Toyota Launches Aqua Hybrid in Japan


Announced yesterday by Toyota Motor Corporation, the home-market version of the Prius C – called the “Aqua” – was launched as a frugal and evolved member of the growing Prius line.

Citing “17 years of Toyota expertise and technology in the development of mass-produced hybrid vehicles,” Toyota said its 1.5-liter Toyota Hybrid System II (THS II) with reduction gear powertrain delivers about 100 horsepower and “world-leading” efficiency.

On the extremely optimistic Japanese JC08 test cycle, the Aqua gave 35.4 km/L (83.3 mpg U.S., 2.8 l/100km) and 40.0 km/l (94 mpg U.S., 2.5 l/100km) under the MLIT 10-15 test cycle.

The Atkinson-cycle engine uses a cooled Exhaust-Gas Recirculation (EGR) as well as an efficient battery-powered water pump, a friction-reducing beltless design and precise coolant-water-flow volume control.

The hybrid transaxle, which includes the power control unit, the power-generation motor and drive motor, has also been designed to be small and light.

Like the regular Prius, a selectable EV Mode enables short-range, low-speed driving with only the electric motor.


Usable cargo area of 10.8 cubic feet has been retained, with the hybrid battery being placed under the rear seat.

Toyota touts it as “fun and easy to drive,” with many options as one would expect, as well as several options for this Japan-market car that support access and operation for disabled people.

These include a Rotating Passenger Seat to facilitate smooth ingress and egress for people without use of their legs, as well as an electric loading/unloading mechanism for manual wheelchairs and designed-in wheelchair stowage capability.

Several other handicapped features are available including a special-purpose power steering that reduces the force necessary to turn the steering wheel, helping to ease steering during initial acceleration and low-speed driving.

Among the more ordinary options for non-handicapped people are LED headlights, navigation, backup camera, advanced info displays, upgraded sound system, and more (see press release linked below).

The vehicle ranges from 1,690,000 yen ($21,7905) to 1,790,000 yen ($22,989) to 1,850,000 yen ($23,760) for three non-handicap access models.

If you’re curious, prices for seven disabled-person access models intended for the company’s home market range from 1,950,000 yen ($25,044) to 2,679,000 yen ($34,406).

The monthly sales target in Japan is 12,000 units. They will be assembled at the Iwate Plant, Kanto Auto Works, Ltd.

When its U.S. version arrives next year, the Aqua will have shed its artful name, of which Toyota says:

“Derived from the Latin word meaning water. The name is meant to evoke an image of clean transparency as well as of something that is universally cherished. Also, the Aqua is meant to break the conventional image of hybrid vehicles, becoming something fluid and not constrained to any one shape or role – like free-flowing water. With this image, it is hoped that even more people will choose to experience the joys of hybrid vehicle ownership.”

Here it will simply be called the Prius C – but costing less and being more efficient than the Gen-3 Prius Liftback, Americans will be free to contrive their own flowery descriptions if they wish.

Toyota Press Release

More Hybrid News...

  • Capt. Concernicus

    Impressive fuel economy, but I’d like to see real world numbers here in the U.S. I would hope it comes to the U.S.

    Pricing seems reasonable also.

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  • Tom K

    When is Toyota going to get smart and dump the Nickel-metal hydride battery for Lithium ion??

  • MrEnergyCzar

    It looks like a cross between a Mazda 3 and Prius. My guess is it will get a combined 56 MPG in the states…


  • Capt. Concernicus

    @ MyEnergyCzar,

    Why do you guess 56mpg? I’m hoping it’ll be much better than the current Prius.

  • Jeff

    Mazda 3? I don’t think so. A Matrix and a Prius yes! I own both and this is absolutely a cross between the two with a little shaved off.

  • Charles

    @ Capt. Concernicus: I am assuming that Mr.EnergyCzar did the same thing that I did, which is to take a few hybrids and let a spread sheet find the formula for converting from JC08 to EPA sticker MPG values. I picked the Prius, Insight, HS250 and CR-Z. The formula worked out to be JC08 * 0.51 + 10.28. The R2 value was a very good 0.99. That makes the Prius C work out to 56 MPG for the EPA Sticker.

    Looking at the graph I would be very surprised if the C is < 55 or > 58.

