What’s the difference between a hatchback and a crossover? These days it may come down to positioning more than anything – especially when the cross-hatch-over-back in question comes from Japan.
The latest to get in on the ruggedized action is the Prius C, the little hatchback in Toyota’s dedicated hybrid lineup that’s sold in Japan as the Aqua, and which is now being offered with more rugged styling to appeal to customers more interested in crossovers than hatchbacks.
Pictured here with the Aqua nameplate under which it’s sold in Japan, the ruggedized Prius C features silver accents on the lower parts of the front and rear bumper and black wheel arches to make it look more like an SUV. Behind those cosmetic enhancements, however, it’s still the same vehicle, with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid powertrain good for all of 99 horsepower. Forget transfer cases or locking differentials: body cladding aside, the hybrid still drives the front wheels – not all four – through a continuously variable transmission.
So far we’re only seeing official information on the JDM version, but Car and Driver reports the updated model will be priced the same in base spec, receive a slight bump in other trims, and carry the same fuel economy ratings. Some interior enhancements are in store as well.
The Prius C isn’t the first Japanese hatchback to pursue a more ruggedized look and a slice of the crossover action. The Infiniti Q30, for example, is available with more rugged-looking trim and a slightly higher ride height as the QX30, but is only marketed as the QX30 in America (regardless of appearance). Subaru’s Crosstrek is also essentially a jacked-up version of the Impreza. Something tells us we haven’t seen the last of this trend, particularly as the US market for hatchbacks shrinks and demand for crossovers only increases.