The fuel efficient Japanese automaker Toyota has just launch the Sai luxury hybrid sedan, a model based on the Lexus HS 250h, into its home market. The new four door Hybrid Synergy Drive sedan is both bigger and more luxurious than the automobile manufacturer’s current flagship hybrid, the Toyota Prius. With the Sai’s scheduled launch only a few days away at the Tokyo Auto Salon, Toyota is taking a step forward to shake up the gas/electric car market.

2010 Toyota Sai
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Compared to the Lexus HS 250h, the new Toyota Sai features a distinct front end design with new head lamps, a unique hood, grill and bumper as we;; as a set of different taillights. On the inside, the new Sai gets its own instrument panel and center console design as well as a different steering wheel than the entry level Lexus hybrid.

However this where the differences end, under the hood the Sai features the same hybrid drive train as the Lexus HS 250h which includes a 2.4 Liter four cylinder engine running on an Atkinson cycle combined with an electric motor and a reduction gear to take over power train responsibilities when the gas burning engine isn’t required, when combined, the pair of conventional and electric motors can delver up to 190 HP. The Sai successfully bridges the gap between the entry level Prius hatchback and the more expensive Lexus HS 250h as far as the Japanese automaker Toyota’s lineup of hybrids is concerned.

Press release after the jump.

Press release

TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION (TMC) announces the unveiling today in Japan of the compact luxury sedan "Sai", which is planned to go on sale in Japan on December 7.

The Sai is based on a concept derived from the Japanese word sai—which means "talent" when written as "sai" and "coloration" when written as "sai"—as a hybrid-only sedan "combining advanced talent and multi-color sophistication".

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The Sai, designed with extensive consideration for the environment, features a gasoline-electric hybrid system with a 2.4-liter engine for outstanding fuel efficiency and use of Ecological Plastic (made from plant-derived materials) for approximately 60% of the interior surface area. Its highly efficient package achieves an outstanding balance between maneuverability, comfort, refined sedan styling and aerodynamic performance. Furthermore, in addition to offering advanced features for high-level safety performance, such as a millimeter-wave-radar Pre-crash Safety system, the Sai, among its other attributes, provides cruising performance and riding comfort befitting a luxury vehicle, altogether making it a compact luxury vehicle for a new era that brings together "talent" and "coloration" to enrich customers’ lifestyles.

Outstanding fuel efficiency and environmental performance

The Sai features the Toyota Hybrid System (THS) II combining a 2.4-liter Atkinson cycle combustion engine with an electric motor and a reduction gear. By delaying intake valve closure, the engine achieves a high expansion ratio at low pressure, thus raising heat efficiency.

  • Possessing dynamic performance with power to spare, vehicle realizes fuel efficiency of 23.0km/l—on par with 660cc minivehicles—under 10-15 test cycle of Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT); under MLIT’s JC08 test cycle, vehicle has fuel efficiency of 19.8km/l
  • Vehicle meets new 2015 Japanese fuel efficiency standards set out under Law Concerning Rational Use of Energy, and CO2 emissions are 75% lower than 2005 standards under MLIT approval system for low-emission vehicles, which is currently strictest standard in Japan for emissions; thus, vehicle qualifies for Japanese government tax reductions and subsidies for environmentally friendly vehicles
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The transaxle is exceptionally small and light, with a compact high-speed motor that achieves increased output and a reduction gear that increases torque.

An exhaust heat recovery system uses exhaust gas to heat the engine, thus shortening engine-warming time and contributing to greatly improved fuel efficiency, especially when outside temperatures are low.
LED headlights conserve electric power and consequently reduce power-generation requirements on the engine.

In addition to Standard Driving Mode, which balances fuel efficiency and power, drivers can also select Eco-Drive Mode, which prioritizes fuel efficiency by moderating driving force relative to accelerator operation and putting the air conditioner into a low energy-consumption mode, and Electric Vehicle (EV) Drive Mode, which uses the electric motor only, resulting in extremely quite cruising and zero emissions.

