Toyota's next-generation Prius will have "fun to drive performance" - and that's a promise from the top.
Toyota deputy chief officer of product planning, Satoshi Ogiso - who has worked on the Prius model range since its planning and development inception in the early 1990s - says the new version due around 2015 will be more performance-focused than ever before.
"It will have a much improved fun to drive performance - coming both from the powertrain and from the body and chassis," Ogiso says.
The Prius is expected to be built using the Japanese brand's Toyota New Generation Atchitecture (TNGA), which will mean it will have more parts and components in common with other cars in the Toyota range.
"Probably we will develop new platform and structure, so we will work strongly to improve the dynamic performance for [the] new TNGA platform," he says.
When asked what size petrol engine the new model will be partly powered by, Osigo wouldn't comment on the possibility of a down-sized petrol engine. The current version uses a 1.8-litre petrol four-cylinder, while the smaller Prius C uses a 1.5-litre.
"Generally speaking we have not finalised our development for the next-generation Prius," he says.
"I cannot answer you the direct question, but next generation Prius probably you should improve both drivability and fuel efficiency, so we should do both. We should improve battery power and also we should improve gas engine performance," he says.
Whatever the drivetrain consists of, it's likely to have a smaller electric motor and increased battery performance.
"Talking about the powertrain wise - whether TNGA exists or not, every generation Prius powertrain has to improve in performance, both fuel efficiency and driving performance.
He says there are key promises: "More drivability and more performance, and more MPG, more fuel efficiency".
Overseas reports suggest the next-generation Prius will offer a 10 per cent improvement in fuel use - which would see it drop towards 3.5L/100km - but Ogiso avoided commenting on any speculative numbers.
-Fairfax News Australia