Others have since joined the hybrid design trail but it was Toyota who paved the way with their Prius – a car that’s beloved by “My other car is a Porsche” Hollywood stars and other celebrities seeking green credentials.
Now the Japanese company is rolling out hybrid versions of vehicles right across both its Toyota and Lexus ranges. Latest to hit the streets is the Toyota Yaris Hybrid, the only car in its market segment to be offered in petrol, diesel and full hybrid variants.
With more than two-million units sold since the first generation model was launched in 1999, the Yaris has established itself as the brand’s European market best-seller.
With impressive fuel economy, low environmental impact, strong acceleration, great manoeuvrability and electric vehicle capability, the hybrid version is ideally suited for urban driving but it is no slouch out on the open road either.
Toyota’s engineers have put a lot of work into downsizing the hybrid powertrain, combining the re-engineered 1.5-litre petrol engine with a much lighter and more compact electric transaxle, inverter and power pack. Fuel consumption is a highly impressive 80.7-mpg.
The hybrid can cover a high proportion of its urban journeys in electric mode, with its petrol engine witched off – providing the key to those low fuel consumption figures and low emissions too.
The space-saving powerplant design means there’s been no need to impinge on either passenger or boot space.
With a lead-in on-the-road price of £14,995, the Yaris Hybrid is not expensive to buy and it is certainly economical to run – a sensible answer to ever-rising pump prices and the need to respect the environment. But is it fun to drive?
Well, my test vehicle came with an automatic gearbox – something I normally hate in a small car. In this car it worked brilliantly adding extra convenience to vehicle that, with good handling qualities, a tight turning circle and nicely geared steering, scores highly in the driveability stakes.
The maker insists this is not a mere niche model and is expecting it to account for 20 per cent of Yaris sales going forward.
Battling with GM to be the world’s largest car manufacturer, there’s a strong European element to their activities – the company’s Auris Hybrid is built in the UK while the new Yaris Hybrid is rolling out of the Toyota Motor Manufacturing France factory. There will be a total of five Toyota hybrid models on our streets by year’s end.