Upcoming Toyota Aqua Launch in Japan Offers Clues to the Mysterious Prius c Slated for the U.S.

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Community, Hybrids, News | Posted on 28-09-2011

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We have been obsessing in this blog for months now about the upcoming extended Prius family of hybrids — a family that will include a van-like, wagon-ish version of the Prius, dubbed the ‘v’; a Plug-in Prius and the somewhat sketchy Prius ‘c’.  Up to now, details on the city version of the Prius known simply as the ‘c’ have been scarce.  What we know is that it will be a smaller, more compact version of the iconic Prius, probably with the same power-train, but with noticeably better gas mileage and at a significantly lower selling price.  A stylish concept study of the Prius c made the rounds on the auto show circuit last year, but that was all that was revealed about the future Prius sibling.

 

That is, until now.  According to Reuters News Service, the Nikkei, a leading financial newspaper in Japan, is reporting that Toyota will launch a new compact hybrid car for the Japanese market this January known as the 2012 Toyota Aqua.  The Aqua is quite possibly the Japanese market model of the Prius c, a lighter, less expensive, more efficient version of the hatchback Prius that is slated for North American delivery early next year.

 

The new vehicle will use the same power-train as the Prius and the newspaper listed the mileage at just under 40 km/litre (without saying where it got the information).  The standard Prius gets 32 km/litre in Japan.  The daily added that the Aqua is likely to sell for “around 1.7 million yen” which equates to $22,000 U.S. ($1 = 76.655 Japanese Yen) and that translates to about 300,000 yen less than the cost of a standard Prius in Japan (about $4,000).

 

The fuel economy figures for the Aqua as quoted by the Nikkei represent gas mileage of 94 mpg on the Japanese test cycle which is not as strenuous as test cycles used by the EPA in the U.S.  The current Prius returns 75 mpg in the Japanese test cycle.  By those numbers the Aqua would be around 25% more efficient than the Prius.  As an educated guess, it is safe to speculate that real-world combined gas mileage according to EPA test cycles will be closer to 60 mpg when the Prius c arrives at Toyota dealers here.

The Aqua, like the Prius c, will be aimed at younger, urban buyers and could be the most significant gas-electric hybrid of the new Prius family of hybrids coming from Toyota.  When it arrives in the U.S. next spring, it will occupy a price-point noticeably below the current mid-size Prius hatchback.

 Sources: Reuters.com    Greencarreports.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comment:  The Prius c made its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on January 2012, check out the teaser video below for an early peek at the 2012 Prius c:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptqNwDJFVh8&w=560&h=315]

 


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The Camry Hybrid Gets The Prius Treatment: (Yet Another) First Look At The 2012 Camry Hybrid

Posted by John Dolan | Posted in Hybrids, News | Posted on 07-09-2011

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The 2012 Camry Hybrid finally sheds that ‘after thought’ status of the outgoing model it replaces.  While the former Camry Hybrid got better gas mileage than its gas-only relative, it lagged behind in drivability – its throttle response could be a little ‘mushy’, the brakes would get grabby, and the battery took up too much trunk space.  This time the Camry was developed by Toyota from the beginning with the hybrid version firmly in mind.  This is important because with the all-new 2012 Camry, the Hybrid is no longer a niche model but a key part of the product line.  In short, the ‘greenest Camry’ got the ‘Prius Treatment’.  As a result, the new Hybrid is so well thought out, so completely seamless in its operation, that it is nearly Prius-like.

 

To start with, the all-new 2012 Camry Hybrid gets excellent gas mileage (up to 43 mpg in the city, 39 highway, 41 mpg combined).  That’s better than the Ford Fusion Hybrid and significantly better than the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.  The new mid-size Camry Hybrid even comes close to the mileage of the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid which is rated at 44 mpg.  That’s amazing, because the new Camry Hybrid is a full class larger than the compact Civic Hybrid, which uses a mild hybrid system and cannot even run on electric power alone.

 

Considering the Camry has been the best-selling sedan in America for the past eight years, Toyota must have thought consumers were pretty content with the last generation Camry.  As a result, the exterior dimensions of the new Camry are almost identical to the outgoing Camry.  That said, the Camry Hybrid is 100% re-designed for 2012.  The changes include a substantially upgraded exterior and interior along with significant engineering updates.

 

Like the rest of the 2012 Camry lineup, the Hybrid retains a conservative but more stylish exterior look.  The biggest styling upgrades were focused on the car’s interior.  Touches like a stitched dashboard cover, a better-organized center dash instrument cluster and better interior materials on the whole, are significant upgrades.  Interior-wise the Hybrid essentially mirrors its gas-only siblings, even to the point of coming in LE and XLE trim levels for the first time.  The XLEs will be available with the high-end version of Toyota’s new Entune app-based infotainment system and the LEs will get a less-tricked-out version with a smaller screen.  All Camrys will come with Bluetooth for hands-free cell phone integration.

 

The 2012 Camry Hybrid benefits from a redesigned battery pack with a more compact design that is over an inch shorter and two inches narrower than the old version.  The battery pack’s position was then moved up 5.5 inches to provide more trunk space.  That space has now grown from 10.6 cubic feet to 13.1 cubic feet.  

 

The most eagerly-awaited news involves the significant engineering upgrades that Toyota has made to the hybrid system of the all-new Camry Hybrid.  The hybrid system is updated with a new inverter with cooling technology borrowed from the Prius and it’s overall weight has slimmed down by 220 pounds.  Toyota dropped the old 2.4-liter engine and replaced it with a special Atkinson-cycle version of the base Camry’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder.  The Atkinson-cycle closes the intake valves later that the normal cycle to improve fuel economy and emissions.  The result is much quicker acceleration from the hybrid system’s 200 total horsepower (13 more than last year) with a 7.6 second 0 to 60 time (as well as the 41 mpg combined fuel economy).  The Hybrid can also go up to 1.5 miles per charge cycle in EV mode up to 45 mph (if the driver has a very light foot on the skinny throttle pedal).  Yes,  Toyota has added the EV Mode and the ECO Mode to the Camry Hybrid — just like the Prius.  So, under some conditions, given the proper state of battery pack charge, the absence of hills and light throttle pressure, the Hybrid can travel over a mile in electric mode.

 

It is precisely this performance that sets the 2012 Camry Hybrid apart from most other hybrids.  It’s perfectly capable of keeping up with traffic with the electric motor, but press that skinny pedal harder and you will experience what’s extra in the new gas engine.  Whether you drive like a hypermiler or a torque monster, the power transition is seamless.  The smoothness of the Camry Hybrid’s CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) coupled with one of the softest suspensions in the industry means that Toyota has kept noise, vibration and harshness in check while making huge gains in drivability.

 

The other big news concerns pricing:   if you are considering the 2012 Camry Hybrid, you could save from $800 to $1,200 compared with the 2011 model.  The 2012 Camry Hybrid should reach Toyota showrooms by December.

 

 

 

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