Toyota Yaris Hybrid
By Bill McCarthy
It should come as no surprise to see Toyota breaking new ground again with hybrid technology. Its expertise is built on more than 20 years’ experience since the introduction of the first Prius back in 1997.
The firm has now sold more than 14 million hybrid vehicles worldwide – including 2.5 million in Europe. The Yaris has more than played its part, first going hybrid in 2012, and selling half a million in Europe, but the latest model is a quantum leap forward.
Yaris has gone all-in hybrid, together with it being built on the firm’s small car Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA), which, says Toyota, has improved dynamic performance together with class leading safety measures.
The new petrol engine/electric motor setup has a 15 per cent increase in combined power and a more than 20 per cent increase in fuel efficiency and can be switched a the touch of a button to electric for a fair amount of time in urban areas, delivering zero emissions. The system also uses a new lithium-ion hybrid battery which while being more powerful, is 27 per cent lighter than the nickel-metal hydride battery it replaces.
It also looks good, one of the best looking superminis, that is both practical and perfect for tackling the challenges of city or congested driving areas. As ever its even more compact size means it is highly manoeuvrable and a breeze to park in tight streets, aided by standard parking camera.
Starting at a hefty price tag of a smidge under £20k you get plenty for your cash with even the entry Icon, featuring electric windows and door mirrors, 16-inch alloys, a seven-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a reversing camera, auto headlights and wipers and air-con.
The goodies increase though Design, Dynamic to the Excel, with the likes of 17-inch wheels, eight-inch screen, button starter, dual zone climate control, parking sensors and for added safety, auto-braking. This limited edition model had a few more cherries on the top head-up display and premium sound system.
For a small car it has striking looks, being shorter, wider and lower than the outgoing model. It features a sporty wedge shape, with sculpted door panels, deep grille and air scoop flanked by cats-eye-like headlamp clusters, with LEDs which double as indicators.
To the rear, classy touches include privacy glass and discrete black spoiler.
This limited edition range topper also included striking two-tone red with black roof paintwork, body-coloured door handles and front bumper, piano Black upper front grille, privacy glass, red insert on boot door and piano black door belt moulding.
Inside there are plenty of soft touch materials with piano black finish and a more compact steering wheel, while the instrumentation is clearly and logically laid out. The centrepiece is the multi-media screen which is the brains of the car, together with a TFT multi-information display in the instrument binnacle which can help monitor EV activity.
The 10-inch touchscreen on this model controls infotainment and smartphone connectivity, but, oddly, there was no navigation. However hooking up your smartphone can add navigation through the screen.
Despite its more compact shape, interior space is barely compromised, with headroom remaining the same, although tight in the rear, while the firm’s GA-B platform offers a low centre of gravity which helps deliver an enjoyable and stable drive.
It offers sharp, agile handling and direct steering for bombing around town, while the growl from the three-pot engine is not unpleasant. It is equally at home on the motorway, with plenty of grunt available, while road and wind noise, although noticeably present, are reasonably well suppressed.
The 1.5 litre petrol engine is supplemented by two motor/generators – MG1 and MG2. MG2 is linked to the front wheels and can be used as the power source to drive the vehicle. MG1 is deployed to start the engine and to generate power to charge both batteries (hybrid and 12V).
Mated to the CVT transmission, the combo delivers excellent economy, with the claimed 68-odd mpg proving to be pretty close to the mark. A bonus is the brisk acceleration which propels the car to 60mph in under 10 seconds, while at the same time delivering low carbon emissions.
While the car’s handling delivers an engaging drive, the ride however, feels slightly compromised with 17-inch alloys on this top end model and stiffer suspension allowing for some discomfort over rougher surfaces. It could be the case that the 16-inch alloys could offer a more settled ride.
Stowage capacity is a reasonable 286 litres, so long as you are not planning a camping trip, but if you are, rear seats fold in hatchback fashion to open up extra capacity.
One of the safest small cars around, engineered to be the world’s safest small car says Toyota, it is packed with safety kit and including a full complement of airbags, including a centre airbag for the first time, stability control, intelligent adaptive cruise control and lane assist, pre-collision warning, pedestrian detection, steering control and a host of other features to keep families safe.
Toyota Yaris Hybrid Launch Edition
Price: £ 24,005
Mechanical: 1490cc, 114bhp, three-cylinder petrol engine and 85kW electric motor driving front wheels via electric CVT auto transmission
Maximum speed: 109mph
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds
Economy: 65.6 mpg
Insurance group: 14E
CO2 emissions: 92-98g/km
Warranty: Five years/ 100,000 miles