The second-generation Toyota Prius became an instant hit when it was introduced to the U.S. market in 2003. The vehicle continues to dominate the hybrid market, making up more than half of all hybrid sales. The quintessential hybrid is past due for a redesign and technology upgrade. The first hints about the third-generation Prius are starting to emerge. After speaking with a “well-placed Toyota source,” Edmunds’s Auto Observer is reporting the following details about the next Prius:

  • The next Toyota Prius will be unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January 2009.
  • The gen-three Prius will be bigger and more powerful. The engine will grow from 1.5 liters to 1.8 liters—giving a boost in horsepower from 110 to 160—and the body will be three to four inches longer and about an inch wider.
  • The combined U.S. fuel economy rating will exceed 50 mpg, by keeping the weight down to current levels and re-engineering the powertrain to extend the range of all-electric gas-free driving.
  • As previously reported, the next Prius will not offer plug-in capabilities and will continue to use nickel metal hydride batteries, rather than switching to lithium ion batteries. Also, there’s no definitive word on Toyota plans to offer the Prius in a range of models, from compact to wagon to small SUV.

For greater clarity about these details and additional information, hybrid fans will have to wait until January 2009 or hope that Toyota insiders continue to leak more about the company’s plans.