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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Prius station wagon models set to debut, will vie with Honda


Staff writer

Toyota Motor Corp. was poised to unveil two new Prius prototypes Wednesday that are extended versions of its popular sedan, hoping that when they debut on the domestic market at the end of April, demand will be further stimulated for fuel-efficient hybrids.

Honda Motor Co. meanwhile plans to show off on March 17 its Fit Shuttle hybrid compact station wagon, setting the stage for a fierce rivalry.

Toyota's two new models are a Japanese version of the five-seat Prius v, which was exhibited at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, and the seven-seat Prius+, which was shown at the International Geneva Motor Show earlier this month.

The Prius v will be sold in North America at the end of this summer, and the Prius+ in Europe in mid-2012, Toyota said.

"With these models, drivers will enjoy 'plus alpha' of what Toyota's hybrid lineup has been offering," said Hiroshi Kayukawa, project general manager for the new models.

The station wagons in the new Prius lineup aim to boast not only fuel-efficiency but more space for passengers and baggage for outings, he said.

In the 14 years since the Prius debuted, Toyota has sold 2.5 million units.

The new vehicles are equipped with the same 1.8-liter hybrid system as the latest, third-generation Prius. They are 4.62 meters long, 1.78 meters wide and 1.58 meters tall — 15.5 cm longer, 3 cm wider and 8.5 cm higher than the standard Prius sedan.

The seven-seat Prius carries 34-kg lithium-ion batteries between the driver's and front passenger's seats, leaving more room for the rear seats. The battery compartment is smaller and lighter but costs more than the 42-kg nickel metal hydride batteries installed behind the back seats of the five-seat Prius.

Toyota did not disclose the name of the new models, their price, fuel-efficiency or exact market debut date. But the price is likely to be lower than other Toyota hybrid wagons, including the Estima Hybrid, which goes for at least ¥3.76 million, including tax, officials said.



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