First Drive: Toyota Yaris Hybrid
So while most manufacturers are bringing electric vehicles to market, Toyota has stuck to its core technology and is broadening its hybrid family worldwide. European buyers will get this in its smallest form with the Yaris.
It’s an area where Honda has tried to establish itself with the Jazz Hybrid, marred by uncompetitive emissions and a high price, but at 80.7mpg and 79g/km in its most efficient, likely to be biggest-selling trim, the Toyota alternative sounds more tempting.
Cost counts in the supermini class, and diesels have yet to take off in this sector, but hybrid (and electric) superminis make a lot of sense provided prices can be kept down. These are at their most efficient when crawling through traffic, lack a clog-prone particulate filter and are low on smog – perfect for city-based motoring.
Yaris Hybrid is a clever solution, too. It uses a downsized Auris Hybrid drivetrain and was designed for the technology from the get-go, so there’s no loss of space, and a lot of the technology is shared with equivalent compact models worldwide which keeps costs down.
Spec-matched against a petrol with an automatic gearbox, the big-selling T4 version is about £1,000 more for the hybrid and, crucially, it undercuts the Jazz. It’s also looking future-proof, avoiding the next set of Benefit in Kind tax changes for sub-100g/km vehicles, and will probably dodge similar changes in VED and congestion charges.
Most importantly, though, it's very fuel-efficient. Predictably, Toyota laid on mostly urban roads on the press launch with only a few motorway sections, ideal for high hybrid economy. But most journalists managed to average over 60mpg, while some were close to 75mpg with a little effort, implying mid-60s to the gallon is realistic for real-world use.
A lot of those savings come from the way it operates, regularly turning the 1.5-litre petrol engine off to allow a predicted two thirds of most owners’ mileage to be done using electric power.
Looks are in its favour, too. Looking a little like a Storm Trooper at the front, it’s got a youthful sportiness that would’ve been welcome in the rest of the Yaris range, while blue-tinted dials and stitching, lightly-coloured dashboard accents and LED-embellished rear lights add an upmarket style.
But this is a rational purchase. Yaris Hybrid lacks the liveliness of in other sub-100g/km superminis, prioritising thrift over thrills. While it’s able to keep up with traffic it’s not a car that invites spirited driving, with sharp throttle inputs resulting in a loud drone from the engine as the CVT gearbox ups the revs for more power.
Handling is more entertaining, though. The extra weight hasn’t made the Yaris feel flabby, with a low centre of gravity and minimal body roll, while steering is sharp and responsive and delivers a tight turning circle. Those seeking the best bits of Yaris and Prius ownership will find this a very capable, very efficient choice.
Yaris Hybrid buyers will more than likely be sizing it up on its rational, rather than emotional benefits. No bad thing, because it plays to its strengths well, offering uncompromised practicality, low tax and achievable frugality in real-world use. It’s a clever, if unexciting, option for the cost-conscious urban motorist.
Type: Petrol-electric hybrid
CO2 emissions (tailpipe): 79-85g/km
Charging port: N/A