It's been known for some time that Toyota is toying with the idea of a nearly-full-line Prius sub-brand. Expected to feature a wagon-like, or possible truck-like model and a coupe in addition to the next-gen Prius sedan, the range would offer a focal point for Toyota's serious fuel-efficiency efforts. The coupe could prove one of the more stylistically interesting Toyotas to be built in recent years, despite its eco-conscious nature.

The car would likely be one of the new dedicated hybrid models, however, so hopes of a return of the Celica or even the Supra are so far unwarranted. Design considerations specific to a highly efficient hybrid would almost certainly work against conversion into a high-performance sports car, though the company has proved through its Lexus division that under the right circumstances, hybrid technology can add a lot of performance to a vehicle.

Nevertheless, it will be significantly sportier than the current Prius, since it is aimed at Honda's expected CR-Z hybrid coupe, which is designed with the bloodlines of the fantastically sporty CRX in mind. The Toyota will, however, share its powertrain with the new third-generation Prius, reports MotorTrend, so the sporting sensation will have to come from a light and balanced chassis and tuning measures.

Toyota's third-generation Prius is due to hit the streets in April next year, followed the year after by the plug-in hybrid version. Talk of Toyota keeping the second-gen Prius available alongside the new car means it may be 2011 or later before a dedicated hybrid coupe makes the scene. Taken in context with the current global auto market and economic situation, that timeline may be just about perfect for the introduction of a new model.

On the other hand, a new dedicated Lexus hybrid is due to make its debut alongside the third-gen Prius at the Detroit Auto Show in January, 2009, indicating the company is willing to launch new models now, at least for its luxury brand. Other models expected to arrive in the new Prius range include a possible small truck based around the oddball A-BAT concept. A hybrid version of the tiny iQ is also expected to come to production, though it won't likely be marketed under the Prius insignia.