just grow some bigger balls and dust off the last MR2 and stuff a prius drivetrain into that thing. Hey they could steal any remaining thunder from Telsa with the snap of a finger.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    I just love all of the continued, desperate attempts/dreams of proving the Prius is some how bad.
    Hilarious.
    It really seams to threaten some people and I fail to see why.

    Chuckling,

    Bunter

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    Oh, right.
    It’s a Toyota.
    I geuss that is enough for some.

    Still laughing.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    offroadinfrontier

    So will we see a stick in the Hybrid future?

    While my car is no power monster, I can push my (1987) 5sp 3.0V6 (3200lbs) to 31 on the highway, even with crosswinds, tops off (drag), and going 75mph.

    I’d like to see how these CVTs stack up next to a 5- or 6-speed with proper gearing and a competent driver behind the wheel.

  • avatar
    tulsa_97sr5

    After test driving the current Prius my wife was ready to sign on the dotted line, it’s really the perfect car for us. I’ve managed to get her to hold off till the dust settles on the next generation though. I could see us opting for a smaller version if the mpg to size trade off makes sense. I could also see us opting for the Lexus version if the extra weight doesn’t hurt the mpg to bad and the upcharge isn’t too great. I can see us choosing the middle ground as well. I’m really hoping those three choices are exactly what they end up offering as all three would appeal to us.

  • avatar
    marc

    @kazoomaloo

    The Camry hybrid DOES prove that people want the so-called “stealth” hybrids. It has been quite successful. I believe it is the second highest selling hybrid, moving some 4000 units a month, fully 10% of Camry’s sales.

    Owners of Priuses know that we bought the car for its real, practical reasons, not because it looked the part. Otherwise the Insight would have been on our shopping lists.

    The hybrid Camry has real advantages too, and it was a tough choice for me. I would have gladly given up some of the mpg for the extra passenger room and power, but I could not give up the practicality and style of the Prius hatch. I will always choose a 5 door over a 4 door. But for some, who do not care about or may even dislike hatches, the Camry is a wonderful option.

    With the updates in store, the Prius will be even more perfect. Larger, more powerful, better mpg, and I will still get my hatch. The next Camry hybrid better have something up its sleeve, because now there really will be no reaon for it, and its sales will suffer.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    @Whatdoiknow1:

    What Toyota did with the RAV and then Highlander is no different than any other car manufacture does. Move vehicles up market or in size, then introduce a new one that is smaller.

    The TC has not been a huge hit in terms of numbers sold, but it has compared to what the Celica sold. It’s a great coupe and there is nothing at all wrong with Toyotas… but it can’t be considered a “hit”. The Avalon has turned into a very nice car, I had one as a rental when all the GM midsizers were gone…never been more thankful for a Toyota!

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    Will the new version have a telescoping steering wheel? That would be nice for tall drivers.

    As for the shape, I couldn’t care less. Practicality is way more important to me, and this Prius has what I need (if it has comfortable driving position for a tall driver). I’ve had two sedans in my entire life, and my next car is not going to be a sedan. I want some utility without having to buy a truck or an SUV.

  • avatar
    EJ_San_Fran

    What does it take to make the Prius the best selling car in America?
    Whatever the answer, that’s what Toyota needs to do now.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    The Prius was popular BECAUSE it was more mainstream! I mean, look at the Insight. No practicality. With the 2nd gen Prius, there was practicality. They’re just making it more pratical and more appealing to everyone. I don’t see this as a problem. Toyota is never wrong in its judgement. Unpossible!

  • avatar
    sashazur

    God I hope it doesn’t look like that photo/rendering! I’m tired of Toyota/Scion’s huge C-pillars and their attendant blind spots.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    When I test drove a Prius I didn’t get one for two reasons: 1) It is a little small for taking three or four full sized people on a long trip and this is something I do several times per year. 2) The available passing power in tight situations was a little weak.

    So, I think Toyota is doing the right things to improve the Prius. They made the vehicle larger without making it heavier and improved on it’s already leading fuel economy whilst providing more passing reserve. 160 HP for a four passenger sedan/hatchback is just about perfect. My old Volvo 850 with a manual transmission was rated at 168 HP, carried four people in comfort and had plenty of power.

    Not every car can benefit from being bigger and heavier than it’s predecessor, but it isn’t always a bad thing either. I would sure much rather commute in a modern day Corolla or Civic than in it’s 1975 predecessor, and my probability of arriving alive is much better in the 2008 versions.

    “If the Prius stayed the same size but fuel economy jumped to 60 mpg from 50, wouldn’t that be more important?”

