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Review: The Toyota Yaris Hybrid is a one-of-a-kind small hybrid for city living

Looking for a hybrid supermini that’s great around the city? The Toyota Yaris could be the car for you.

Image: Dave Humphreys

WITH BOTH BMW and Volvo recently announcing that all their future models will have some sort of electric powertrain, this seemed the perfect time to review the updated Toyota Yaris Hybrid. This small hybrid is beginning to look like one of the most sensible cars you can buy if you live in an urban/suburban area.

The Toyota Yaris Hybrid is in a unique position in that it hasn’t got many – if any – rivals. It strikes me as odd that there aren’t more hybrid superminis as superminis are perfect for urban dwellers and so are hybrid powertrains.

It seems like a no-brainer to combine the two – and yet Toyota is the only major manufacturer to offer a small hybrid car.

Source: Dave Humphreys

The Yaris Hybrid offers the same compact dimensions, roomy cabin and easy-to-drive attributes of the regular Yaris. However, if we compare the five-door Yaris in Luna spec to the five-door Yaris Hybrid in Luna spec, the hybrid boasts lower emissions (75 vs 109g/km), cheaper tax (€170 vs €190) and better fuel economy (3.3 litres/100km vs 4.8 litres/100km) – or 85.6mpg vs 58.8mpg for those who like to keep it old school.

On the downside, the hybrid is more expensive at €20,575 compared to €18,995 for the 1.5-litre petrol Luna model with the manual gearbox. However, if you drive 30,000km a year, you’ll recoup that difference in just over two and a half years based on the quoted mpg.

Source: Dave Humphreys

The hybrid also has another advantage over the regular model in that it has been fitted with new engine mounts to reduce vibration and it has a slightly different suspension setup that includes changes to the dampers. These give the hybrid a smoother ride making the ride quality a little bit better than in the regular petrol Yaris.

The hybrid powertrain is a downsized version of the petrol-electric combination that you find in the Prius. Under the bonnet are two power sources, a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a permanent magnet synchronous motor. Combined, the power output is 100hp, but it feels less. The drivetrain is mated to an automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Source: Dave Humphreys

The Yaris is a full hybrid meaning the two power sources can work together to drive the vehicle or can each be used in isolation. The Yaris Hybrid can disengage the petrol engine entirely and run solely on battery power in EV mode for 2km up to a speed of 50km/h. That means it is perfect for the crawling speeds experienced in most Irish cities.

When the battery runs down the petrol engine seamlessly kicks in and takes over the propulsion. The petrol engine then drives the generator to recharge the battery.

The battery also recharges through regenerative braking – every time you brake or lift off the throttle, the system diverts energy back to the battery where it is used to power the electric motor later.

Source: Dave Humphreys

Travelling in EV mode means zero tailpipe emissions, however its electric-only range isn’t as long as that of a larger plug-in hybrid.

The one downside to the Yaris Hybrid is how it behaves once you get on to the open road. The wind and road noise increase a lot and the car doesn’t feel as comfortable or capable on the motorway as on the city streets. The fuel economy isn’t as impressive either. It is a small car whose natural environment is the concrete jungle.

Source: Dave Humphreys

Stick to the city and suburbs and the light steering makes easy work of parking and other manoeuvres, as does the small turning circle. Small lumps and bumps are well absorbed and the car feels very compliant, if a little unexciting.

The Fiesta is a more exciting drive but the Yaris is more practical and spacious. And while the C3 is more stylish and the Polo is more refined, both come with a slightly higher price tag to get the same amount of power and equipment levels. And all three competitors cost more to run.

Source: Dave Humphreys

Overall, the Yaris is one of the best selling superminis in Ireland and for good reason – it is practical, robust and well kitted out.

But add to this a hybrid powertrain and it becomes even more appealing, especially to those who live in more urban areas. It is one of the most sensible superminis you can buy especially when you consider the future of city driving and the prospect of selling the car on in a few years.

READ: Driver dilemma: What car safety features should I look for in a new car? >

READ: Review: The new Ford Fiesta has grown up. But has it gone soft? >

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About the author:

Melanie May  /

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