Toyota has its sights on making the hybrid supermini category its own with the new Yaris Hybrid. But is it any good?
What is it?
Toyota has been selling hybrids to us for 15 years now, but they have yet to crack the hybrid supermini market. Meet the Yaris Hybrid – the car that is tasked with making the rather small but fashionably green hybrid small car market its own. It plunges in with an asking price of £15,195 – making it the cheapest full-hybrid on the market – and boasts a number of visual changes which transforms the normally rather dour Yaris into a smart, if funky little car.
What's under the bonnet?
It's a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine which shares rather a lot with the unit found in the previous Toyota Prius. The hybrid system uses a nickel-metal battery, and a smaller electric motor and E-CVT used in Toyota's other hybrid models (Auris and the Prius family) so as to fit neatly in the Yaris. There are three driving modes: Eco, Normal and EV – the former reduces the amount of throttle which can be applied therefore lowering fuel consumption, EV gives pure electric drive while, in Normal, the Yaris Hybrid behaves like a CVT automatic car. Total power is 98bhp and there's 170Nm of torque; combined MPG is 80.7 (our T Spirit test car's was 76.3mpg) and CO2 emissions are 79g/km (our T Spirit's was 85g/km).
What's the kit like?
Yaris Hybrids gain a handful of changes over its conventional-powered sibling. Hybrids get a smarter front end with LED daytime running lights, a hybrid system display, LED rear lights and "hybrid blue" accents and seat fabric. The range starts at £15,195 for the T3 model which boasts climate control and front electric windows. T4 kicks in at £16,095 and adds 15-inch alloys, a rear parking camera, Toyota Touch multimedia system, MP3 and Bluetooth connectivity, while top-draw T Spirit models at £17,195 add 16-inch alloys, part-leather, rear electric windows, a rear spoiler and cruise control.
Like-for-like the only other rival is the Honda Jazz Hybrid but it costs just over £1,000 more – and it's hard to see why. Buyers interested in the Yaris Hybird would also be wise to take a look at the Ford Fiesta ECOmotive and the Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion. Although they are not hybrids, their frugal diesel engines might be a better bet if you're into doing long motorway journeys.
Is it any good?
If you're looking for a fun to drive green supermini, you would do best to look elsewhere. The Yaris Hybrid is very, very slow especially at anything over 50mph, and the CVT gearbox wails painfully at full acceleration. But in the city, it's a real joy. Light steering and good visibility are all great plus points, as is the ability to drive in silence in EV mode in dull stop-start traffic. Handling-wise, amazingly the Hybrid behaves as satisfactorily as the normal Yaris with adequate body control and a comfortable ride.
The AOL Cars verdict
The Yaris is the first Toyota hybrid we would actually consider buying. Unlike the Prius, there's a pleasing simplicity about the Yaris Hybrid. It's well priced too and looks a whole lot better than the normal Yaris. For all-round driving, we'd be tempted to spend our money on a Polo BlueMotion, but if you're looking for a car to take on the city, you would do a lot worse than buy a Yaris Hybrid.
Model: Toyota Yaris Hybrid T Spirit 1.5 VVT-I
Engine: 1.5-litre, petrol electric
Power: 98bhp, 170Nm
Max speed: 103mph
MPG (comb'd): 76.3