Is this the next Toyota Prius?
News reports coming out this week suggest it is. But what exactly are we looking at here, and where – and when – was this picture taken?
This is Toyota’s “C-HR Concept” which was shown last October at the Paris Motor Show. Toyota said little in introducing it, and just sort of tossed it off as a design study of a “compact crossover.” Most automotive journalists, if they mentioned it at all in their dispatches from the show, described the C-HR as apparently Toyota’s attempt to come up with something of a competitor to Nissan’s Juke.
In my report for The New York Times, I wrote the C-HR, was “not exactly a surprise — because Toyota hinted it was coming.” But, I added, the “C-HR proved compelling, and it was said to be the first example of a new ‘diamond’ styling architecture.”
Toyota said, vaguely, the C-HR “will deliver significantly enhanced efficiency.”
Not much to go on there. But it was obvious Toyota had spent a lot of time on this interesting, and rather appealing, little car. Why weren’t they saying much about it?
Apparently it was a trial balloon for a controversial, and highly unusual, styling re-do – of the Prius – inarguably one of Toyota’s most important models.
Information coming out of Toyota recently indicates that the much anticipated 2016 Prius re-design – originally due in early 2015 – didn’t pass muster when it came up for its final review by Toyota’s top brass late last year. A complete re-do was demanded. At conservative Toyota, that dramatic of a turn of events almost never happens.
Back to the drawing board, and styling room, the chastened design team went. Six months passed.
The results were shown to the same execs in April. This time the design got a thumbs-up. Whew! Design team careers saved!
To the outside world, the design of the next Prius is still a closely regarded secret. But a Toyota source tipped an Automotive News correspondent recently that the next Prius is “closely” related to the C-HR Concept shown in Paris.
If true, the next Prius might not be as boring as its predecessors. What a concept! The C-HR features a sporty stance, pronounced wedge shape, prominent wheel arches, aggressive grille and tapered greenhouse. About the same size as the outgoing model on the outside, the next version will offer more interior space by optimizing the size and placement of components such as the dash, the seats and door panels.
Because buyers expect each successive generation of the Prius to get better and better fuel mileage, Toyota will implement many new lightweight body parts. The lighter the weight, the higher the fuel economy (generally speaking).
The standard Prius’ styling will also be different from the next plug-in version of the car; right now, they look almost exactly the same.
Some had speculated the next Prius would look something like the recently introduced Mirai fuel cell car; but when Prius designers asked about using similar design cues, they were told “no!” The Mirai is supposed to look like the Mirai only, and nothing else in the Toyota lineup.
All the changes to the next Prius came at a price, however. Instead of coming out in the first half of 2015, it is not likely to appear until late in 2015.
December 15, 2014