Support for environmentally considerate driving

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A Hybrid System Indicator that shows real-time driving status and an Eco Driving Indicator that lights up to signify fuel-efficient vehicle operation provide visual support to the driver.

The ESPO1 system, which encourages and rewards environmentally considerate driving, enables drivers to gain extra enjoyment.

  • G-BOOK mX, TMC’s advanced telematics service, assesses environmentally considerate driving and awards points to driver; mastery of eco-driving can be determined according to rate of points gained each month
  • Programs that allow drivers to make donations to charities using points received, that rank fuel efficiency of nationwide Sai ESPO users, and other fun incentives to encourage drivers to drive in environmentally considerate ways, are available


Environmental impact reduction

To limit CO2 emissions through achieving carbon neutrality2 and to minimize use of Earth’s limited fossil fuels, plant-based Ecological Plastic has been used for approximately 60% of the interior surface area—by far the greatest use of such plastic by TMC in any vehicle to date.

  • Ecological Plastic used for first time in ceiling and pillar garnishes and sun visor surfaces in mass-production vehicle; plastic also adopted in injection-molded parts such as scuff plates and luggage trays, as well as for luggage-space trim surfaces and foam in seat cushions
  • Required heat resistance, shock resistance and mass production capabilities have been ensured by employing advanced compounding technologies to combine plastic’s plant-derived and petroleum-derived raw materials
  • Logo and surface patterns indicate parts made of Ecological Plastic
  • Recycled materials are also used in parts such as undercover to further reduce environmental impact
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TMC employed its Eco-Vehicle Assessment System (Eco-VAS)—its in-house-developed system to comprehensively assess environmental impact—in designing the Sai.

  • Eco-VAS includes setting targets at start of vehicle development to help reduce environmentally harmful factors by such means as balanced reduction of CO2 emissions
  •  Life-cycle assessment carried out to reduce CO2 and air contaminants throughout vehicle’s lifecycle

Review of materials, processing methods and adhesives used for interior parts resulted in a reduction of volatile organic compounds and sometimes-unpleasant interior odors to levels compliant with voluntary industry standards.

High-efficiency package limits length while increasing interior space

The Sai adopts a high-efficiency package that balances superb maneuverability and comfort with attractive, refined sedan styling and aerodynamic performance.

  • Body size offers excellent maneuverability and minimum turning radius of 5.2 meters (when fitted with 16-inch wheels)
  • Slightly elevated hip point enhances forward visibility and positioning of door openings and seat height optimized to ease ingress and egress
  • Telescopic, tilt-function steering wheel and eight-way adjustable power seat enable driver to easily set optimal driving position
  • Slimmer front seatbacks allow more legroom at knee height for increased rear comfort and ease of ingress and egress
  • Optimal positioning of hybrid-system battery secures enough luggage space to accommodate four golf bags3


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Enhanced safety equipment

Advanced technologies including a Pre-crash Safety System (featuring millimeter-wave radar) to counter both front and rear collisions as well as seven Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) airbags—standard on all models—and optional rear seat SRS side airbags pursue safety performance at the highest levels.

Preventive safety performance and driving support


  • Steering-assisted Vehicle Stability Control (S-VSC) system—standard on all models—optimally balances driving power, steering and braking to achieve stable driving regardless of road conditions
  • Pre-crash Safety system (millimeter-wave radar type) detects risk of collision and warns driver with buzzer and display; depending on probability of collision, system also initiates Pre-Crash Brake Assist system, Pre-Crash Brakes, and Pre-crash Seatbelts to minimize collision damage
  • If Pre-crash Safety system determines risk of collision from vehicle approaching from behind, hazard lights flash to warn driver; if collision is highly probable, system shifts front-seat headrests to optimum position to brace occupants for impact and to lessen risk of injuries
  • Brake-signal system—standard on all models—flashes brake lights in event of sudden braking to warn driver of the vehicle behind
  • On highways and freeways, Lane-keeping Assist alerts driver of lane divergence and assists with corrective steering
  • Radar cruise control (with brake control) maintains appropriate distance from vehicle immediately in front within set speed
  • Wide-view front monitor simultaneously displays ground in front of vehicle as well as left and right frontal areas


