Toyota had a rough time in 2010, but its Prius line is still the iPod of hybrid vehicles: iconic, ubiquitous, and essentially a synonym for the whole concept of "hybrid vehicle" itself. Now, with its Prius C concept, Toyota is expanding the family to compete in the "urban smart car" sector.
But instead of yet another hypermiling nano-compact that looks more like militarized golf cart or cutesy George Jetson pod than a sensible automobile, the Prius C is designed to make smart-cars go mainstream -- with sleek but demure styling and price tag that won't make you cry uncle.
Toyota unveiled the C today at the 2011 North American International Auto Show, touting the vehicle's "appeal to young singles and couples who want an eco-sensitive, high-mileage, fun-to-drive Prius." It certainly looks that way -- kind of like the Honda Fit, but much hipper. The headlights set far back against the windshield are certainly a bold touch. I could easily see myself backing this thing into a micro-sized parking space in Manhattan and not feeling embarrassed about it. (Which is saying something, given that my overall opinion of hybrid vehicles owes a lot to this vicious Simpsons gag.)
Like most concepts, the C probably won't end up on the road itself. Instead, Toyota says it's the "inspiration" for a new Prius that's due to hit dealerships in the first half of 2012. A tiny car you can drive around to urban loft parties without sacrificing your youthful attitude? Start saving now!