Toyota’s most popular model in the world is going hybrid. The petrol-electric Yaris will go on sale in June and should cost about £15,000 – that’s £1,000 less than the Honda Jazz Hybrid. It’s set to account for 20 per cent of sales. We test drove a prototype in Japan to see what buyers can expect.
Some clever engineering has gone on under the skin. The 1.5-litre petrol-electric drivetrain from the Prius has been re-engineered and now weighs 20 per cent less. There is also no compromise on boot or interior space.
The Yaris hybrid is easy to drive, too. In ordinary traffic it creeps silently along using just battery power and has a total electric-only range of 1.2 miles. That helps slash CO2 emissions to 85g/km.
However, as it weighs about 20 per cent more than a standard petrol Yaris, the engine has to kick in fairly quickly to maintain the performance.
The car feels heavier, too, with slightly ponderous steering and handling, although it will still be agile enough for most owners.
Toyota engineers have tried hard to reduce noise by improving the CVT gearbox, which hangs on to revs. They have been only partly successful and there’s a knack to keeping the Yaris refined and quiet on the road.
There wasn’t much opportunity to make a judgement on ride quality, but we’d expect it to feel rather stiff on UK roads.