Toyota Moves Forward with Affordable Subcompact Hybrid

Toyota will introduce a small hybrid that could cost less and offer higher mileage than any other hybrid currently on the market. Detroit News reported last week that the Toyota subcompact hybrid will go into production in Japan in late 2011 and arrive in US showrooms in early 2012.

The Japanese automaker will unveil a concept version of the car on Jan. 11, 2010, the first day of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The debut of the hybrid concept in Detroit will provide concrete details about the car, nearly a year after news of a lower-priced Toyota subcompact hybrid was first reported in March 2009 by Japan’s Nikkei business daily.

“We are developing a low-priced hybrid vehicle like Honda’s Insight,” Akihiko Otsuka, chief engineer of the third-generation Toyota Prius, told Nikkei. “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.”

The company has not yet revealed if the subcompact hybrid concept will be a hybrid version of an existing car, such as the Toyota Yaris, if it will use the Prius name, or if it will be a original nameplate. Toyota issued two teaser images showing details of the car.

In recent years, Toyota has expanded its US hybrid lineup to seven vehicles——three Toyota vehicles and four with Lexus badges. But none have come close to the Toyota Prius in popularity. Many observers believe that the price of hybrids must come down before reaching mainstream buyers. Earlier this year, Honda introduced the 2010 Honda Insight in an effort to make hybrids affordable. But the Insight’s combination of a $20,000 price tag and average city/highway mileage of 41 mpg did not win hybrid shoppers from the 50-mpg Prius, which commonly sells in the mid-$20,000 range.

According to Detroit News, Toyota plans to annually produce around 150,000 of the future subcompact hybrid, which the paper says could exceed 50 miles to the gallon. Toyota has not yet hinted about pricing.

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  • Mr.Bear

    I’d like to see a Corolla hybrid because I had a ’78 and I’m nostalgic. If they go with the Yaris and not the Corolla, I think the Corolla will be phased out before the end of the decade.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    From what I can see in the pictures, I do not think that this subcompact is either the Corolla or the Yaris. It would make sense to me that they would design a new platform for a hybrid that small instead of using an existing platform that might compromise the hybrid’s efficiency. Still, I am like Mr. Bear and would like to see Corolla and Yaris hybrids.

  • shopa

    I don’t think such a small car can pass the new NHTSA side impact
    pole test.

    If my invention is added, it might pass.

  • Mr.Bear

    It’s going to have a fancy wrapper because it’s a concept car. I don’t know that it’s not looking like the current yaris or corolla neans anything.

    I’ve thought about it some more. The critical hurdle has to be a $19,000 or lower base price. Otherwise it will have sluggish sales like the new Insight. The best way to keep the price down is to fit the hybrid engine into an existing model.

    However, I think it would be best not to make it hybrid-optional. When it is hybrid optional, it’s easier for a customer to say the extra $3,000 isn’t worth the extra 5mpg. That’s why Camry and HCH sales have never been stellar.

    I’d put my money on a Yaris hybrid and all new Yarii will be hybrids.

  • Eagle eyes

    Looks like an IQ. If this starts at 15-20k and gets over 60 MPG toyota will have a winner.

  • JBob

    Sorry, not impressed. I do a bit of hypermilling on my 91 Civic and get over 60mpg’s. Talk to me when you reach 100mpg’s.

  • Elliot

    Gotta say I was intrigued until I read “50 mpg”. Really? For a subcompact? Sorry, should be able to beat that.

  • Christopher Rydberg

    This is the love child of their FT-EV and the iQ (See their future concept cars section of their main US website for the FT-EV – I’ll link the Ireland site for English language iQ info). The iQ gets between 50 and 60 mpg and is only sold in Europe and Japan at present though tests and rumors have said it was coming here. Looks like they’ve made it real and viable as a hybrid. If the average 20~25% mileage increase for a hybrid holds it could get over 60 mpg easily and we finally have a proper successor to the crown vacated by the original Honda Insight in 2006. Best part is that these sell for under 20k right now. I’d totally buy one of these to replace the wife’s Smart Fortwo once it’s old and these are on their second generation.

  • Johnny Aardvark

    I think it looks like the Toyota 1/X concept car from a couple of years ago.

  • Jack85437

    The new logo for Toyota! “Moving Forward At Your Own Risk”