Even with the greatly accelerated shift towards full electrification that has defined so much of the automotive conversation over the past few years, the Yaris remains one of only a tiny handful of hybrid superminis currently on sale.
It counts full-hybrid versions of the latest Honda Jazz and Renault Clio as its only direct rivals. And even as all-electric superminis become increasingly popular, it isn’t surprising to see the staunchly pro-hybrid Toyota stick with a blend of petrol and electric power, but to refine and improve it extensively.
This time around, the Yaris’s hybrid powertrain is based on a new three-cylinder 1.5-litre Atkinson cycle atmospheric petrol engine that’s related to the 2.0-litre four-cylinder block found in the latest Corolla and C-HR hybrid models. It’s hooked up to two electric motor/ generators, which make up a new and more compact hybrid transaxle transmission along with a CVT-like epicyclic power splitter.
The motor/generators draw and return their power from a new 178V lithium ion drive battery. The hybrid powertrain’s ‘total system’ power output is 114bhp (that’s 16% more than the old Yaris developed) and it’s directed to the front wheels. Leaving the GR Yaris hot version firmly to one side, the hybrid system is the only engine option that Toyota will offer in the car.
The new Yaris is the first global Toyota model to sit on the Japanese firm’s new TNGA-B modular architecture and it reaps impressive improvements in both the packaging and styling departments. It is 55mm shorter than its predecessor at the kerb but also has a roofline some 40mm lower, largely banishing the mini-MPV-like proportions that made the second- and third-generation cars ungainly, while it also has a wheelbase that’s some 50mm longer.
Combined with an increase in track width worth as much as 57mm, these dimensional changes promise a cabin that builds on the ‘small car, big interior’ identity that has historically been one of the Yaris’s key strengths, as well as a chassis to demonstrate significant dynamic improvements.
MacPherson front struts and a rear torsion beam serve as suspension, as is typical of today’s supermini class. Our lower-mid specification Design-trim test car rode on 16in alloy wheels, although sportier configurations get 17in rims and a firmer suspension set-up right out of the box.