Toyota Auris Hybrid from

Toyota Auris Hybrid from

Of course we wish we could simply call up the hybrid brain trust at Toyota and ask them questions. But we can't. So aside from Toyota announcements, we mostly scour the web.

As we mentioned last week, Toyota told Japanese business daily Nikkei that it would build its own lower-cost hybrid in 2011, though it released no details.

Now, a potential candidate for that vehicle has come to light. It's the Toyota Auris Hybrid, which Toyota told Nikkei last fall would go on sale in Europe starting in 2010.

What's an Auris? It's a European and Asian hatchback model built on the same platform as the 2009 Toyota Corolla. In Europe, the 2007 Auris actually replaced a previous model of Corolla hatchback.

In the States, you can think of it as very similar to the 2009 Toyota Matrix, which is a five-door hatchback as well.

An Auris hybrid might make a lot of sense. For one thing, it would extend Toyota's hybrid technology into smaller cars--the direction taken by the 2010 Honda Insight, which is smaller than its 2009 Honda Civic Hybrid.

For another, the Corolla/Auris platform is Toyota's highest volume global architecture. Adding Hybrid Synergy Drive to it would let the company offer hybrids across a huge array of different models in most markets.

Of course, the Auris is a more conventional shape than the Prius or Insight, unless Toyota creates a dedicated hybrid body around Auris underpinnings. But the Auris Hybrid is already due for production, and its Corolla brethren meet all US safety and emissions standards--so adapting the Auris for the US should be a piece of cake.

And, hey, "Auris" even sounds sort of like "Prius," doesn't it? Hmmmm ....

2007 Toyota Auris

2007 Toyota Auris

[HAT TIP: Vince Burlapp]