Squeezing the Hybrid Synergy Drive into the titchy Yaris was a next logical step for Toyota, which, after more than a decade of fighting the corner for petrol-electric cars, has more than proved its point.
The new 2012 Toyota Yaris Hybrid is the first ever B-segment car to offer full hybrid technology and since the Yaris is the biggest selling Toyota in Europe (2.5 million Since 1999, 368,000 of them in the UK) promises to put more people into hybrids than ever before. Why? Because this version will be no niche product. Toyota reckons 20% of all Yaris sales will go to the Hybrid and it’s spending £3m on advertising in the UK alone to make sure they do.
Check out our Best Hybrids and Plug-In Electric cars list
What’s the 2012 Toyota Yaris Hybrid like to drive?
The Yaris Hybrid gets the tried and trusted Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive but completely re-engineered to fit the smaller car. That means a fully automatic transmission which balances power from the electric motor and engine on a continuously variable basis, with a pure EV mode which can last for up to 1.2 miles or up to 31mph and automatically kicks in from rest.
Accelerate firmly and the engine wails in true CVT fashion but the powertrain is refined and in EV only mode, virtually silent. There’s nothing happening at rest either, so all-in-all the Yaris Hybrid delivers a serene driving experience ideal for urban commutes. The Hybrid handles solidly and corners flat thanks partly to a low centre of gravity but it’s no hot hatch so don’t expect fireworks.
The hybrid drive is arguably the most sophisticated version of the system yet and tailored to suit the way people drive in the real world. So serious energy recovery doesn’t begin in earnest until you touch the brake, rather than showing marked retardation when you lift. Performance is fairly modest, with 0-62mph taking 11.8 seconds while top speed is 103mph.
How about the interior of the Yaris Hybrid?
Seats are comfortable and there’s ample leg and headroom in the back. The boot is good enough for a couple of cabin bags or shopping and the seats fold forward as usual to carry bigger loads. There are three trim levels: T3, T4 and T Spirit sporting slightly higher levels of equipment at each step and part leather upholstery at the top end.
The two higher levels get touch screen control but none get sat-nav as standard. Instruments are simple with a large speedo, fuel gauge and the ‘hybrid system indicator’ to show power use and more important, regeneration.
Is it safe?
The safety of the Toyota Hybrid System is well proven and the Yaris has a five-star Euro NCAP rating. All versions are equipped with seven airbags including twin-chamber front airbags and a driver’s knee airbag as well as ABS, EBD, brake assist, stability control and we couldn’t suppress a chuckle at traction control.
How about the technical stuff on the new Toyota Yaris Hybrid?
The Hybrid differs from the standard Yaris with a new frontal treatment and smoother underbody. This was done partly to improve cooling but also to achieve a class-leading drag coefficient of 0.286.
The size of the DOHC Atkinson cycle engine has been reduced back down to the original 1497cc from the current Prius size of 1797cc and is 50mm shorter. The engine produces 73bhp at 4,800rpm and 82lb ft torque from 3600rpm-4400rpm. The electric motor, inverter and NiMH battery pack are all smaller and lighter than before though the battery is more efficient than that of the Yaris and recharges more quickly.
It also fits neatly under the rear seat without pinching any interior space. The electric motor can potentially develop 60bhp and 125lb ft torque but the most power you’ll ever see from the two combined is 98bhp. The engine and electric motor drive through a power split device which automatically apportions the power from each in the most economical way.
Does it deliver?
In a word, yes. The combined consumption figure is 80.7mpg and with two blokes in the car we managed a best over one route of 78.5mpg, which is a lot closer than you can get to official figures in some cars. The official urban figure shoots up to 91.1 mpg because of the advantage given by the hybrid drive.
CO2 is 79g/km combined on the 15-inch wheel and 85g/km on the 16-inch wheel available on the upper two trim levels. Prices start at £14,995 for the base model rising to £16,995 for the T Spirit. Best seller should be the £15,895, T4.
Do we like it?
It’s hard not to. Although the wailing CVT power delivery is a real thrill-killer as always, the Yaris Hybrid is such a clever package and promises genuinely frugal motoring. It doesn’t deliver the raw driving pleasure that other conventional cars might but it’s roomy and relaxing to drive and is the ideal urban commuter or second car. Perhaps best of all, it’s a hybrid that doesn’t look weird.