    Actually, no. The problem with stating fuel economy in miles per gallon instead of in gallons per 1000 miles is that people assume that any 10 MPG improvement is the same as another, but the actual fuel consumption reduction in going from 10 MPG to 20 MPG is huge (100 gallons/1k miles to 50 gallons/1k miles) while the improvement from 50 to 60 MPG is rather small at 20 gallons/1k miles to 16.67 gallons/1k miles. Using 3.33 fewer gallons of fuel every thousand miles is a minor cost, even at $5/gallon. For most people you are talking about $15-$20/month fuel cost reduction at $5/gallon.

    Conversely, if someone moves from their 25 MPG Camry to a 50 MPG Prius then they save about 20 gallons per month, or around $100/month at 12k miles per year.

    Making the Prius into a strong segment competitor with the Camry, Accord, Malibu et. al. can be accomplished with it’s uprated specifications, and that is where the heart of the US automobile market is.

    I wonder if Toyota will kill the Camry Hybrid when the new Prius arrives?

    Bottom line: I don’t think Toyota is loosing the plot at all.

  • avatar
    morbo

    It BURNS us!!!!!

  • avatar
    CarShark

    I think this is misplaced cynicism. What Toyota has managed to do is fix everything that was wrong with the first gen. The lack of space. The lack of power. The disappointing mileage.

    How can the addition of power be a negative, anyways? We’ve seen engines get replaced with more powerful, more efficient, cleaner versions. And what if the engine’s extra power means it doesn’t have to work as hard to get to 70 mph on the freeway and stay there? Won’t that mean better efficiency at the hybrid’s weak spot?

    What I think Justin wanted was a hypermiler’s dream. Again, too narrow a focus. What we’ve got instead is an actual car with appeal. You don’t have to put up with the foibles. Besides, I thought we all realized that the Prius is the Camry of the future. In 10 or 15 years, this will be the best-selling car in America, I think. It may only sell 50000 copies, but still…

  • avatar
    jmhm2003

    This sounds like the greatest vehicle ever made. Bigger, faster and more efficient then the current Prius. If it’s the same price or less then sign me up.

    What’s wrong with you Berkowitz?

  • avatar
    limmin

    I’m no Prius fan.
    I’m convinced the Japanese government unfairly subsidized its development with billions of free dollars.
    However, it’s still a superior product. It is clearly mid-sized inside, plenty of room for five.
    And the new one will surely improve in all areas.
    How about a stick??

  • avatar

    limmin,

    If you think the Japanese government has unfairly subsidized the development of hybrids, you should take a look at what Uncle Sam is up to with E85. At least the Japanese tied their horse to the right cart…

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    I think it looks kinda space ship like. I like it.

  • avatar
    i6

    The suggestion that Toyota is losing the plot because the next gen Prius will be larger and more powerful is informed by the common misperception that ‘green’ products can only be effective when the consumer is willing to make some personal sacrifices and compromises in their purchasing decision.

    The truth is that it’s simply a matter of applying our ever increasing technical knowledge and capabilities to achieve the benefits we seek. Anything else is grossly wasteful.

    This particular improvement in powertrains, for example, is not unlike the development of EGR valves decades ago. The increased power and body dimensions bring nothing but benefits to fuel economy, on top of the inherent benefits those changes carry in and of themselves.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Still hoping for the “plug-in” version, but a 50mpg “city” rating in a larger vehicle is a hell of a selling point. If they can do it, while making it look a bit more “mainstream”, people will stand in line for this one.
    For someone like me (who is now driving a 29MPG Elantra less than 6k/yr.), it wouldn’t make much sense, but for someone driving a 25MPG vehicle 15k/yr., it’s a winner!

  • avatar
    menno

    A couple of minor corrections and comments.

    The current generation Prius (2004-2008) has not got “energy saving” (i.e. useless) tires, it has normal radial all-season tires. There were too many complaints from the prior generation of Prius and Toyota actually took notice (gasp! wow!)

    As for the rumors that the Japanese Government helped Toyota develop the hybrid technology, I ask you – why is that “wrong” when our own American tax dollars were UNSUCCESSFULLY P!SSED AWAY on the so-called “Supercar Project” by “Willy” Clinton?

    Doesn’t anyone else remember the so-called 80 mile per gallon hybrid cars supposedly developed by GM, Ford and Chrysler over a decade ago? Yeah, we paid for that.

    The idiots in Washington did like they always do. Threw money at a perceived problem.

    They forgot to require that if GM, Ford and Chrysler accept the money, they should build so many of the cars per year…… so none were ever put into production.

    But of course, from what I understand, the Chrysler was nothing but fakey-do anyway. The microturbine was running in some of the drives – but it was not connected to anything. They had to be short drives, as they big clunky batteries were the only power source.

    Yeah, the Chevrolet Volt was “supposedly” already engineered by GM, Ford and Chrysler over a decade ago.

    I think as a taxpayer, I’d like to know where my money went. And yep, I’d like it back, thanks.


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