  • marcsf

    Can someone please explain why Toyota keeps saying Toyota Hybrid System II (THS II)? I thought the newest version of the THS II has been dubbed HSD. Makes me believe this is an older system, previously used in the 2004 Prius, not an updated version. Granted the 2010 Prius moved to a 1.8L engine, but presumably the electrics improved in 2010 as well including battery size.


  • Van

    I think Toyota worked pretty hard to get the Prius III a EPA combined 50 MPG. I think they will work hard to get the C to 60 MPG. Time will tell.

  • William

    “On the extremely optimistic Japanese test cycle…”

    On the other hand, the EPA’s test cycle is pessimistic, or at least unreliable: there are only 18 who work full-time at the unit that determines mileage and emissions for passenger cars.

    Some third parties, like Road and Track, have gotten 65 MPG on the Prius without hypermiling. That makes the 83 MPG for this smaller hybrid easier to believe.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    I guessed 56 MPG based on engine size, weight, and past guesses gone wrong. I also had a discussion with the rep at the NY car show last spring about it…. We’ll know soon enough.


  • 54mpg

    Normal to some careful driving of our Prius gives us around 53mpg in summer and around 48 in winter. So EPA estimate on Prius is pretty accurate.

  • Anonymous

    unlike prius V, prius c is a more promising car in my opinion. i find myself wanting more information on this car even more so than the regular prius!

  • Max Reid

    “The monthly sales target in Japan is 12,000 units.”

    How much in USA. I think they may hit between 5,000 – 6,000 since people here don’t prefer small cars. But for many who want a small hybrid with low price & high mileage, this is it.

    Already Prius Liftback + V combo has hit a sales of 15K which close to Corolla + Matrix combo of 16K. With this model, Prius will overtake Corolla. The next target is Camry which is not far away.

    Isnt it great for Hybrid to become the best selling of all cars.
    Expect 2012 to be a better year for hybrids as the Oil sales will easily go past $120 / barrel.

  • Anonymous

    60,000 orders are there for Toyota Aqua (Prius C) in Japan already.

  • slomom

    Can anyone comment on how the prius technology (V and C, especially) compares to Kia’s Optima Hybrid? We are very attracted to the Optima design. However, it doesn’t have the Prius track record. Should we stay away from the Kia Optima Hybrid?

  • ted

    I would stay away from anything Kia, check the forums for all the low mpg comments by owners of the Kia or Hyundai hybrids

  • evmaps

    The technical specification is quite good. Sell target on the 12000 level is impresive, but it is likely that it will be corrected higher after few months on the market.

    Find your charging station

  • Mike Dimmick

    Interesting: that’s the same engine model as in the Gen 1 and 2 Prius. I’d assumed it was going to be a new lump from one of Toyota’s newer families. It could have a different engine mapping, the quoted power output and torque are slightly lower. However, the electric motor is new. Because of the use of a reduction gear in all new THS II/HSD designs, the motor torque spec isn’t comparable between the Gen 2 Prius (quoted as 400N*m) and this. (A reduction gear multiplies torque.) The Gen 3 is quoted at 207N*m.

    The addition of EGR and electric, variable-speed water pump will have improved the engine’s innate efficiency as well. You didn’t mention Exhaust Heat Capture, a feature also on the larger Prius, which recirculates heat that otherwise would have gone down the exhaust pipe, to heat up the engine more quickly – both to get into the efficient operating window and to provide cabin heat when necessary.

    The stated reason for the Gen 3 Prius going to a 1.8L engine was to improve highway fuel economy, so the Aqua/Prius C may well end up delivering better economy in the city cycle, but poorer in the highway cycle. It should be lighter than a Prius Liftback – reducing fuel used to accelerate, and tyre rolling resistance – but its aerodynamics are poorer, increasing drag at higher speeds. The 0-100km/h (62mph) speed is competitive though, only 0.3s slower than the Prius Liftback (10.4s according to and a bit quicker than the Auris Hybrid, which uses the gen 3 Prius drivetrain.

  • tapra1

    the Aqua is meant to break the conventional image of hybrid vehicles, becoming something fluid and not constrained to any one shape or role – like free-flowing water. With this image, it is hoped that even more people will choose to experience the joys of hybrid vehicle ownership.”Tech Expo