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Driven: Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota GB.

Driven: Toyota Yaris Hybrid
You donít need to go full GR to get a magnificent little Yaris. What a supermini this thing is.

   



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Toyota Yaris Hybrid

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: smashing styling, hugely improved hybrid drivetrain, classy cabin, spry chassis, genuinely economical in the real world, full of charisma when previously the Yaris had bugger all of the stuff

Not so good: pricey if you want it in this nice Launch Edition spec, smallish boot, can occasionally feel a bit lost for power

Key Facts

Model tested: Toyota Yaris Hybrid Launch Edition
Price: Yaris range from £19,910; Hybrid Launch Edition from £24,005 as tested; or, Hybrid Launch Edition from £326.69pcm across 36-month/10,000-mile per annum contract with 10 per cent deposit, optional final payment of £10,170 (0% APR representative example)
Engine: 1.5-litre Atkinson-cycle three-cylinder petrol plus 59kW electric motor and 0.76kWh lithium-ion battery pack
Transmission: Electric Continuously Variable Transmission (e-CVT), front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hybrid supermini
CO2 emissions: 98g/km (VED Band 91-100 Alternative Fuel Car: £125 in year one, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 65.6mpg
Top speed: 109mph
0-62mph: 9.7 seconds
Power: petrol 91hp at 5,500rpm, electric motor 80hp, system maximum 116hp
Torque: petrol 120Nm at 3,600rpm, electric motor 141Nm, no system maximum quoted
Boot space: 286-947 litres

Our view:

The Toyota Yaris has never been an exciting car. Worthy, yes, and with a distinct USP of having hybrid power for almost a decade already, but thrilling? No. Not even the short-lived GRMN could do the trick for the nameplate; not that it wasn't a hoot to drive, because it was, but more due to the fact that less than 100 units came to the UK and each one was farcically expensive. So, as a model line, it has lacked for a degree of desirability throughout the entire two decades and more it has been on sale. Furthermore, this particular car's direct predecessor was notably disappointing, teaming a coarse and weedy 1.5-litre petrol-electric drivetrain to the roaring horror of an e-CVT and then mounting the whole lot in a chassis which offered nothing in the way of engagement. It felt off the pace in the supermini segment in 2014, during its midlife facelift, so by the time it shuffled out of production at the tail end of 2019, no one lamented its passing in the slightest.

However, something clearly got into the water at Toyota in the mid-2010s. With the brilliant, turbocharged-trend-bucking and now (sadly) dearly departed GT86 already in place in 2012, the excellent Toyota products started rolling out one after the other, most of them largely predicated on the company's New Global Architecture (TNGA) chassis. This platform served up surprise after most wholly welcome surprise in the Toyota portfolio: the marque managed to do what so many others have failed to, delivering a genuinely fun-to-drive compact crossover; it revitalised the previously lacklustre RAV4 for its fifth outing; even the Corolla, a car to which appending the adjective 'boring' in its previous lives might have been considered on the racy (and generous) side, was revived as a sweet-steering, sharp-suited family hatch; not on TNGA and involving a somewhat awkward bed-sharing experience with BMW, the long-awaited return of the GR Supra was nevertheless an unqualified success; and then, the absolute homologation diamond atop the platinum tiara of this little wave of cars turned up in 2020, sitting on two halves of different TNGA chassis (GA-B front, GA-C rear) and looking like a street thug ready for a brawl.

We all know fine well by now that the mesmerising, stunning and downright outstanding GR Yaris isn't actually a Yaris at all. It shares precisely nothing with this car being reviewed here, save the 'Yaris' nameplate and its lamp clusters. But don't let that put you off the standard model, because the improvements Toyota has made to its formerly underwhelming supermini are so remarkable that this instantly becomes one of the very finest things in this class.

For starters, it looks fantastic. Sure, the only model which comes with the natty duo-tone paint scheme you can see here (which, in this instance, is Tokyo Fusion Red with an Eclipse Black Pearlescent roof) as standard is the range-topping Launch Edition, at £24,005; if you want your Yaris' lid to be a different shade to the rest of it on the other trim grades, then you're looking at £885 for a metallic bi-tone colour scheme and fully £1,180 for this pearlescent job. But if you do go for the Yaris LE, the resulting car is a wonderful little thing to behold. There's not a bad angle from which to view the Toyota hatchback and there are many wonderful design details to drink in as well, plus the car sits on some attractive 17-inch machine-faced alloys. No Yaris save for that GR has ever looked even half as good as this Hybrid does, and furthermore there's precious little else quite as striking as the Toyota in this class right now, we'd reckon. It gets even better when you climb aboard, into one of the best interiors in the sector. Toyota still uses unyielding plastics in places but they're cleverly employed in locations where you're unlikely to prod and press them, while the general layout is excellent, the driving position superb, and all the displays are crisp and clear.

Now, even with all this aesthetic good news inside and out, you might be looking at that 24-grand figure and thinking 'oof, I could land myself a decent Ford Fiesta ST for that sort of cash'. Which is true, admittedly, but here are some mitigating points in the Yaris' favour: one, it is absolutely stocked to the gills for £24,005 as a Launch Edition, lacking for nothing and including a 10-inch full colour Head-Up Display, the Toyota Touch 2 infotainment system, an eight-speaker JBL premium audio system, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and go, a reversing camera and much, much more, all of which if added to a Fiesta Vignale would likely soon see £24k surpassed; two, on a PCP deal with a 10 per cent deposit, you could have this stylish Toyota for as little as £327pcm, which seems great value for something so well-stocked and so cheap to run; three, the Yaris LE feels worth the significant money Toyota is asking for it; and four, if you don't want to lay out quite so much cash on a 'mere' Yaris, then there are four more trim levels to go at which run Icon (£19,910), Design (£20,970), Dynamic (£21,920) and Excel (£22,220). And as even an Icon - that we know still looks good in a plain, single colour and rolling on its standard 16-inch alloys - gives owners adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment set-up with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, automatic climate control, a leather steering wheel, a reversing camera, auto lights and wipers, and rear LED lights, then equipment levels across the board are generally bountiful.

