Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

No need to look silly

The top attraction of Toyota's Yaris Hybrid, says Jim McCauley, is that it looks like a 'proper' car

Toyota Yaris Hybrid
Toyota Yaris Hybrid

With the addition of the flagship hybrid model to the Yaris range, Toyota can claim the only car in its segment to offer a choice of petrol, diesel and hybrid powertrains.

The hybrid addition differs from the other models with its stronger front-end styling which introduces the company’s new design signature and adds just 20mm to its overall length.

But more importantly, Toyota has revised its full hybrid powertrain so that it can be installed without diminishing its performance or encroaching on the passenger and luggage room of the standard car. The 1.5 litre engine is mated to a more compact electric motor and battery pack than in the Auris Hybrid, in a car that is being marketed as a mainstream model rather than as a niche product. Competitive pricing further reinforces its mainstream positioning with expectations of 20% of all Yaris European sales.

At start-up and lower speeds, the vehicle runs in electric-only mode while power allocation in normal driving conditions is constantly metered between the engine and electric motor to maximise performance and fuel efficiency. Driving through its constantly variable transmission (CVT), the Yaris Hybrid can reach 62mph (100km/h) from rest in 11.8 seconds with the potential to cross into three-figure higher speeds.

On road, and the car moves off silently — and sharply — able to reach 30mph in just four seconds. As the engine cuts in, there is little discernable increase in noise and the car continues to maintain its refinement right up to higher road speeds.

Much work has been done to lighten and revise the engine over the previous generation version used in the Prius, and the same with the electrical side, so it comes as no surprise to find the car’s handling comfortably on par with the two other engine options. The only downside is the over-revving of the engine as the CVT chases higher ratios when the throttle is floored for sharper acceleration. However, Toyota claims that this historic CVT problem has been addressed in this application and the over-revving has been limited compared to what it might have been.

Instrumentation is clear and concise with power balance graphics included, while audio controls on the two higher specification models are courtesy of a central touchscreen. Across the range, integrated satellite navigation is optional but unfortunately the screen is too low for safe reading in busy traffic.

Interior accommodation is roomy with comfortable four-seater space and a 286-litre boot, extendable through the folding rear seats, provides adequate carrying volume for a car of this size.

But the ultimate attraction of the Hybrid is that it looks like a ‘proper’ car and hopefully persuades other manufacturers that hybrids and electric vehicles don’t for some unexplained reason have to look seriously silly. This also confirms Toyota’s conviction that the hybrid derivative is a mainstream model reinforced by its sensible pricing and low running costs.

Trim-wise, the car is available in Toyota’s familiar range of T3, T4 and T Spirit options with prices starting at £14,995 and stepping through on approximately £1,000 increments. Standard T3 equipment is very good and includes seven airbags, vehicle stability control, dual-zone air conditioning, electric front windows and six-speaker audio equipment. Popular seller will be the T4 which adds 15-inch alloys, Bluetooth connectivity with auxiliary media sockets, DAB radio, rear view camera and leather trimmed steering wheel.

Overall, the Yaris Hybrid is testament to Toyota’s commitment to dual-powered vehicles and their successful positioning as the world’s most prolific producer of hybrid technology.

As with the larger Auris, it integrates the power option into an established model range and extends customer choice where economy and environmental protection are important considerations. Officially the model can aim for a fuel consumption of over 70mpg in mixed driving, and keeping the test vehicle in its standard drive setting (an Eco choice is also available) I was able to achieve 65mpg, underwriting the potential of the car.

With a CO2 emissions of under 85gms/km, all trim options are in Band A for zero annual car tax, and for company car users it qualifies for the lowest possible benefit-in-kind rating of 10%.

The Toyota Yaris has a five-star EuroNCAP crash test rating and is covered by the company’s five-year/100,000 mile warranty with further extended battery cover.

Toyota Yaris Hybrid

Engine: 1.5 litre, four-cylinder petrol, producing 73bhp at 4,800rpm.

Electric motor: 520 volts maximum, producing a maximum 59bhp (45kW)

Maximum combined output: 98bhp.

Drive: Via continuously variable transmission to front wheels.

Performance: 0-62mph (100km/h) in 11.8 seconds; max, 103mph (165km/h).

Fuel on combined cycle: 76.3 mpg ( 3.7 l/100km).

CO2: 85 gms/km; VED Band A for zero annual car tax.

Trim: T Spirit.

Price: £15,895.

Insurance: ABI group 7.

Warranty: Five-year/100,000 miles, 12 years’ anti-corrosion cover and one-year full AA membership.

Benefit-in-Kind: 10%.

Euro NCAP: Five star.

Available extras: Metallic paint, £495; Touch and Go satellite navigation, £650; Protection Plus Pack, £525; panoramic roof, £650.

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