Toyota Confirms Plans for Low-Cost Hybrid

Toyota Yaris

Toyota Yaris.

Earlier this month, Japan’s Nikkei business daily reported that Toyota is planning to introduce a new hybrid model that is significantly less expensive than its existing gas-electric cars. At that point, Toyota refused to comment on the report, but Toyota officials have now confirmed their intention to make a small affordable hybrid.

“We are developing a low-priced hybrid vehicle like Honda’s Insight,” said Akihiko Otsuka, chief engineer of the redesigned, third-generation Toyota Prius. “We are going to compete by expanding our hybrid-vehicle lineup to smaller hybrids, in the class of the Vitz [sold in Japan] and Yaris.” He did not say when the small hybrid would debut, but it could arrive as early as 2011, according to Nikkei.

When the new 2010 Honda Insight goes on sale next month, it will become the first hybrid car available for less than $20,000. A Yaris-based hybrid could directly compete with the Insight on price. The most expensive gas-version of the Yaris carries a suggested retail price of $15,880.

The introduction of the Honda Insight, and the confirmation of a small affordable Toyota hybrid, is a sign that fuel-sipping hybrid technology is becoming more accessible to mainstream car buyers.

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  • Dan Peed

    Sounds like a really good idea. Afterall, the original vintage Prius was built on the same chasis as the Yaris.

    I think Toyota is moving in the right direction. Why not go down the price scale and bring in younger, less well-heeled buyers to the hybrid trend? Besides, a smaller hybrid would get even better gas mileage than the current Prius. Generally, smaller, lighter vehicles get better gas mileage. Afterall, how green is a hybrid Silverado?

  • FamilyGuy

    What about a car for the family guy? I have a Wife, a kid and another one on the way. There’s no way that I’m going to make the six hour drive to the in-laws loaded down with Christmas presents, pack-n-plays and other kids stuff in a Prius on a snowy day. Nevermind something smaller! We own an Altima Hybrid and love it. It’s a well balanced car; good MPG (~35), great acceleration, and nice luxury (NAV, heated seats, Bluetooth, sunroof, ect). My other car is a Subaru Outback Wagon (~24 MGP). The AWD is great in the New England winter and the wagon lets me pile in the stuff. Where’s the wagon hybrid? Forget the SUV’s, I won’t buy one on principal. Or something that seats six in a hybrid? What happens when I have two kids and want to go out with Grandma and Grandpa? Take two cars? Nothing for the Family Guy. Lots of small cars. Or really big SUV’s. I’m going to have to settle for Jetta Sportswagon TDI for good MPG….(and lose my AWD).

  • Skeptic

    A Prius and a Yaris are two different cars. I wouldn’t want to drive more than an hour or three in a Yaris, either, but based on my rides in a friend’s Prius, I’d have no problem taking it on road trips.

    I’m amused to think that Toyota will have their gas-electric Yaris out before GM ever sells a single Vaporware Volt. 🙂

  • jh

    Hey FAMILYGUY – they make a toyota camry hybrid (which my wife has) and I love it…. when I get to drive it? Four of us (kids 8 & 10) travel around the Midwest in it frequently. Gets about the same mileage as your altima (best trip from Des Moines to KC was 48 MPG)

    I think the one thing we need to think about is – what did you do before mini-vans and SUV’s existed? two cars? Buses? Shuttle people.

    I know toyota has a sienna hybrid overseas somewhere – they need to bring it to the US!

  • FamilyGuy

    Hey jh – we test drove the Camry Hybrid and were not impressed. I wanted to like it, but neither my Wife or did.

    Before mini-vans and SUV’s, their were station wagons. Hence, the Subaru wagon. Also, the current seat belt laws for minors were not in place back then. I used to ride around in the back of the station wagon all of the time when Grandma and Grandpa came out with us. Not these days. Hence, the need for seating for more then four. Even the Mazada5 would be considered because it gets reasonable MPG and seats more then 5.

    I’ve read about the Sienna Hybrid (on this website, of course) and I would gladly considering if it were available.

    Right now, for the Family Guy, there are just a few sedans to chose from. I’ll have to wait and hope that the Subaru holds out long enough for a better option…..

  • Ed Griffith

    Why not a Corolla hybrid? A four door more inexpensive model will sell better than a Yaris which already gets good gas mileage.

  • Ross Nicholson

    These cars could be made much more aerodynamic. Enclosed wheel wells, smooth bellies, and boat tails diminish drag enough to improve mileage dramatically. Of course, the cars “look odd” but 60% of our oil payments to greedy oil country governments goes merely to move air out of the way. Lower coefficients of drag (cd) will increase gas mpg dramatically–without all the fancy expensive machinery.

  • qqRockyBeans

    I’d take a 4-door Hatchback Yaris hybrid with 5-speed and sunroof!

  • micah

    I’m with family guy on the desire for a wagon. It doesn’t need to be big — Ford Focus hybrid anyone? — but with 2 kids and the requisite stuff, I’d love the hatch & space.

  • Jay

    Indeed, a reasonably sized family car – such as a station wagon – is missing. I have three kids and the Prius is just a little bit too small. Yet, a station wagon is oversized.