There's only one engine choice for the Mk4 Yaris in the UK, as well, so it's a simple range to understand. Again, you might be groaning when we say this is a Toyota Atkinson-cycle normally aspirated petrol engine with an e-CVT gearbox and, normally, we wouldn't blame you for such a withering response. Yet there's some truly fabulous news this time around: the Japanese company has worked utter wonders on this thing and served up a delightful little powertrain. The key detail here is that one of the pistons has gone for a burton. No, we don't mean the Toyota's engine failed during its week on test; instead, what we're saying is that the marque dumped the uninspiring four-cylinder unit in the old Mk3 Yaris Hybrid and has replaced it with a deeply charismatic three-cylinder engine here. The results are remarkable, as what was once a coarse and shouty drivetrain is turned into one with a corking soundtrack and even a recalibrated e-CVT which limits the 'hold max revs' behaviour to the barest minimum. And when it doesn't, you're then listening to a three-cylinder burring away in that appealing manner which they are wont to do, instead of a four-cylinder screaming in what sounds like tortured agony.

Not only is the drivetrain revitalised, so is the chassis. The TNGA-B is a superb little platform and it gives the Yaris such immensely improved manners in all regards that it's a wonder Toyota didn't call its supermini something else entirely to distance it from what went before. Where previous models were inert and boring and lacking for any fireworks, this Yaris feels feisty and alert. The steering is lovely, for what is a hybrid-powered shopping cart on wheels when you boil it all down, and so is the lack of understeer. It's maybe not quite as sharp and fluid as some of the best competitors available elsewhere, but it's so much closer to the top of the B-segment field for handling these days, when it languished very near the bottom of the pack in previous generations.

Yet it loses nothing in refinement. The handling is improved by the rear torsion beam being made 80 per cent stiffer than the set-up on the old Mk3, while the rear roll stiffness is up from 320- to 580Nm-per-degree. It's also a light car, as its new lithium-ion battery might have 19 per cent more capacity but it's also more power dense, so the actual unit is 12kg lighter than the old nickel metal-hydride unit. That plays into the Toyota's trim kerb weight of 1,160kg for this fully loaded Launch Edition on the biggest alloys; at its lightest, the Yaris is sub-1.1 tonnes, when most of its rivals are more like pushing on for 1,200 kilos.

However, the sharper dynamics, low kerb weight and short wheelbase (2,560mm) do not result in a harsher ride. There's maybe a trace too much tyre noise at speed, although it's not unbearable, but the suppression of wind noise and the general rolling comfort of the Yaris Hybrid is quite superb. And here's the cast-iron proof of how much we loved the Yaris. The week we had it in for testing coincided with a lot of long-distance mileage and daily driving. Indeed, we ended up covering 893 miles in the space of seven days behind the Toyota's wheel, totting up more than 18 hours on the roads. And not once, not even for a few metres, did we wish we were in something else other than the Hybrid. It battered up and down A-roads and the bulk of the central English motorway network in total comfort and class. Better yet, without any economy-boosting in-town driving taking place, it gave back an overall 56.4mpg and a best figure of 59.9mpg on a sizeable run down into Hampshire; we didn't even drive it that sympathetically, so coercing 60mpg-plus out of this drivetrain ought to be no difficulty at all.

Of course, the new Yaris Hybrid isn't quite perfect. It's quick enough from a standstill but the petrol-electric propulsion system cannot hide its modest outputs at times (specifically in the mid-range) and a lot of the low-pressure turbocharged rivals will feel a bit more easy-going in terms of power delivery. The e-CVT is far better than it was, but still not our favourite transmission type in the world. The boot is quite small, with only 286 litres available with the seats in use and less than 1,000 litres with the second row folded away. And as much as we defended the charming little Toyota earlier in the piece, £24,000 remains an awful lot of money for a car of this size and power.

Nevertheless, we are astounded by the transformation in the Yaris Hybrid from Mk3 to Mk4. It's gone from distant also-ran to among the very front-runners in this segment in one fell swoop, and to be honest we wouldn't be surprised if you took one look at the Toyota and decided to buy it on the strength of its appearance and cabin alone. That it's a vastly improved thing to drive in a wide variety of circumstances is a most welcome bonus, and the Yaris Hybrid continues to preserve the eco-goodness of the petrol-electric system with a real-world 60mpg or thereabouts eminently possible. Class leader? Perhaps not quite. But the fact it is even in with a legitimate shout of such a thing tells you just what a storming job Toyota has done with its Yaris supermini this time around.

Alternatives:

Ford Fiesta: still such a strong all-round package and it obviously offers more engine choice than the Yaris. We'd say the Toyota is more economical and nicer to look at, though.

Peugeot 208: perhaps the only thing in this class which looks better than the Yaris. The 208 also comes with a full electric version for maximal eco-goodness, but its ride can suffer on bigger alloys.

SEAT Ibiza: our current favourite in this class, although it has a drab interior. Other than that, sparkling chassis, fabulous drivetrains, plenty of value for money. The Toyota runs the Ibiza mighty close, mind.


Matt Robinson - 25 Sep 2020



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2020 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Edition UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Edition UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Edition UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Edition UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Edition UK test. Image by Toyota GB.

2020 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Edition UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Edition UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Edition UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Edition UK test. Image by Toyota GB.2020 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Edition UK test. Image by Toyota GB.








 

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