What is it?
Toyota has taken the drivetrain from the previous generation Toyota Prius and squeezed it into the popular Toyota Yaris, making it the smallest hybrid on the market. With emissions of just 79g/km, it is also among the lowest carbon emitting new cars on sale in the UK, and has a claimed combined economy figure of 80.7mpg.
Under the bonnet, you’ll find a 1.5-litre petrol engine and an electric motor sandwiched next to each other. These give a combined 98bhp and 125lb ft of torque, transferred to the front wheels via an epicyclic torque split. Batteries for the electric motor live under the rear seats and are charged during braking and by the petrol engine.
Despite all the extra tech, the only defining features externally are some ‘Hybrid’ badges, new front and rear bumpers, new headlights and black LED taillights. The Yaris Hybrid is the same size and weight as normal fossil fuel powered versions.
What is it like?
Pleasant. The green ‘ready’ light is the only clue you’ll have to the Yaris Hybrid being on when you first start a journey. Slot it into ‘D’ and you waft away silently with only the electric motor providing power. Even when the petrol engine starts, the Yaris Hybrid is a superbly quiet place to be.
Driving the Yaris is effortless, as to be expected from a car bought mostly by 60-something females. Everything is where you would expect to find it with big, easy-to-read dials and touch screen sat nav taking centre stage. The instruments are lit with a blue aura rippling outwards from the centre, but the dash itself isn’t so flashy, largely covered in a dark grey, grained plastic but lightened somewhat by bright white inserts. Although some of the materials seem a little cheap, there is no denying that this cabin has been built to exacting standards, feeling solid throughout.
Down by the handbrake lie two buttons, ‘Eco mode’ and ‘EV mode’. Providing you have enough charge, ‘EV mode’ allows you to drive silently on the electric motor, but only with the gentlest of throttle movements and below 25mph. Push the throttle anything past a third of its travel and you’ll hear the engine start up to boost power.
The batteries for driving that electric motor live under the rear seats and, although they don’t eat into boot space, they do protrude into the rear legroom. Passengers in the rear will notice the awkward bulge pressing against the backs of their legs in an otherwise spacious and comfortable car.
Toyota has done a terrific job with the ride and handling. The chassis is direct, steering light and car stable, even in the strongest of winds and heaviest of rain. Potholes are barely felt by occupants and around town, and the drivetrain allows for almost silent if sedate progress.
Venture out of town and the Yaris has enough power to maintain progress at the cost of some refinement. The CVT-like gearbox makes for constant high-revving from the engine when building speed to join a motorway, overtake or accelerate uphill. It’s made all the more noticeable by this car’s near-silent EV mode driving and can come at quite a shock.
Acceleration isn’t this car’s strong point. You’ll be waiting 11.8 seconds before reaching 60mph from rest, with peak power being delivered in a noisy, slightly strained fashion. You quickly learn how to get the best from this car’s engine set-up and how to avoid the sound of a revving engine, but as most buyers will be using this car around town, you’ll enjoy mostly silent travel. And economical travel, too. 80mpg isn’t realistic in our test experience, but 60mpg certainly is - if you familiarise yourself with the car’s regenerative braking and keep your usage mostly urban.
Should I buy one?
Yes - if you are in the market for a small hatchback for town use and economy features highly amongst your priorities. Although £16,995 isn’t cheap, the generous kit levels and low running costs of the Yaris cushion the blow.
Supermini hybrids are still rare, but they make strong sense – and this is a good one. Small cars are still most commonly brought with petrol engines, as you’ll never see the true economy out of a diesel around town. Add an electric motor into the mix and you’ve got a car that can perform silently, effortlessly and cleanly, and particularly efficiently where small cars are most often used.
Toyota Yaris Hybrid T Spirit
Price: £16,995; 0-62mph: 11.8sec; Top speed: 103mph; Economy: 76.3mpg); CO2: 85g/km; Kerb weight: 1085kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1497cc, petrol, plus electric motor; Combined power: 98bhp: Torque: 82lb ft (petrol engine), 125 lb ft (electric motor); Gearbox: CVT