Toyota Prius C Spy Shots

In addition to the larger 2012 Prius V (which we recently put through its paces for the first time), Toyota is working on a smaller version of its illustrious hybrid, previewed by the Prius C Concept from this year's Detroit Auto Show. Our trusty spy photographers have just spotted the first Prius C prototypes running about, and while the original concept was a decidedly sporty-looking thing, the production model's design seems to have been softened a bit.

Because the Prius C is so much shorter than the standard Prius hatch – about 20 inches has been chopped from its overall length – our spies believe that these prototypes ride on either a brand-new chassis or on modified Yaris underpinnings. Under the skin, we expect the Prius C to use a 1.5-liter hybrid powertrain, or perhaps a version of the 1.8-liter unit found in the larger Prius.

Regardless, Toyota has long said that the Prius C will be the most efficient non-plug-in hybrid on the market when it launches next year, with prices expected to fall around the $20,000 mark. Get ready, Honda Insight and CR-Z. This one's coming right for you.