The current Prius is baked from a refined recipe that results in a roomy, practical and efficient vehicle lurking under an eco-statement exterior, or at least we thought so. Five years on, it's still the most popular way to conspicuously consume under the guise of saving the planet. Toyota hasn't been resting on the success of its green badge of targeted consumerism, so we're going to see a new Prius at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in January, according to Toyota President Watanabe. The 3rd-generation Prius will grow in size, and engine displacement will be bumped to 1.8 liters to increase performance. Despite the increase in size and sprightliness, weight will reportedly hold steady. Further changes are in store after the launch, with plug-in and Li-Ion updates to come.

The nameplate will also move beyond a single model and become a sub-brand during the reign of Prius the III. More body styles are coming, and if you think the Prius is a roachy-looking thing, the concept hints Toyota has given us are possibly even weirder. The sub-1,000 pound 1/X might offer a glimpse at another type of Prius, though more realistically, the sad-eyed Hybrid X vannish concept suggests the way things are headed without the ridiculous pronunciation of its featherweight companion. If things go according to Toyota's plan for world domination, the Prius will become one of the pillars upon which the marque is built, next to the Corolla and Camry institutions.

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[Source: Auto Observer]