Thanks to Toyota’s alternative powertrain efforts in the past decade, and the environmentally conscious state of California, the world has woken to the hybrid front with almost every mass-producing manufacturer having developed or developing a system that not only prevents the wastage of energy but dramatically reduces fuel consumption and the emission of harmful gasses into the atmosphere. Toyota is undoubtedly still at the head of the green charge.
The problem is that not everyone likes the Prius – a car made popular by Hollywood stars and world famous philanthropists – which screams to other motorists that the driver/owner wants to be noticed as a greenie. And, to be honest, the Prius is not that affordable. Toyota has since seemingly solved this problem with the launch of the Auris HSD, which also makes use of a full hybrid system, and now the Yaris HSD – smaller and less conspicuous alternatives.
Still looks like any other Yaris… slightly
At Toyota Motors Europe’s headquarters in Brussels, the new Yaris HSD is barely noticeable in the visitors car park. Having just acquired the keys from the front desk, along with seven other members of the South African media, I struggle at first to find the four models allocated to us for the next few days.
The first clues are the darkened taillights with LED detailing that are unique to the Yaris Hybrid. As my companion and I approach the parked cars, the blue inside on the Toyota logo gives the game away and we unlock our range-topping “Style” model, which adds front fog lamps and 16-inch alloys to the enhanced exterior package.
The rest of the Yaris HSD’s styling package is familiar Toyota Hybrid fare – with a dominant front airdam and blocked off front grille. The headlamps are also darkened, lined on the inside with daytime-running LEDs. What the eye doesn’t see are the underbody modifications to make the Yaris HSD as slippery as possible – resulting in a drag coefficient of 0.286 Cd.
Mostly quality inside too
Sliding into the passenger seat for our drive out of Brussels gives me time to go through the impressive specification of this particular model. There’s semi-leather trim, standard-across-the-range dual-zone climate control, all-round electric windows with drivers side one-touch operation and a 6,1-inch touchscreen interface dubbed Toyota Touch – a multimedia system that includes radio, MP3 compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity, and audio streaming along with the rear parking camera and, most importantly, the hybrid energy monitor that lets the occupants know just what the Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) is doing at any given time.
Interior surfaces are mostly dark, broken by a light grey soft-touch padding on the upper sections of the front facia and silver finishes on the multifunction steering wheel and gearlever surround. Subtle hints at this Yaris’s hybrid credentials such as the blue needles, soft blue lighting, blue stop/start button, and blue stitching on the inside of the steering wheel and seats create a cheery ambience.
Thrifty in town, thirstier on the highway
As we head out of the Belgian capital, the HSD system doesn’t really make its presence felt as the battery pack and electric motor handle most of the light throttle inputs as we head south-west for France. With the system weighing in at 20 per cent lighter than that of the Auris HSD, Toyota claims that the Yaris HSD uses just 3,1 litres/100 km in an urban environment.
As we cross the border into France and toward Paris, the Atkinson Cycle 1,5-litre is called upon as the needle on the charge/eco/power meter delves into the upper ranges to keep the Yaris HSD at the 130 km/h speed limit. The petrol engine’s humble outputs of 55 kW at 4 800 r/min and 111 N.m of torque are supplemented by the electric motor for a total of 74 kW. The occasional overtaking manoeuvre requires significant planting of the right foot and some of the familiar CVT whine, which is otherwise not really that noticeable while cruising or at lower speeds.
Looking down at the average fuel consumption, I notice that the Yaris is consuming 6,2 litres/100 km, which is some way off the Toyota average claim of 3,5 litres/100 km in the combined cycle. So, not that economical on the open road, but the Yaris HSD’s carbon footprint of just 79 g/km of CO2 is nothing to scoff at.
The Toyota sat-nav, which is quite an accomplished system with speed limit warning, traffic updates, and up-to-date highway sign posts (unfortunately it is currently not available yet in Africa), takes us through Paris and right into the Hybrid’s forte – thick traffic. The qualities of HSD were once again highlighted as the system kicked into full EV mode and switched between the battery-generated energy and petrol power to keep consumption low. To keep the power meter in the ECO range requires a bit of planning and coasting, but after a few kilometres I adapt to the required inputs fairly quickly.
Once out of the confines of Parisian gridlocks, I once again hold the needle just above France’s national limit as the convoy heads further south west. Despite the increased aerodynamic quality, lower centre of gravity thanks to most of the hybrid componentry lying under the rear bench, and larger wheels the Yaris HSD still seemed fidgety when confronted with crosswinds. Not enough to be unnerving, but rather unexpected after the smooth drive from Belgium.
With the majority of South African driving still performed at greater distances and out of urban areas, hybrid systems haven’t really taken off that well. But the popularity of the Yaris might convince some sitting on the fence between a small turbodiesel hatchback and hybrid alternative, especially if the prospective buyer is based primarily in the city. Personally, I think that Toyota’s smartest move yet has been to offer its HSD system on models that have already enjoyed some success in the markets they compete in. In Europe, the Yaris undercuts its rivals on price, so maybe cost will be the final say when the Yaris HSD arrives in South Africa at the end of this semester.
Model: Toyota Yaris HSD Style
Engine: 1,5-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Power: 55 kW at 4 800 r/min (total system output: 74 kW)
Torque: 111 N.m from 3 600-4 400 r/min (electric motor: 169 N.m)
0 to 100 km/h: 11,8 seconds
Top speed: 165 km/h
Fuel consumption: 3,7 litres/100 km claimed (3,5 litres with 15-inch wheels)
CO2: 85 g/km (79 with 15-inch wheels)
Price: There are two spec levels destined for the SA market, priced between R220 000 and R250 000.