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Why does the Toyota Prius still exist when hybrid is available on Corolla, Camry, Yaris and RAV4?

The current-gen Prius hit Australian showrooms in 2016, but hybrid powertrains are now available across most Toyota models.

The Toyota Prius has done its job and brought petrol-electric hybrid powertrains to the masses, passing the baton over to the mainstream models like the RAV4, Camry, Corolla, Yaris and more.

But Toyota Australia still believes the Prius has a role to play.

Speaking to media at the opening of a new hydrogen refuelling station in Altona, Melbourne, Toyota Australia boss Matthew Callachor said the Prius was meant as a vanguard to petrol-electric hybrid technologies and it still has a spot in the brand’s line-up after achieving its goal.

“Prius was our first step in terms of getting the battery technology, but also showcasing the reconfiguration of the car around that, to try many new things,” he said. “And look, it has a role at the particular moment.

“The plan always was to actually, once we launched the Prius, to get an acceptance for it, to then move it into mainstream vehicles in terms of hybrids, which we pretty much have done right across the board.”

Australia has embraced the expansion of petrol-electric hybrid powertrains en masse, which accounted for around 57,000 Toyota and Lexus sales last year – over a quarter of the two brands’ combined 213,647 tally.

In fact, so successful was Toyota hybrids last year, that if the RAV4 Hybrid were its own nameplate, it would have still beaten out the Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson as Australia’s most popular SUV.

Petrol-electric powertrains are now available across many of Toyota’s models, including the Yaris, Yaris Cross, Corolla hatch and sedan, and Camry, with the new-generation Kluger and incoming Corolla Cross already confirmed with the fuel-economy-focused technology.

And Toyota’s heavy-duty vehicles won’t be immune either, with rumours persisting that the new LandCruiser 300 Series will adopt a downsized, but electrified, engine to keep torque numbers and performance on par with the outgoing V8 diesel.

Likewise, the HiLux workhorse is also rumoured to get some sort of hybrid set-up when the new-generation version breaks cover, likely in the next three years.

So where does this leave the Prius?

The Prius C was discontinued ahead of the Yaris Hybrid launch last year, but the Corolla-sedan-sized Prius continues on, as does the seven-seat Prius V.

Toyota Australia could push the Prius further into EV territory by rolling out the plug-in version offered overseas, but it has made no indication this will be the future of the nameplate.

When asked directly by CarsGuide what the role of the Prius is now that hybrid is available across the majority of Toyota’s model range, Mr Callachor said it exists as a funkier alternative to the more conventional nameplates, but would not be drawn on if the Prius will not be discontinued.

“It’s kind of the quirky little vehicle … it still has a role, but fundamentally what we’re seeing is – and it’s reflected in the sales numbers – people want the mainstream vehicles, so its basically the RAV4s, Camrys, Corollas, they’re the vehicles with the real sales potential,” he said.