Toyota’s decision to hold the European launch of the Yaris Hybrid in the picturesque region near Amsterdam is not a coincidence. This part of the world is not only known for its pushbikes and canals, it’s also a shining example of an environmentally progressive metropolis – a fitting venue to drive the first B-segment car with Hybrid Synergy Drive.
Designed to offer 'agility and sophistication' and previewed in concept form by the Yaris HSD in 2011, the third generation Yaris has traded its eco-box identity for a more modern, angular character. Its faster, steeply raked windscreen, set back A-pillars, sharply rising beltline and pronounced boneline create a dynamic presence, whilst the aggressive DRG with trapezoidal lower grille are symbols of Toyota’s new design language.
In contrast to the playful, rounded aesthetic of the previous Yaris, the front-end design effectively brings the new car in line with other models in the Toyota range. These signature elements are joined by contoured wheelarches, which give the car its strong stance, while a lightcatcher visually reduces its overall height.
A more distinct offering than its conventionally powered counterpart, the Yaris Hybrid’s unique design features include blue hybrid-specific badging, revised front bumpers with teardrop-like foglamp housings, intricate projector-style headlamps with LED daytime running lamps and clear lenses covering the LED-equipped taillamps.
The Hybrid model also has a 20mm longer front overhang to accommodate the electric motor and a series of aerodynamic improvements, which optimizes airflow above and beneath the car to return a class leading 0.28Cd figure.
The Yaris’ Hybrid Synergy Drive system mates a 1.5-litre petrol engine – based on the second-generation Prius unit – to a compact electric motor, transaxle inverter and nickel metal hydride battery pack. While the engine itself is said be six percent more thermally efficient, Toyota’s engineers reduced the size and weight of each hybrid component, bringing total weight down to 201kg – an impressive 42kg saving over that of the Auris system.
The battery pack – 20% smaller than the Auris’ and with a 67% shorter state-of-charge recovery time – has been fitted below the rear seat to optimize weight distribution and prevent intrusion into the cabin and boot. Combined with its capable chassis, the battery placement allows a low centre of gravity which makes the Yaris Hybrid feel composed whilst cornering.
Operating in fully electric mode below 30mph, the drive to decrease NVH levels is evident in the transition to petrol power. But even through the Netherlands’ low speed limits, smooth road surfaces and largely flat terrain, the engine note proved coarse when pushed – an unfortunate drawback of the efficiency-optimised CVT transmission pairing.
Over the course of our drive, the Yaris Hybrid returned an impressive 3.9 litre/100km fuel efficiency figure (roughly 72mpg) – slightly less than Toyota’s claimed 3.1 l/100km but bettering economy figures of the Honda Jazz Hybrid, its chief competitor.
The Yaris’ interior – as spacious as the conventionally powered model thanks to its battery placement – belies its compact exterior dimensions. A traditional binnacle set up in front of the driver serves to enhance the cabin’s width while the tiered IP and contrasting colourways contribute to a more spacious feel. Detailing also helps to elevate perceived quality: the IP upper, for example, is made of recyclable plastic and is brushed and textured rather than plain, whilst the door panels and dash board feature soft-touch, subtly textured inserts.
As with the exterior, the Yaris Hybrid’s individual identity is accentuated through instruments that are set within silver rings and backlit in blue and white - blue stitching on the handbrake and seats, blue highlights in the seat fabric and a blue gear selector knob.
The interior layout proved to be ergonomically superior to its predecessor during our drive, with all controls within easy reach and small stowage areas easily accessible, though there are far fewer than in the original. A centrally mounted screen displays all of the vehicle’s infotainment functions and is intuitive and easy to use.
Offered at £14,995 for entry-level T3 models, which come well equipped with a multitude of standard features, the Yaris Hybrid’s price point is competitive with its main rivals – namely the Jazz Hybrid, and Ford Econetic and VW Polo Bluemotion diesels.
Designers have done well to give the B-segment car more dynamic presence and disguise the interior materials, heightening the levels of perceived quality in the cabin. But they’ve also worked well with engineers to optimise the hybrid model’s packaging to ensure it will resonate with consumers unwilling to sacrifice practicality for economy. As a result, the Yaris Hybrid is a well-conceived product from the Japanese automaker hell-bent on offering a hybrid-powered vehicle in every model range.
Toyota Yaris Hybrid T4
E-CVT (electric continuously variable) transmission
73bhp @ 4800rpm. Electric motor: 59bhp / Max combined power: 98bhp
111Nm @ 3600-4400rpm. Electric motor: 169Nm
103mph top speed
79g/km CO2 emissions
Photography by Eric Gallina
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