Toyota Prius C Concept

Toyota's upcoming compact hybrid, previewed by the Prius C Concept, will reportedly launch in January 2012 in Japan wearing the Aqua name, according to news outlet Nikkei.

The compact gas-electric is expected to carry a fuel economy rating of 40 kilometers per liter (94 miles per gallon U.S.) on Japan's generous JC08 evaluation cycle. That works out to be roughly equal to an EPA combined rating of 61 mpg U.S. For comparison, the 2011 Toyota Prius is rated at 32 km/l (76.7 mpg U.S.) on Japan's JC08 test cycle, yet is rated at 51 mpg city, 48 mpg highway in the U.S.

In an effort to keep its price in check, Toyota Motor will reportedly use the standard Prius powertrain, including its 1.8-liter gas engine, in the Aqua, which we're guessing will still be called the Prius C here in the U.S. Reports hint that Toyota will target a starting price of 1.7 million yen ($22,236 U.S. at today's exchange rate) for the Aqua. That's roughly 300,000 yen ($3,924 U.S.) cheaper than the 2011 Prius. We'd expect to see the Prius C sport a similar discount over the conventional Prius when it arrives in the States.

Toyota says the Prius C will launch in the U.S. sometime in 2012 and that $20,000 is its preliminary price target.