  • Michael-59

    What’s wrong with the Escape Hybrid? Everyone talks about Toyota this and Honda that but seem to ignore a perfectly good, roomy, mini suv/small wagon is right here, right now, and built by Ford.

  • pa223

    Totally agree, an aerodynamic AWD wagon is really missing – and would be a best seller for family and more.

    And more styles and choices to get people into whatever is fuel efficient – whether it is a 30mpg hybrid pickup or minivan style, or super cheap 30-40 mpg smaller vehicles so people don’t take the pickup or minivan if they can afford a 2nd small car.

    After all there is more gas-savings in getting people out of big/heavy/fuel inefficient cars, than someone who already has a smaller, relatively fuel efficient normal car into an even more efficient hybrid.

    Switching those at 10mpg to 30mpg will do more good on average than switching those at 30mpg to 50mpg. (although switching both is even better!)

    10mpg to 30mpg saves 6.7 gallons on a 100mile journey
    30mpg to 50mpg saves 1.3 gallons on a 100 mile journey

    gallons used for 100miles:
    10mpg -> 10 gallons
    30mpg -> 3.3 gallons
    50mpg -> 2 gallons

  • sean t

    I remember Toyota said that by 2020, they probably will have hybrid version for every model. Not sure if they can deliver.

  • Josh K

    I have own 2 fords 1987 escort and 1992 taurus both died with a bad transmission at 100k miles. I am in no rush for a ford. That siad I I would love a hybrid mini van or wagon. I have a pruis but it is nto grweat in snow and if I ever have a second kids it will be lacking on space for a road trip to the inlaws.

  • Jerry

    Hmm… how about a 2011 ford fusion hybrid wagon

  • Dave K.

    Yes, a hybrid minivan is long overdue, but I would like a hybrid coupe! My kids are long grown and gone and the wife and I seldom need the back seat at all. I have an 04 Prius and that is my big car. Why must everyone compete in the same segment when so many don’t have a hybrid of any sort?

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Josh K, good news! The Ford Escape, Nissan Altima, Toyota Prius, and Toyota Camry hybrids do not have a traditional transmission like the ones that you had fall apart. They all have a power splitting planetary gear system labeled as a “continuously variable transmission”, or CVT for short. The planetary gear system is limited to 10,000 rpm on the Prius so that it will not fly apart. That is why the Prius can only go 105 mph: the governor prevents it from going up to 130 mph max. There is no changing of gears: the system just decides which gears need to be allowed to turn or not turn. The family oriented Sienna hybrid I believe is stated for 2011 or 2012 and will join the ranks of the above mentioned cars with no transmission.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Dave K.I truly believe that Honda and Toyota will answer your call for a sporty hybrid coupe. Honda will probably be the first one to the market with such. I think you should expect it in a year or two. And they will not be the only ones.

    Ross Nicholson, although I agree with you totally about the advantages of an aerodynamic design, too many people and car companies are more interested in “style” than they are in aerodynamic design and mpg gain. It will take some culture changing before aerodynamic design will mean more than “style” to most people.

  • Josh K

    I would buy a Seinna Hybrid or Rav4 Hybrid to go along side my Pruis in an instant provided it was not insanely expensive (highlander hybrid) and they fix the traction control to not leave me stuck in a light snow storm.

  • sean t

    Dave K, what did I say?

  • RLS

    Buy a bus if you think you need one!!!!!!!!

  • Rom

    Right there with ya. That’s what I’ve been waiting for. Toyota reliability in a hybrid that doesn’t cost me a Lexus in price.

    My actual dream for the technology would be a gas generator / electric motor hybrid. I think that’s the future of hybrids. Get rid of the drive train. Wires weigh much less and you can put an electric motor on each wheel and get all wheel drive as a side effect. 🙂



  • SteveC

    If you need a bigger vehicle there’s the Highlander Hybrid. I own a black 2007 Highlander Hybrid and we love it. (We call it the Batmobile). There are many times we need to seat 6 or 7. It’s worked out great.

    What I’m waiting for is a small pickup truck hybrid. I love my 2000 Tacoma but don’t off-road, just haul big things occasionally. I’d replace it with a small hybrid truck if one was available.

  • Aaron1520

    This is a step in the right direction. There are all different types of normal (gasoline) cars for all drivers, and the same will soon be said for hybrids. By phasing everything from sub compacts to SUV’s into the hybrid realm, the car market will keep offering a large range of choices, while becoming more efficient.

  • Aaron1520

    yep, You’re dead on with the mpg assessment. Check out this video:

  • BSScott13

    This is fantastic. I am so tired of not being able to afford to be green. It’s gotten to the point that even recycling bins will put you in the hole $20 a piece. ya know they should start thinking about aftermarket hybrid upgrades for vehicles. like a drive train that could be dropped into any vehicle with little or no modifications, for like $10,000 that would really sell well among the used car crowd, because then they can keep their cool car and help save the planet.

  • HyBuck

    I hope that Toyota will make a basic, manual car into a hybrid. I think a problem with the Insight is that it is too “Technoid”. Honda should offer a basic manual tranny along with all the CVT, driver-aid electronics. Hi-tech is fine for those who want it. . .

  • Jerome

    Yeah if your a midget