2012 Toyota NS4 plug-in hybrid conceptEnlarge Photo
Love it or loathe it, everyone can recognize the Toyota Prius.
Since the second generation model arrived in the 2004 model year, the aerodynamically-honed one-box shape has always shouted "Prius". So much so that many consider Honda's Insight hybrid to deliberately feature similar styling.
Only when a new Prius arrives, likely in 2014 as a 2015 model-year car, it may look very different.
According to Bloomberg, Toyota is currently considering whether to give the Prius an all-new look, to widen its appeal.
Various generations of Prius may have helped Toyota's hybrid sales fly past 4 million units, but for some the traditional Prius shape is just a little too challenging.
Chris Hostetter, Toyota's U.S. group vice president for strategic planning, said that Toyota is still choosing from "a menu" of possible designs for the next Prius.
"One of the avenues we're exploring right now is to evolve it, and the other is to really evolve it" he told Bloomberg in an interview. "Maybe our architecture has been a little bit similar for the last two generations."
Neither Hostetter or Toyota have elaborated on these comments, but it points towards a car that may be more conventional in appearance--without sacrificing the Prius' high-tech appeal.
Several other carmakers have recently proven it's possible to design an aerodynamic shape--necessary for excellent economy--yet still avoiding a Prius-like silhouette.
The Mercedes A Class we tested last week is a traditional two-box hatchback, with typical Mercedes details like a large grille and chunky lines--yet has a drag coefficient as low as 0.26. Clever surfacing, an aerodynamic underbody and vents to direct airflow around the front wheels all contribute, without losing the car's individuality.
Either way, it looks like the 2015 Toyota Prius could lose those love-it hate-it lines...