While the Toyota Prius was an inarguable success on the North American market, its smaller sibling really only had a few good years before sales figures started trending in the wrong direction. The Prius C attempted to court urbanites (the C stands for city) by offering the same hybrid concept in a smaller package. Unfortunately, Toyota only managed to move around 13,000 between the United States and Canada in 2017 before its discontinuation the following year — leaving us with the standard Prius and the tongue-twisting Prius Prime Plug-in Hybrid.
But the C has since been revised in its native Japan, where it’s called the Aqua, resulting in a slightly roomier automobile with a new high-output bipolar nickel-hydrogen battery that’s supposed to deliver improved responsiveness and range. Considering the escalation of Western fuel prices, we’re wondering if it’s time for the Prius C to make a comeback in our neck of the woods or if it’s better left to cruise around the tight streets of Tokyo where its success is all but assured as the Aqua.
Toyota is getting frisky. Per a press release, Toyota U.S.A. reports brisk sales of the game-changing Prius c compact hybrid. Then, TMS goes on to say that “In its first three days on the market, it sold 1,201 units, making it one Toyota’s fastest-selling vehicles and eclipsing Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf sales for the entire month of February.”
Today, at 2:46 pm, Japan came to a stand-still, again. Trains and subways stopped. People did fold their hands, faced in the general direction of the northeastern coast of Tohoku, and said a silent prayer. Japan and the world marked the one year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that left whole towns razed, more than 19,000 people dead or missing, 344,000 people displaced, and a large area around the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi power plant off-limits for decades, if not permanently.
Writers often like to equate the power released by the quake to the nuclear bombs that had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Depending on who you read and believe, it was anywhere between 31,700 and 600 million Hiroshima bombs. Large parts of the coastal areas are dotted with huge, neatly stacked piles of rubble which nobody wants to take and nobody knows what to do with. The devastation was so big that it turned into an attraction on Google Earth. Considering the immense damage, it is amazing how quickly the country did rebound. On Friday, I visited what was presented to me as an emblem of the amazing turn-around, Toyota’s plant in Kanegasaki, Iwate Prefecture. Here, 1,700 employees are working overtime to build Toyota’s Aqua / Prius c, for which everybody is screaming.
Yesterday, I wrote about Toyota allegedly cranking up Japanese production of its new Aqua a.k.a. Prius C to 30,000 a month. After I did this, jargon vigilantes protested the use of “engineering feat.” Keep protesting. Today, we will see why the Prius C is an engineering feat. We will also learn how the height of batteries and gas tanks can influence aerodynamics.
The compact hybrid Prius C went on sale in Japan (where it is called Aqua) last month. If you would buy one today in Japan, you would get your car some time in late spring. Toyota already has orders for more than 60,000. In order to not let the line grow longer, Toyota is cranking up its assembly lines at the Kanto Auto Works in Iwate Prefecture.
Back on Friday, Toyota’s Chief Engineer Satoshi Ogiso and TTAC talked about the past of the Prius, and the future of the automobile. Back to the here and now: We also talked about a car that has been a ( badly kept) secret until today: A compact hybrid that suddenly makes former miser-meisters (such as the Honda Insight or the Mazda2) look like gas guzzlers. It is the Toyota Aqua, probably called Prius C when and if it lands on other shores.
Toyota will allegedly launch a new compact hybrid in January that will deliver a record low gasoline consumption of 40 km per liter. On a straight (non EPA) conversion, that would be a jaw-dropping 94 miles per gallon.
What’s less, the car “will not only beat the Prius’ 32km fuel economy, but also likely sell for around 1.7 million yen, around 300,000 yen cheaper than the Prius,” says The Nikkei [sub].