A Reuters article, itself sourced from Japan’s Nikkei business daily, informs us that Toyota plans to launch a new compact hybrid car in January 2012 bearing the Aqua badge. Aqua is said to be the most economical gasoline-electric hybrid ever made, with listed mileage of just under 40 km/litre (94 mpg), versus Prius’ 32 km/litre (75 mpg) in the Japanese fuel economy cycle, in spite of its predicted use of the larger Prius’ 1.8-liter 2ZR-FXE powertrain. The newest Toyota is likely to sell for around 1.7 million yen ($22,000) in Japan, about 300,000 yen ($3900) less than the Prius, and will target younger drivers and women.
So what, precisely, is this enigmatic Aqua? This author suspects that it’s simply the Japanese domestic market’s badge for the upcoming Toyota Prius c, itself expected to make its production version debut at the Detroit Auto Show in January 2012. Keep in mind, though, that, beyond Prius and Prius Alpha (the JDM version of our new Prius v), Toyota’s Japanese hybrid model-only strategy is broader than ours, including the SAI (essentially a less luxurious version of the Lexus HS) and the new JDM strategy of Camry as their largest hybrid-only front-wheel-drive sedan. Thus, there is a possibility that Aqua will coexist with a JDM Prius c as an alternative for one of Toyota’s four Japanese dealer networks.
As to Europe, it is our understanding that neither Prius c nor its Aqua variant will be sold there. The expected plan is for Toyota to meet demand for a B-segment gasoline-electric hybrid with better-than-Prius fuel economy with an HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) version of the just-launched 3rd-generation Yaris, built in Valenciennes, France with hybrid componentry imported from Deeside, Wales.