New Toyota Prius May Get Larger Engine For US Market

The new Toyota Prius, debuting in Detroit next week, could be getting a larger engine for the American market. Why? US buyers want more power, not better economy.

The fuel economy fan boys over at Prius Chat are all atwitter about news that the 2010 Toyota Prius could come in two flavors: a new, larger 1.8-liter version for Americans and a 1.5-liter for Europeans. It’s thought that the 1.8 could make 100 HP from the engine alone, 160 with the aid of the electric motor. The 1.5 retains the current capacity, but ups total output by 15 HP to 125 HP.

Why the differentiation? Toyota is building the car Americans want to buy, something with the kudos of the current Prius brand, but bigger and faster to suit our power-mad tastes.

The expense to fuel economy is currently unknown, but it is presumed that the 1.8-liter will be less economical than the 1.5. Prius Chat members are seeing this as a mixed blessing. It might prove a less efficient package for dedicated hypermilers, but if it can convince more people to buy a hybrid over a less fuel-efficient vehicle, the overall impact could be a positive one. Of course, it could be a cynical attempt to justify the new Prius's presumed price premium over the 2010 Honda Insight, which is rumored to be coming in around $18,500. [via Prius Chat]