New spy photos of Toyota's next-gen Prius have surfaced on the web, and for the first time we're looking at an actual prototype rather than a mere mule built out of pieces and parts from the current-gen Prius. The new spy shots reveal that the 2010 Prius will indeed retain the current five-door hatchback shape of the current model but will grown in both length and width. While NextAutos is reporting that the Prius will become more powerful with a larger engine (Car and Driver reports that a 1.6L Atkinson four-cylinder will replace the current 1.5L from the old Echo), we're hearing that it will continue to use nickel-metal hydride batteries rather than newer lithium-ion batteries. Toyota is, after all, building a whole new factory in Japan to produce more nickel-metal hydride batteries that should be operational in 2010. Even with the larger engine, the new Prius will get better gas mileage than the current model, and the Prius range is expected to grow at some point with new models like a station wagon and convertible. The next-gen Prius that will kick things off is expected to debut at this year's Detroit Auto Show in January

[Source:
NextAutos]