Toyota Unveils Hatchback Hybrid Concepts for Europe

Toyota will unveil the new Auris Hybrid and gas-electric Lexus LF-CH at the upcoming Frankfurt Auto Show, signaling the direction of the company’s hybrids for European customers. With its small and sporty concept hybrids, Toyota aims at the biggest part of the European market. Five-door hatchbacks are the best selling type of car in Europe.

The Toyota Prius dominates the US hybrid market, and has been the No. 1 selling passenger car in Japan for the past four months. But Europe’s fuel-efficient offerings primarily are comprised of diesel vehicles, increasingly combined with micro-hybrid stop-start functionality. Toyota hopes hybrid hatchbacks—smaller and with sharper design features compared to jelly-bean-like US hybrid offerings—will attract Europeans to gas-electric cars.

Toyota Auris Hybrid

Toyota Auris Hybrid
Toyota Auris Hybrid

Toyota Auris Hybrid concept.

Toyota applies its third-generation Hybrid Synergy Drive system to the Toyota Auris—a hatchback that shares a platform with the Toyota Corolla. The company made styling changes and lowered the ride height to improve aerodynamics. A larger, more efficient rear spoiler is also fitted. These aerodynamic elements target a drag coefficient of 0.28—compared to the Prius’s 0.25.

The specs match those of the Toyota Prius: 1.8-liter, 98 horsepower engine, 60 kW traction motor, nickel metal hydride battery pack, acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in around 10 seconds, and class-leading fuel efficiency and low emissions. Like the Prius, drivers can choose between Eco, Power, and EV modes—and have the option for rooftop solar panels to support ventilation and some dashboard functions.

The new Auris Hybrid will be built in the UK beginning in the second half of 2010, with sales scheduled before the end of the year. No details yet on pricing or US availability.

Lexus LF-Ch Hybrid

Lexus LF-Ch Hybrid concept
Lexus LF-Ch Hybrid concept

Lexus LF-Ch Hybrid concept.

Lexus, Toyota’s luxury brand, will use the new LF-Ch platform for an upscale variation of a European sport hatchback hybrid. The idea is to provide a hybrid alternative to the BMW 1-Series, Audi A3 and Volvo C30. Analysts speculate that the LF-Ch will also come in gas and diesel versions.

Lexus is apparently using the Frankfurt show this month, and the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show in December, to get feedback for final decisions. “We look forward to hearing feedback on the LF-Ch,” said Mark Templin, Lexus division group vice president and general manager. “We hope consumers like what they see so we can change the luxury hybrid marketplace again.”

Boil down the Lexus press release—all we really have at this stage—to get the LF-Ch formula: sporty, five-door package, dramatic style, premium features, innovative drivetrain, low emissions, and impressive fuel economy.

To give the sense of a coupe, designers blackened the B-pillar and hid the rear door entry button in the chrome molding. They also use an aggressive grille design and wide front bumper, and use LED taillights and headlamps. A wide grip steering wheel with integrated paddle shifters dresses up the interior. Like the Auris Hybrid, the LF-Ch offers multiple driving modes—Normal, Eco, and EV—and adds a Sport mode. Lexus also provides the mouse-like control found on the 2010 HS 250h, a luxury hybrid-only model not sold in Europe.

Luxury buyers traditionally have wanted oomph to come with styling, size and upscale features. It remains to be seen if new carbon-constrained realities will push luxury buyers toward smaller packages and hybrid drive over horsepower—either in Europe or the US.

To Be Real

Toyota’s competitors will also unveil hybrid and plug-in models in Frankfurt, but those tend to be more futuristic (see BMW Vision EfficientDynamics) and not headed for production anytime soon, if at all. Toyota’s hybrids on display, on the other hand, are concept in name only. Besides minor flourishes strictly for garnering attention at a crowded auto show, Toyota’s hybrid hatchbacks appear practical and ready to hit the road.

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  • Lost Prius to wife

    What is going on? What are we getting to? Daily releases from all the auto industry on various hybrids, hybrid systems and other gas saving technologies? It is starting to get hard to keep track of everything. I wonder if Toyota’s European Auris will make it to America.

  • Max Reid

    Toyota has sold 2 million Hybrids since its introdution in December-2007. A great achivement, by doing this, they also made other companies sell hybrids and this provides us a nice way to reduce the oil consumption.

    Hope these Auris & LF-CH Hybrids will sell well and take Toyota to the next million much faster.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Max Reid, although Toyota has sold 2 million hybrids since December of 2007, they have been selling hybrids in the USA since 2001. I know this for a fact since my best friend has one. The only problem that he has ever had with his 2001 Prius was the reduction gear box. The reduction gear box is just the link between the chain drive from the engine and the wheels. He has had no engine problems and no battery problems. And he has no intensions on selling the car any time soon. Unless they do something stupid, I have no doubt they will make their next million much faster.

    Also, just for the record, the Honda generation one Insight was the first hybrid to sell in the United States.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t understand why these major auto makers make so many different models separately for europe and N america. I know there are some market differences, but it can’t be that different. Besides, NA is trending towards euro style as gas becomes more expensive, and people seem to prefer euro look anyway.

    it would seem one way to save big time money would be to consolidate product development between the two. Maybe throw in asia models as well while they are at it. one big happy, global family

  • ChrisW

    The Auris looks pretty great. I would love a hybrid hatchback.

  • RKRB

    Wow! Europe gets such neat cars!! Still, though, the US has much nicer SUV’s and pickups ;-}

  • Cassandra

    I love the toyota hatchback. I absolutely love the interior. Definitely a car i would definetly look at buying when i am older!!!! And when i have the money!!! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Toyota should make a hybrid version of the Toyota Matrix to complement the Prius design. Many people not fond of Prius styling might prefer a hybrid Matrix. This may affect Prius model sales, but overall hybrid sales for Toyota would go up. Like the Auris, the Matrix is based on the Corolla platform.

  • Jehnavi

    Toyota’s luxury arm Lexus will launch a five-door hybrid compact hatchback concept at the Frankfurt Motor Show, in September 2009, Autocar has reported. The Lexus hatchback hybrid concept will be called the Lexus C-Premium, but there is no confirmation on this. It might be called Lexus CS too, according to some reports.

  • Jehnavi

    All the cars released by Lexus have always been high on style and this new hatchback is no exception. The Lexus C-Premium / CS hatchback has been inspired by the new RX450h SUV at the front and features bold three-bar grille and sleek headlights.