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Toyota Yaris Hybrid car review

31 May 2012 by Paul Clarke

The Toyota Yaris Hybrid - the first full hybrid supermini Eco Facts

Model/Engine size: 1.5 HSD

Fuel: Petrol-electric hybrid

Fuel economy combined: 80.7 mpg

Beating Spirit Rating: 9/10

Introducing the Yaris Hybrid

The Toyota Yaris Hybrid is the first full hybrid in the supermini sector, promising an excellent 80.7mpg and super-low emissions of just 79g/km CO2 – so is a hybrid supermini a formula that makes sense?

• First full hybrid supermini

• Super-low emissions of just 79g/km CO2

• Extremely high levels of potential economy: 80.7mpg

• The best Yaris by far, and makes complete sense as a city car, but it is expensive

People generally associate Toyota as the inventor, and still the leader, in the world of hybrid cars due to the Prius . We’ve also had the Toyota Auris hybrid , a family hatch-sized offering, using the same technology as the Prius. Now we’ve got the Toyota Yaris Hybrid, the first supermini hybrid.

It uses similar technology to the Prius and Auris, but the hybrid system has been downsized. Many manufacturers have been taking the view that hybrid technology is too expensive to make it work on a small car, but Toyota is out to prove otherwise.

Rear view of the Toyota Yaris Hybrid

Side view of Yaris Hybrid
Design & Engineering

The Toyota Yaris was launched last year as a conventionally-engined supermini , in 1.0 and 1.3-litre petrol engine form, and with a 1.4-litre diesel. The new hybrid model uses a 1.5-litre petrol engine mated to an electric motor that’s powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery. The petrol engine and the electric motor work together with the aim of delivering optimum efficiency. The petrol engine is an Atkinson cycle engine which is ideal in terms of its efficiency for working with a hybrid system. The rest of the car is largely unchanged from the standard Yaris, including in the area of packaging and space – in other words the hybrid system, which has been shrunk (it’s 20% lighter than that in the Auris Hybrid) doesn’t encroach into the car, as the additional technology is either under the bonnet or under the rear seat (the fuel tank and hybrid battery are located here). So unlike some hybrids, the boot space is not reduced.

There’s also new frontal styling, which does make the Hybrid version look better. The interior design remains largely unchanged; it’s reasonably spacious, but we’re not huge fans of the plastics on the dash, as they look rather cheap.

Hybrid Toyota Yaris

toyota-yaris-hybrid-005.jpg Driving Experience

We have to admit that we’re not keen on the driving experience of the regular petrol-powered Yaris – the main thing that defines it is the revviness of the car – and that’s with both the manual transmission and the CVT. This contributes to a feeling of a lack of refinement and quality. So we were hoping that the hybrid powertrain would transform the Yaris into a different, much better car – and it does. This is strange, because the CVT transmission still remains – so if you need to accelerate to overtake a slow moving vehicle, you floor the accelerator, the noise from the increased engine revs rises to unprecedented levels, and very little increase in the rate of forward progress occurs.

However, for the majority of the driving time in the Yaris Hybrid, when you’re not needing to accelerate vigorously, the hybrid is a much more refined and high quality experience. One reason for this is that the car will try and travel in zero emission mode for as much time as possible, so at standstill, and when setting off from standstill – when the standard Yaris gets very revvy – you’re invariably being propelled in zero-emission mode by the electric motor in the hybrid; so life is quiet and smooth, in other words a huge improvement over the standard car.

Aside from the powertrain, the chassis and steering elements of the Yaris Hybrid driving experience are moretoyota-yaris-hybrid-006.jpg about comfort rather than fun. Of course, the CVT transmission is not all bad – it’s effectively an auto box, and so is ideal for urban driving.

Economy and Emissions

Scott Brownlee, Toyota and Lexus PR Manager, announced half way through the Yaris Hybrid launch that there would be an eco-driving competition on the following day, and the person that scored the highest economy figure would win a long-term Toyota GT 86 press car. Because Beating Spirit has won many economy drives, and because we think that the Toyotatoyota-yaris-hybrid-007.jpg GT 86 is one of the best driver’s cars in existence (and it does appear in our Beating Spirit ), we were somewhat motivated to aim for a good score in the economy run. However we were driving with motoring journalist legend Jesse Crosse and we didn’t want him to die of boredom, so the car was driven carefully, but at no stage was there a mile-long queue of cars behind a Yaris Hybrid travelling at 10mph.