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Collision safety


  • Vehicle features advanced Global Outstanding Assessment (GOA) collision-safety body that incorporates omni-directional compatibility to achieve exceptional collision safety performance in frontal, side or rear collisions
  • Body designed to reduce pedestrian head and leg injuries in unfortunate event of collision with pedestrian
  • Seven SRS airbags, including SRS knee airbags (driver seat) and SRS side and curtain shield airbags, are standard on all models; rear seats have SRS side airbags and seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters (optional) to enhance rear-seat safety
  • Active Headrest—standard on all models for driver- and front-passenger seats—shifts headrest to appropriate position to lessen stress on neck and reduce risk of whiplash injury sustained during rear-end collision


"Multi-color sophistication"

Simple, modern interior and exterior designs integrate and refine functional beauty and style


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The unique exterior, based on the Toyota-brand "Vibrant Clarity" design philosophy, creates a triangular silhouette—a first for a Toyota-brand sedan—that features outstanding aerodynamic performance as well as prominent innovation and styling.

  • Low grille reduces air resistance and enhances engine-cooling performance, while plated grille and area around headlights convey quality, creating refined sense of integration of whole front section and express union of innovation and style
  • Aero-management features in adoption of triangular silhouette; character line along door shoulder section extends to rear and emphasizes trunk while achieving both excellent aerodynamic performance and stylish sedan form
  • Laser welding technology (laser brazing) used for first time on Toyota-brand vehicle to join trunk lid panels; clean and subtle rear view features detailed plated garnishes
  • Seven exterior colors, including newly developed Aqua Mica Metallic, available


Enhanced aerodynamic performance

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Through use of aero-management, the vehicle’s underbody has underfloor covers across large sections to create smoothness, achieving a coefficient drag value of 0.27—among the highest in its class4.

  • Front pillars are positioned forward, while rearmost portion of roof is gently sloped, resulting in excellent aerodynamics; sides of front bumper feature "aero-corner" (plane surface to streamline airflow along areas around wheels)
  • Light but highly rigid roof panel shaped to reduce wind resistance
  • Front achieves negative lift (downward force) when equipped with 18-inch wheels, enhancing tire grip when cruising at high speeds and providing excellent handling and cruising stability



The cockpit layout is driver-focused and provides outstanding visibility and operability, while the interior conveys modernity and quality with an unassuming and consistent beauty, including a slim and flowing center cluster characterized by advanced functionality.

  • Display Zone, which displays information, and Command Zone, for operations, create advanced cockpit that enables driver to focus on driving
  • Navigation screen, which displays maps, air-conditioning and audio-system information and more, is positioned in upper center of instrument panel to minimize need to shift visual focus
  • Vehicle features Remote Touch system—Toyota-brand debut—positioned optimally on center cluster that allows driver to operate on-screen cursor using fingertips; together with steering-wheel-mounted controls, combined system reduces need for driving-posture changes
  • Electro Shift-matic (shift-by-wire) shift lever, conveniently located close to steering wheel, can be used with minimal effort
  • Easy-to-use, steering-wheel-mounted controls and Remote Touch allow infrequently used center-cluster controls to be covered, thereby maintaining the cluster’s easy-to-use, simple, modern form; combination with thin gauge hoods and shape of armrests provides depth and feeling of quality to advanced cockpit space
  • Stylish front seats’ thin seatbacks achieve comfort and also contribute to roominess of rear-seat area


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Comfort-enhancing features

A Power Easy Access System that supports the driver’s ingress and egress and other comfort-enhancing features befit such a luxury vehicle.

