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First drive: Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.

First drive: Toyota Yaris Hybrid
The Toyota Yaris range adopts an X-branded visage similar to the Aygo and some midlife upgrades to boot.

   



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| First Drive | Düsseldorf, Germany | Toyota Yaris Hybrid |

Overall rating: 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

A fresh face, improved interior, mechanical revisions and changes to the engine and trim grade line-ups of the Toyota Yaris result in a competitive B-segment machine, but not one that'll ever get your pulse racing.

Key Facts

Model tested: Toyota Yaris Hybrid Icon
Pricing: Hybrid from £16,195; Yaris range begins at £9,995
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with permanent magnet synchronous electric motor
Transmission: e-CVT, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
Rivals: Ford Fiesta, Honda Jazz, Volkswagen Polo
CO2 emissions: 75g/km
Combined economy: 85.6mpg
Top speed: 103mph
0-62mph: 11.8 seconds
Power: 99hp at 4,800rpm
Torque: 111Nm from 3,600- to 4,400rpm petrol; electric motor 169Nm maximum from 0rpm

In the Metal: 4 4 4 4 4

The Yaris was never ugly but it was certainly not eye-catching either. The facelift has done it wonders, obviously taking its cues from the Manga robot-inspired Toyota Aygo, but toning the look down a bit for the more conservative buyers of the bigger Toyota hatch. It's a crisp piece of design and it is helped by some tidying up of the rear, plus the option of LED lights front and back.

Inside, Toyota has gone to town and actually redesigned the dashboard architecture, not something you normally see manufacturers do for a midlife facelift. The end result is simplified and backed up by the increased use of soft-touch plastics and new textures, although it's still not quite at Volkswagen levels of perceived quality. More technology is thrown into the car, such as the seven-inch Toyota Touch 2 screen in the upper dash and a reversing camera at the back, but the Yaris's real strong point is the amount of room it has, both within the spacious passenger compartment and in the boot. However, you might want to steer clear of the oddly-named Piri Piri pack inside, which plasters lots and lots of red all over the cockpit.

Driving it: 3 3 3 3 3

The Hybrid would get more marks here if only Toyota wouldn't insist on equipping such machines with dreadful CVT transmissions. With so many great automatics, dual-clutch semi-autos and basic, honest-to-goodness manual gearboxes out there, the CVT should really be put out of its misery. It lets the rest of the car down, because the din it makes when you ask for anything over about 40 per cent throttle is disturbing. For pottering around town, though, it's just about tolerable and it does make for almost brain-free urban driving, thanks to the smoothness of the EV running and the tidy segue into hybrid mode.

As with the Lexus CT 200h, you expect a bit more oomph from a drivetrain that is usurping diesel in the Yaris line-up, but it never feels that quick, probably down to that blasted e-CVT. It's fine to 30mph or thereabouts and presumably most buyers will spend the majority of their time in conurbations, so there shouldn't be any major issues for owners.

Toyota has added 36 extra spot welds to the body, a stiffer rear torsion beam and some new springs and revised damper rates to the Yaris with the aim of improving the dynamics. To a certain degree, this has worked, as the little Toyota is a pleasantly capable machine in the corners. It restricts body roll well, has sharp but light steering and a large amount of grip. However, it's no Ford Fiesta in terms of driver entertainment.

The real plus point, though, is the elevated level of refinement. While it takes a bit of time and a lot of noise to get to motorway cruising speeds, once there you can hold the Yaris Hybrid at 70mph and enjoy an admirably hushed environment; the sounds of airflow, tyre roar and the engine are beautifully subdued. The ride is largely excellent too, although there is a slight nervousness about the damping over more intrusive compressions that leaves us with one or two questions that will need answering when we drive the car on UK roads.

What you get for your Money: 3 3 3 3 3

Toyota has also streamlined the trim lines in this round of revisions, with Active, Icon, Sport and Excel making up the range. Active is fairly basic, but Icon upwards offers such toys as cruise control, the Toyota Touch 2 system mentioned earlier, satnav, cruise control, a part leather interior, LED lights and other niceties.

However, the £9,995 starting price for the range is a blatant piece of price point marketing, as just one per cent of all examples of the Yaris sold are entry-level Active models. Realistically, buyers will be spending at least £12,745 to get into an Icon. But the Hybrid is even dearer - it only comes in either Icon or Excel specifications, which are £16,195 and £17,695 respectively. These are huge sums for a non-performance B-segment car.

Worth Noting

The 1.33-litre petrol and 1.4 D-4D diesel engines continue unchanged in the facelifted Yaris, but the 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol is worth a mention. It now has a thermal efficiency rating in excess of 37 per cent and, thanks to VVT-i valve timing, can even switch from running on the more efficient Atkinson stroke combustion cycle under low engine loads to the more traditional Otto 'suck-squeeze-bang-blow' cycle when you demand more of it. These factors help it return figures of 65.7mpg and 99g/km, which of course makes it exempt from road tax.

With 69hp and just 95Nm, it's not exactly quick - indeed, on open roads it's painfully slow - but, like the Hybrid, it has enough off-the-line pep to render town driving comfortable and it has a lot more charisma than the 1.5-litre drivetrain, thanks to its three-cylinder thrum. Also, it is blessed with a sweet little five-speed manual gearbox and, in our brief experience, got much closer to its official economy figures than the Hybrid managed. That it's also significantly cheaper makes it more tempting than the Hybrid model.

Summary

Toyota's Yaris is suitably improved, with a striking front end, some neat detailing on its rump and a cabin that has been thoughtfully redesigned and re-specified. It is also capacious and has a decent offering of engines, although the Hybrid isn't as convincing as you think it might be on first acquaintance. Go for a 1.0-litre Yaris and, provided you don't ever want to accelerate fast, you'll have a competent B-segment machine. But there are products out there from other manufacturers that are better still, not least Ford's Fiesta and Volkswagen's Polo.


Matt Robinson - 24 Jul 2014



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2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.

2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.



2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.
 

2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.
 

2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.
 

2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.
 

2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.
 

2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.
 

2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.
 

2014 Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Image by Toyota.
 






 

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