More Prius body styles on the way

Toyota is planning on expanding the Prius range with several new body styles based on the trendy hybrid sedan. Currently, the company is considering adding a wagon and a Smart-style city-car, with the possibility of a crossover hybrid utility vehicle in the future.

The additional models will form the bulk of Toyota's campaign of selling one million hybrids worldwide. To that end, Toyota hopes to triple the number of hybrids it sells in the U.S., with the American market accounting for an anticipated half of that million-car target.

We could expect the wagon to look essentially the same as the current sedan, only with a roof extending rearward over the expanded cargo area, while the city-car will likely be an all-but-completely new model, riding on a much shorter wheelbase but with styling that immediately associates it with the rest of the Prius range.

The announcement opens anew the debate over whether customers want regular cars with hybrid engines, or instantly-identifiable, special-built hybrid models. Toyota's luxury division Lexus has reportedly expressed interest in developing a full hybrid range of its own, but until now its hybrid models have been variations on its standard lineup. The Toyota division itself has focused its hybrid production largely on the Prius, which it now hopes to expand. Meanwhile, competitor Honda found the hybrid version of the Civic to be far more popular than the quirky Insight.

We'd tend to agree with Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson's synopsis: Why buy an overpriced, ugly, poorly-made Prius when most conventional diesels will return better economy and give you more for your money? But with Toyota's ever-quickening race to the top, clearly it's on to something.

[Source: Bloomberg via Motor Authority]

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