Previous shots revealed on the 'PriusChat' Internet forum were confirmed as genuine by Toyota on the carmaker's own Open Road blog. Site's editor John F. Thompson wrote: "We thought we’d take a moment to confirm that the car shown in these unauthorized photos – at least the ones we’ve seen so far - is indeed the new Prius." That settled the matter of their authenticity, though there remain unanswered questions about the 2010 Prius.
What we do know is that the 2010 Prius will look as expected, retaining its iconic shape, while the interior shots reveal a much more complicated dash, with a new telematics screen located in the center console that will likely integrate the navigation, entertainment, and fuel-economy display functions. Other differences in the new photos, compared to the current Prius, include a slightly larger body and a distinct nose and tail design. The wheelbase and track of the next-gen car are also expected to be increased slightly over the current model, though without a scaled side-by-side comparison, it's impossible to tell from photos alone.
The Hybrid Synergy Drive system will carry over largely unchanged but the current 1.5L engine will be replaced with a more powerful 1.6L unit. Power will be increased but fuel-economy will better the current model’s EPA rating of 48mpg in the city (4.9L/100km) and 45mpg (5.22L/100km) on the highway.
Toyota has done this by installing a more efficient powertrain with improved batteries for longer electric-only driving, as well as designing a lighter body though the extensive use of advanced composites in its construction.
A new battery factory being constructed in Japan will ensure there are no delays in the supply of nickel-metal hydride batteries for the new Prius, and will suffice until a lithium-ion plug-in version is released in 2010. Other updates include the possible addition of solar roof panels to help power the car’s auxiliary items such as the air-conditioning and electronic steering system.
Pricing is expected to be slightly above the current car’s $22,160 base price in the U.S. but any increase will be modest.
With Toyota’s Mississippi plant now facing a delay in Prius output, production numbers for the new model will not be increased as much as previously planned. Officials had hoped the new model and U.S. production would push output up by 70% to a total of 480,000 units annually. With demand for all vehicles, including the fuel-efficient Prius now sinking instead of rising, however, the future of the new car now appears uncertain.