Spied: 2012 Toyota Prius MPV


We’re the first to get up and get down when we hear that someone’s raising the roof. But we’re curbing our enthusiasm a bit in the case of the Toyota Prius MPV, which our spies just nabbed testing here on American roads. The words “Prius minivan” don’t exactly get our blood boiling.

From the looks of things, the Prius MPV/crossover/mini-minivan thing will look exactly like, well, a Prius with a flatter, higher roof and an upright rear window. It appears to be sized somewhere between a Toyota Matrix and a Mazda 5, and to feature forward-hinged rear doors. Through the camouflage, it’s easy to see Prius-esque graphics on the front end and in the taillamps, as well as the Prius’s characteristic triangular D-pillar. The wheels are remarkably large for a Prius (the base sedan rides on puny 15-inchers); the rollers here are either 18s or really big–looking 17s. Inside, the MPV features center-mounted gauges like those in the regular Prius. Maximum seating capacity is unknown as of now, but squeezing in a third row, as Kia did on its diminutive Rondo, is a possibility.

Beneath the skin, expect to see the next generation of Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, although not necessarily one using pricey lithium-ion battery technology; the company has pledged to stick with nickel-metal hydride batteries for a long time to come. (As demand for plug-in hybrids increases, however, we expect Toyota could release a Prius MPV variant with the lithium-ion-powered setup from the plug-in Prius, which is due for the 2012 model year.) The MPV may, however, get a larger four-cylinder engine displacing 2.5 liters or so. Just how high Toyota can stretch this vehicle’s fuel economy remains to be seen, but hitting the sedan’s vaunted 50-mpg EPA combined mileage mark will be tough, given the MPV’s presumed weight gain, its taller profile, and the internal-combustion engine’s potential displacement increase.

We’re not terribly shocked to see this new body style emerge; it’s been an open secret that the Prius family would grow, even as the company has yet to officially confirm as much. Last year, Toyota told us that it is planning to launch no fewer than 10 new hybrids by 2012, and that an MPV was the vehicle most requested by current Prius owners. How much this version would cost relative to the current five-door is TBD, of course, but a starting point of around $25K wouldn’t be surprising.

Thanks to: Car and Driver

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