• Kyodo

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Toyota Motor Corp. on Monday launched its new hybrid compact Aqua, boasting enhanced acceleration performance and about a 20% improved fuel efficiency in the first full-model change in about a decade.

With a suggested retail price starting from ¥1.98 million ($18,000), the Aqua hybrid is equipped with a nickel hydrogen battery system that has twice as much power output as the previous model, enabling longer travel on electricity without the use of gasoline.

Toyota reduced the number of parts used for the nickel hydrogen battery to increase its capacity. The latest model can travel 35.8 kilometers per liter when powered by gasoline.

One major feature of the new Aqua is the parking assist system that only requires the driver to press a button to park, the first time it has been installed in a nonluxury Toyota car.

Toyota, which had received orders for about 15,000 new Aqua units as of last Thursday, is aiming to sell 9,800 units a month.

So far, Toyota has sold about 1.87 million Aqua compact cars globally since the first model was launched in December 2011.

Automakers are shifting their attention to greener cars in line with the global trend toward decarbonization. Toyota, the leader in hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles, is aiming to bolster its lineup, which includes hybrids and electric vehicles.

Toyota launched the first Aqua hybrid in the aftermath of the major earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan in March 2011.

It has manufactured Aqua vehicles at a factory in Iwate Prefecture, one of the hardest-hit areas, due partly to support local reconstruction efforts. The new model will also be assembled there, according to Toyota.

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