The result was fuel economy of 3.6 litres per 100km – technical man Jesse calculated this to equate to 78.47mpg (282.5 divided by 3.6). This is very close to the official figure of 80.7mpg, and it’s a well-known fact that hybrids such as the Yaris do very well in the official NEDC economy test, but most drivers find it very difficult to come close to the official figures in real-life driving. Granted, the Yaris Hybridtoyota-yaris-hybrid-008.jpg launch was in Holland, which is very flat, but if we could achieve almost 80mpg whilst driving mostly normally, then there’s hope that the average Yaris hybrid buyer could also come close to this figure.

Interestingly, Jesse tried a different driving technique for the next stage, maintaining progress with minimal braking and acceleration, but this meant that the hybrid system didn’t gain any charge from regenerative braking, and the fuel economy figure dropped, but only slightly.

No-one else appeared to claim that they had bettered our 3.6 litres per 100km result, and we produced photographic evidence of our read-out to prove our victory, so we’re waiting for a delivery date for our GT 86

Interior view of dashboard and steering wheel of Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Left-hand drive in this model as we were testing in Holland.

Price, Equipment and Model Range

Apart from the 1.0 and 1.3-litre petrol Yaris, there’s also a 1.4-litre diesel. Now there’s also the Yaris Hybrid, which is available in three equipment grades: T3 (£14,995), T4 (£15,895), and T Spirit (£16,995).

One important thing to note is that although the official combined cycle fuel consumption is quoted as 80.7mpg, it’s actually 76.3mpg for the T Spirit model, along with CO 2 output of 79g/km, but 85g/km for the T Spirit.

toyota-yaris-hybrid-010.jpg Toyota expects the hybrid to account for 20% of all Yaris sales in Europe. The Yaris Hybrid is available to order now, with customer deliveries from 1 July. The standard Yaris range starts at £10,635, so with the Hybrid starting at £14,995, it’s £4,360 more expensive.

One issue that we did have is that the satnav ceased to work on two occasions, one of which was on the all-important fuel economy run, when we had to do considerable extra mileage, so that’s even more reason for us to win the GT 86.

One of the electronic readouts in the Yaris.

Review and Conclusion

We’re not fans of the petrol-powered Yaris , but the Yaris Hybrid is a car transformed. It’s generally silent at standstill and when moving off from standstill, and this makes it a much better driving experience. We weren’t too sure if a hybrid system would make sense in a supermini, but overall, the hybrid system makes the Yaris a much more refined car. There’s still the issue of the CVT transmission, which results in painfully high revs under hard acceleration, but if you can avoid doing that, then the Yaris Hybrid is a much better car. We’d even go so far as to say that it is ideal for cities such as London – possibly more so than electric cars for many people.

Electric cars still remain a challenge, as most people in London don’t have secure off-street parking to enable them to recharge the car overnight. The Yaris doesn’t need recharging, as it does that itself, and the regenerative braking will provide the car with sufficient electric power to propel it around London on zero emissions for a good proportion of the time. As well as the potential of 80mpg, it not only has low CO2 emissions, but it also has low ‘regulated’ emissions, in other words the emissions that impact so badly on air quality in cities such as London. Of course it’s a small car, with automatic transmission, so it’s ideal for urban use.

The Toyota Yaris Hybrid gets a Beating Spirit rating of 9 out of 10, only really being let down by the CVT transmission, and the relatively large price premium for the hybrid technology, which is likely to take a while to pay back even with its better fuel economy.

Car Facts and Figures – Toyota Yaris Hybrid

Fuel economy extra urban: tbc mpg

Fuel economy urban: tbc mpg

CO2 emissions: 79 g/km

Green rating: VED band A – £0 per year

Weight: TBC Kg

Company car tax liability (2012/13): 10%

Price: £14,995

Insurance group: tbc

Power: 98 bhp

Max speed: 103 mph

0-62mph: 11.8 seconds

Paul Clarke

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