Toyota's recent advertisements tell us that its Prius family is growing. The Prii clan already includes the popular Prius four-door hatchback and larger Prius V, and soon the hybrid brand will get another version. Toyota recently revealed the upcoming Prius C ahead of its Tokyo Auto Show debut, previewing the Prius family's smallest member yet.

According to Toyota, the five-door Prius C features a lower center of gravity than the regular model as well as a lighter curb weight and a more efficient 1.5-liter hybrid powerplant. It's also smaller than the traditional Prius, measuring about the same size as subcompact Toyota Yaris - the automaker's smallest US model. That makes the Prius C the most efficient Prius yet, and - at a predicted 50 miles per gallon in the city - one of the most efficient vehicles on the market.

But despite its small size, the Prius family resemblance is clear in the Prius C's exterior styling. An abrupt, round front end and a long, steeply raked windshield are carried over, as are cues from the Prius's grille, fog lights and headlights. The Prius C also includes the traditional Prius's arching roofline, which helps the hatchback retain the popular hybrid's characteristic side glass design.

Inside, the Prius C also incorporates much of the Prius's design. Familiar elements include a futuristic steering wheel, blue accents, a center-mounted digital gauge cluster and a two-tone dashboard that clearly distinguishes the passenger's side from the driver's.

Unfortunately, Toyota hasn't announced any further details about the Prius C, including its price tag or the output of its new hybrid engine. But considering the automaker's desire to grow its Prius family, we wouldn't be surprised if the new hatchback debuted in mid-2012 with a starting price in the low-$20,000 range. That would place it below the traditional Prius, which starts at $23,520, the larger Prius V, which starts at $26,400, and the all-new Prius Plug-in Hybrid, which boasts 87 miles per gallon-equivalent and starts around $32,000.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on

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