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2012 Toyota Prius C: Higher MPG, Lower Price, And Sportier

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Well in advance of its debut at the Tokyo Motor Show next month, and its North American premiere at the Detroit auto show in January, Toyota has released official pictures and some further information regarding its upcoming 2012 Prius C, which promises a smaller footprint and even better gas mileage than the best-selling Prius.

The Prius C is the third (and smallest) unique body style in the Toyota Prius family. At about 157 inches long and 67 inches wide, it's closer in exterior size to the Toyota Yaris hatchback than to the Toyota Matrix—meaning it's a true subcompact, with respect to parking and maneuverability. For perspective, that's 19 inches shorter and two inches narrower than the 2012 Toyota Prius. But the C's low height of just 57 inches should help this new hybrid achieve an impressive coefficient of drag, which is important for eking out extra miles on the highway.

A 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine is used in the 2012 Prius C, as part of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system, and the weight of the battery pack has been reduced by nearly 90 pounds. Stay tuned for more information about whether that means a reduction in capacity or a switchover to lithium-ion.

52 mpg or better in the city

Toyota won't yet say where the Prius C's EPA fuel economy numbers will land, but it will say that we can expect better than 50 mpg in the city, and for this model to be the highest-mileage non-plug-in vehicle—which means that it will get 52 mpg or more in the city.

The focus with the new Prius C, which will be called the Aqua in Japan, is toward a more youthful customer, and Toyota notes a focus toward technology and “spirited driving dynamics”—of course, in addition to fuel economy. Design-wise, the model bears some likeness to the Honda Fit in silhouette or roofline, yet it has a more expressive interior design than the Prius, with some clear influence from Toyota's more flamboyant international products like the new Scion iQ.

Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and steering-wheel controls are standard, and Toyota is making its Entune smartphone-based multimedia system available here, with real-time information services for traffic, weather, and fuel prices, among others, plus specialized apps such as Pandora streaming audio. USB and Bluetooth audio streaming will also be offered, as will SiriusXM satellite radio.

Although Toyota hasn't revealed any information about pricing, we expect an entry price of around $20k, or several thousand less than the standard 2012 Toyota Prius.

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