Toyota, Honda Fight for Small Hybrid Supremacy
In September, we relayed reports that Toyota is working on a hybrid version of the Yaris subcompact, to be manufactured in France as early as this spring. While that time line now seems ambitious—by about a year—Toyota has confirmed that it will unveil the Yaris Hybrid concept at the Geneva Motor Show next month.
The company hasn’t yet revealed any details about the car, but did release a single photo to provide some indication of the unique styling applied to the hybrid Yaris.
The Yaris is likely to be targeted to the European market, while the upcoming Prius C—unveiled last month at the Detroit Auto Show—will be the Toyota subcompact for U.S. consumers. “The Prius C concept is an inspiration for us to build a future vehicle coming in the first half of 2012 that would be the most value-oriented vehicle of the Prius family, and have the highest mileage of any cordless hybrid,” said Doug Coleman, Toyota’s Prius product manager, in an interview with HybridCars.com.
Two years ago, Toyota introduced another small electric-drive vehicle, the FT-EV electric concept, at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. The FT-EV concept, expected in 2012, shares its platform with the company’s Japanese and European minicar, the Toyota iQ. The iQ is larger than the quintessential minicar, the Smart Fortwo, but not by much. Its wheelbase is a little more than five inches longer, and on the whole, the car is only about a foot longer than the Smart—11.4 inches to be exact. The Toyota FT-EV concept, offers driving range of 50 miles, according to Toyota.
Meanwhile, Honda is working on small electrified vehicles as well. Last month, the Honda Fit Hybrid beat out the Toyota Prius to become the top seller in Japan, though the company has been reluctant to bring the car to the United States. Honda executives told HybridCars.com last year that their current trio of small hybrids—including the Civic Hybrid, CR-Z, and Insight—leave little room for a Fit gas-electric here.
Honda will soon unveil the Fit Shuttle, a slightly more spacious version of the Fit, at the Geneva show as well. The Fit Shuttle will be also offered with Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist technology, using a 1.3-liter engine—meaning a wagon-type small hybrid.
An all-electric Fit-EV is planned for release some time in 2012.