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Toyota Yaris Hybrid review (2012 onwards)
What: Toyota Yaris Hybrid
Where: Amsterdam, Holland
Date: May 2012
Price: £14,995 - £16,995
Available: July 2012
Key rivals: Ford Fiesta Econetic, Honda Jazz Hybrid, Hyundai i20, Kia Rio
Summary: Toyota introduces the first full hybrid supermini with its new Yaris Hybrid. Efficient, comfortable and practical, but not the most inspiring to drive.
We like: Superb efficiency claims, sharp styling, roomy cabin
We don't like: Noisy, droning engine note, lazy CVT transmission
The Toyota Yaris Hybrid is the first full petrol-electric vehicle in the supermini segment and the cheapest hybrid on sale in the UK today.
Distinguishing it from its more conventional stablemates, there is new blue badging and a smattering of extra logos, while changes to the aerodynamics make it sharper, more aggressive looking and striking overall.
The battery pack is cleverly located
Under the skin, Toyota has worked hard tomaintain all the practicality of the standard car. The electric motor has been squeezed under the bonnet alongside a 1.5-litre petrol engine, while the battery pack is cleverly located under the rear seats, meaning the Hybrid retains all 286 litres of boot space.
At £14,995 it's the cheapest petrol-electric vehicle on the market, but with cars such as the Ford Fiesta Econetic 1.6 turbodiesel boasting similar emissions, power output and spec - as well as superior driving dynamics - for only £500 more, the Yaris Hybrid has its work cut out.
The hybrid Yaris isn't so much about outright performance, more what you can do with not very much. The car's 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine delivers 73hp, but is supplemented by a 59hp electric motor. Working together they give a combined total output of 98hp, an 11.8-second 0-62mph time and a top speed of 103mph.
The electric motor will power the car alone at speeds of up to 50kph (around 30mph) and makes for serene progress. With no engine noise to mask any trim rattles or wind rush, refinement at such low speeds is good.
Stray above 50kph or ask for more power than the electric motor can deliver and the car's engine fires into life - there's no starter motor or alternator to save weight and the changeover to fossil fuelled power is smooth.
If you demand everything the Yaris' engine has to give, you'll be met by a raucous uninspiring drone. The only transmission option is a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) gearbox, which holds the engine's revs at the optimum point for the type of driving you require.
The brakes also some getting used to
It's great around town when you want to trouble the motor as little as possible, and it's quiet too. But accelerating on a country road or motorway, the gearbox sends the revs flaring - taking a while to respond to your throttle inputs - and holds them there until you back off at your desired speed. Not pleasant at all.
The car's brakes also take some getting used to. The pedal gives little feel - the first 50 per cent of travel uses the electric motor in reverse to harness energy and slow the car - with the all-round disc setup only called upon when firmer braking is needed.
Ride and handling
The Yaris Hybrid's ride is impressively mature. Even on the range-topping T Spirit model's 16-inch alloys, Amsterdam's many speed bumps and traffic calming measures - as well as bumpy brick-paved streets - were dealt with convincingly.
The handling is safe and not particularly entertaining, but is pitched well given the type of driving most Yaris Hybrid owners will take in. It's not on the same level as a Ford Fiesta, but it's not bad.
The steering gives a decent degree of feedback but has far too much self-centring effect, which means it always wants to return to the straight ahead, giving an odd spongy feeling when trying to subtly adjust lock.
Around town it's well geared allowing for quick manoeuvres - exactly what you want in a supermini.
The blue theme is continued throughout the cabin, with blue backlighting for the dials and switchgear. It looks cool in every sense of the word and compliments the colour and texture combos of the interior.
Some pieces of flimsy and scratchy trim
There's and odd faux-wood black plastic for the dash and door cards, interspersed with a space-age crinkly white cloth - it doesn't sound the most interesting to look at or touch, but it works well. There are still some pieces of flimsy and scratchy plastic trim, however.
It's a roomy cabin with good ergonomics and the top-spec car's touchscreen sat-nav is easy to use, even if the display isn't the highest resolution. There's decent head and legroom in the rear too, and you'd certainly be able to carry four passengers comfortably.
Economy and safety
Toyota claims the Yaris Hybrid will yield efficiency of 80.7mpg with just 79g/km CO2 emissions for the T3 and T4 trim levels (top-spec T Spirit guise emits 85g/km CO2).
According to the trip computer, we managed a more than respectable 74.3mpg combined on an eco run and average fuel economy of 62.8mpg when actively trying to up the fuel consumption - still impressive figures indeed.
Equipped against alterations to road tax
Toyota feels those lowly emissions mean the Yaris Hybrid is equipped against potential alterations to road tax and the London Congestion Charge banding in the future too, hopefully helping it to remain under the threshold if it were to be lowered.
Despite the addition of batteries under the rear seat, the Yaris still scores a full five-start Euro NCAP safety rating. Seven airbags come fitted as standard, too.
The MSN Cars verdict
The Yaris Hybrid is a good car, but to buy one you'd really have to want a hybrid supermini and be able to drive it to the car's strengths.
Around town the powertrain is at its sweetest and is where the hybrid technology will deliver savings. Motorway journeys will sap fuel economy more than in a conventional small frugal diesel, though.
Which is where the Yaris Hybrid's limitations come in. It's a well thought out and well executed car; it just lacks that last layer of polish. Although it might be slightly cheaper and will cost slightly less to run in fuel, it doesn't have the breadth of ability that a Ford Fiesta Econetic possesses.
Need to know
Engines, petrol: 1.5
Engines, diesel: n/a
Power: Petrol engine: 73hp, electric motor: 59hp, max combined output: 98hp
Torque: Petrol engine: 82lb ft, electric motor: 124lb ft
0-62mph: 11.8 secs
Top speed: 103mph
MPG combined: 80.7mpg
CO2, Tax: 79g/km, 10% BiK
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