Yaris hybrid can bridge the gap as we move to the electric era
More powerful and efficient: the new Toyota Yaris hybrid
Form an orderly queue and call me old-fashioned and easily impressed, but I retain a huge sense of awe over the workings of hybrid cars. Isn’t it just genius that a little computer tells and decides what the engine, electric motor and battery do, and when and how?
So instead of taking it for granted — the technology has been around a while now — I reimmersed myself in the wonder of it all with the latest hybrid Yaris from Toyota.
Powering this new generation is a 1.5-litre hybrid system that can work in electric-only mode for up to 80pc of the time in city/urban driving. It didn’t with me because it never got a chance.
With a new lithium-ion battery, the new model is also up to 20pc more efficient and more powerful (16hp up to 116hp — a nice bit of pep for a car of this size).
Still I watched and still the wonder grew at how one small car could do so much without any apparent fuss. A pity other elements could not be as awe-inspiring — and I’ll come to that in a moment.
A central facet of any hybrid is lower fuel consumption and emissions. In the case of the Yaris, improved technology and myriad refinements mean CO2 emissions have dropped to 88g/km (in the higher-spec test car it was 98g/km) and the real-world average fuel economy is an official 3.9 litres/100km (4.3 litres for test car) or 72.4 miles per gallon.
Fantasy? Maybe, though it’s not madly out of reach if you fixatedly ease around city streets taking it terribly easy, but it is out of reach if, like me, you drove a mix of motorway, national road and suburban streets. I reckon if you behave at all, you will get 5 litres/100km (56mpg).
Little things can greatly affect consumption: the few extra bits and pieces on my range-topping Premier-spec car increased official emission figures by 10g/km and 16mpg respectively. Now, if the few add-ons can do that, just imagine how big a role your driving could play in knocking back fuel use. In my hurry to get some hours behind the wheel in these strange times, I didn’t drive it as empathetically as normal but yet I averaged 5.7 litres/100km, which I have to say was impressive under the circumstances.
It reinforced my conviction — growing over the years but particularly strong more recently — of how easy it is to translate careful driving of a hybrid into notably lower fuel consumption.
It’s one of the reasons I remain fascinated with the hybrid concept and the interplay and dependence of engine, battery, motor and driver in getting optimum results. As I’ve already reviewed the internal combustion version (1-litre petrol), I won’t go over old ground. Suffice to say, this new Yaris is a smart-looking supermini. It is a bit roomier than before and in driving terms definitely benefits from its new platform.
But just as it is the little things that can be a positive influence on the technological side, the opposite can be said of another areas.
I found the splatter of little buttons on, in and around the steering wheel and central display to be downright offputting and distracting. The buttons for the likes of volume, cruise control, mode-switch keys are so tiny, dark and badly illustrated they irritated me. How come I didn’t notice all that as much with the previous 1-litre?
I don’t have a straight answer for that other than to suggest that maybe there weren’t as many of them. I don’t know, but it was a problem for me. The central display was grand — so long as I knew which of its two rows of buttons got me what I wanted.
In mitigation, I probably would have become more accustomed to their exact locations if I had more time in the car, but that shouldn’t have to be the case. The whole thing, dash included — in what is a really lovely cabin otherwise — was too dark and cluttered. I acknowledge an impossible conundrum for carmakers. Everyone wants control at their fingertips. But there are so many items to control that the confined space and consequent pin-head protrusions can end up defeating the purpose.
But there are broader perspectives of far greater importance in the Yaris. More people are looking to hybrids, or plug-ins, this year to bridge their transition to a fully electric car next time.
And yes, to answer your imminent question, I would buy this hybrid. I’m not going to let an overdose of buttons put me off. It’s merely a blot on an otherwise fascinating landscape.
Facts & Figures
Toyota Yaris hybrid
From €23,055. Premier tested €25,990.
1.5-litre petrol; systems’ output 116hp, from 88g/km, from 3.9l/100km. Hybrid spec includes Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, lane trace, emergency steering, intersection turn assists; pre-collision system, centre airbags. Depending on trim level, there is a head-up display (Premier) and an 8in display.