Toyota Yaris Hybrid
SECTOR Supermini PRICE £14,995 – £16,995 FUEL 76.3 – 80.7mpg CO2 79 – 85g/km
It’s difficult to imagine hybrid technology without Toyota – the brand that brought hybrids to Europe. While others have since come to market with similar drivetrains it’s often the pioneering Prius that’s seen as the segment’s figurehead.
So against a shift towards fully-electric vehicles Toyota has stuck to its core technology and is broadening its hybrid family.
In Europe, perhaps the bravest addition is the Yaris. While rivals have sporty-looking versions as a halo, Toyota’s flagship supermini will be the Yaris Hybrid, returning up to 80.7mpg and emitting 79g/km in its most efficient, and likely biggest-selling, trim-level.
Even in diesel-loving Europe this is very much a petrol segment. The percentage increase for a diesel is difficult to claw back in lower average mileage these usually cover.
But superminis are ripe for electric and hybrid power, provided prices can be kept low. Petrol-electric hybrids offer the biggest efficiency benefits over conventional cars when crawling through traffic, have no diesel particulate filters to worry about and emit less smog than conventional cars. All are perfect qualities for a city-slicker.
So unsurprisingly Toyota laid on a predominantly urban route at the launch, comprised mainly of low-speed roads and with only short motorway sections. But most journalists were able to get well over 60mpg, and some were close to 75mpg without much effort, suggesting mid-60s to the gallon is realistic for urban use.
Unlike the Auris Hybrid, which was a mid-life conversion, the third-generation Yaris was designed to accommodate hybrid drive from its conception. The packaging is neat, too, with a downsized battery tucked under the rear bench, a 1.5-litre engine and small CVT gearbox and hybrid drive up front.
Some drivetrain parts are shared with US and Japanese market compact hybrids, helping reduce development costs, which means the best-selling T4 version costs around £1,000 more than a specification-matched 1.33-litre version with a CVT gearbox.
Clever packaging means there’s no sacrifice in interior or boot space compared to the conventional Yaris, which is a real achievement in this class. Because it regularly switches the engine off, Toyota said it expected two thirds of owners’ mileage could be covered on electricity. A claim backed up by the high figures achieved on the launch.
Importantly it’s also cheaper and more efficient than the Honda Jazz Hybrid, its closest rival. And with a 20g/km margin between its CO2 emissions and the 100g/km threshold, it’s immune from the 2015 BiK changes should be similarly futureproof for forthcoming VED and congestion charge revisions too.
Looks are also in its favour. That Storm Trooper-esque front end has the sort of youthful sportiness which would’ve been welcome elsewhere in the Yaris range, while the blue-tinted dials and stitching, light-coloured dashboard accents and LED-embellished lights add an upmarket feel.
But this is a rational purchase. The Yaris Hybrid lacks the zestiness of some other super-frugal superminis, and prioritises thriftiness over thrills. The CVT gearbox makes the engine groan under load and while it’s able to keep pace with traffic it’s not a car that invites spirited driving.
It is manouevrable though, with a low centre of gravity from the battery meaning minimal body roll, and steering is sharp.
Drivers seeking the best bits of Yaris and Prius ownership will find few faults here, providing performance is low on their priorities.
Yaris Hybrid buyers will 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.