Newly developed fabric seat covers (in plum and gray) combine vibrant elegance with a silken textural quality. The driver and passenger seats also have functions that help prevent static electricity build-up and eliminate odors. For optimum comfort, automatically controlled leather heated seats, in plum, are also available.

Storage spaces, including an illuminated and lockable glove compartment, overhead console, and bottle holders, are positioned for optimal convenience.

An HDD navigation system with 8-inch pop-up display comes standard on all models. All 10 speakers of the Super Live Sound System (excluding the tweeters) contain bamboo fiber—a material with minimal environmental impact—for clear sound reproduction.

Fully automatic air conditioning (with a pollen removal mode) that allows the temperature to be set independently for the driver and passenger side is standard on all models. A temperature adjustment switch is also located on the passenger-side door trim.

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Plasmacluster Ions®5 releases a balance of positive and negative ions into the cabin, helping reduce the propagation of airborne germs and impurities, thus aiding the creation of a stress-free cabin environment.

Hybrid-specific features

The color, Hybrid Synergy Blue, which identifies TMC’s hybrid vehicles and their advanced nature, is used on the vehicle’s emblems, headlights, combination taillights, gauge display, shift knob and power switches.

Superior driving performance befitting a luxury vehicle

The 2.4-liter hybrid system is powerful yet refined, providing smooth and seamless acceleration.

The new platform was developed for medium/compact vehicles. Tuning tailored specifically for the Sai provides superior and light handling, excellent cruising stability and comfortable ride.

  • Hood and body frame materials use aluminum and high-tensile steel plates to achieve both lightness and high rigidity
  • Newly designed suspension features MacPherson struts in front and new double wishbone format in back
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The electric power steering (EPS) adopts a brushless motor. The steering gear ratio and EPS control are optimized for comfortable maneuverability and a feeling of direct control from low to high speeds.

Meticulous attention was paid to reducing noise by combining a high-rigidity body with vibration-damping suspension members and optimal placement of vibration-controlling and soundproofing materials, thus raising the high level of quietness that typifies a hybrid vehicle.

Welcabs: Specially equipped vehicles with factory-installed features for disabled people

Lift-up Front Passenger Seat models (Type A and Type B) feature a front-passenger seat that slides down and to the outside of the vehicle to facilitate ingress and egress. Switches to slide and recline the seat are on both the left and right sides of the vehicle, also enabling operation from the driver’s seat. In addition, rear-seat legroom was maintained by making the lift-up mechanism more compact. "Type B" has a motorized device for loading and unloading a wheelchair.

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As with the base vehicle, the Welcab models qualify for Japanese government tax reductions and subsidies for environmentally friendly vehicles.

Alina Moore
Alina Moore
Alina Joined the team in the early 2000s as one of the outlets very first experts, and she’s been with ever since. Over the years, she’s served various roles, but today she’s is relied on heavily to verify automotive facts, assist with formatting, and discover new and engaging topics.  Read full bio
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Show Comments


  (472) posted on 02.9.2012

I have nothing much to say about this vehicle. I like its sleek body paint that gives it an additional poise. Impressive interior.

  (594) posted on 09.13.2011

Toyota Sai is only impressive on its exterior, well it had the looks of a luxurious and sophisticated car but when it comes in its interior you will disappoint on it.

  (937) posted on 02.24.2010

This vehicle is going to do well as a Lexus. The Toyota mainstream buyers have the Prius for an affordable Hybrid that gets amazing fuel economy. The HS 250h is well appointed at a competitive price point. IIRC the Fusion Hybrid with Nav and all the bells and whistles will set you back into the mid-high 30’s and the Lexus can be topped out with everything for about $42k.

  (814) posted on 01.27.2010

IMO the concept and the style of this car is more likely the old version of Honda City and Toyota Corola, with added features of course.

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