They say first impressions last. And when I saw a fuel consumption reading of 2.7l/100km in the Toyota Yaris Hybrid on the first day of our road test, my heart just about stopped. I’ve never seen a reading that low in anything I’ve ever driven.
But having said that, the distance covered was my work-home route which is 7km, most of which is downhill, and I was going quite easy on the throttle to see how much of the battery’s charge I could rely on. Not to mention that the cynic in me wasn’t as confident about the onboard computer’s readings as its makers are.
So we decided to get a little more traditional in our consumption measurements and resorted to what we call the click to click test, which means manually calculating fuel usage between top-ups (using distance and litre readings). This changed the picture slightly, and with real-world driving in both the city and on highways we managed 4.6l/100km – which was quite different to the 5.1l/100km figure shown over the week-long test period by the onboard computer.
Either way, 4.6l/100km is not bad and I reckon most buyers could live with it, even it is not the 3.8 claimed by Toyota.
Where the problem does creep in is the hybrid’s purchase price, which at R223 800 (for the lower XS spec) is still around R40 000 more expensive than similarly specced and powered petrol Yaris models. To put that into perspective, the cheaper 1.3-litre Yaris (with similar outputs to the hybrid) has a claimed fuel consumption of 5.6l/100km. This may be slightly heavier than the hybrid, but in real terms it would take the hybrid owner years to recover that higher hybrid price through the fuel savings.
Badged as a Yaris HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) the car adopts the same technology as the Prius Hybrid and Auris Hybrid. In Yaris guise, Toyota has mated a 55kW 1.5-litre with a 45kW electric motor, for a combined output of 74kW. More important for the bunny-huggers is the carbon footprint, which at 88 grams per kilometre is 43 grams per kilometre greener than a 1.3-litre petrol Yaris, and three grams per kilometre greener than the larger Prius hybrid.
Driving-wise the Yaris HSD’s a peppy little package with a very can-do performance attitude. It can run on petrol power alone, a combination of petrol and electric, or electric power.
But as attractive as electric power sounds, the electric motor does battle to turn the wheels as battery charge levels are only available in short bursts. This could be due to the battery pack being made compact enough to fit under the rear seat – leaving boot space untouched but resulting in a sacrifice in power-storage terms.
With the battery fully charged, the Yaris zips along nicely and is quite perky in the daily stop-start commute (Toyota claims 11.8 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint and a top-end of 165km/h), but you do notice a difference when the battery starts draining – requiring harder throttle inputs and greater demands on the petrol engine.
The continuously variable transmission (CVT) is the only box on offer to the Yaris HSD buyer and it makes an annoying sound as the engine tends to stay in one drone zone instead of the revs dipping and rising as with a regular gearbox.
What is different to more run-of-the mill Yaris models is the revised instrument cluster and the touch screen display in the centre console. Instead of the traditional rev counter there’s a cool power display which shows your throttle inputs and advises where the eco zone, for best consumption, lies.
The touch screen is impressive too, showing at any point where the power to the wheels is coming from and your recent consumption patterns. You tend to monitor these readings, at times to the point of distraction.
There’s also an EV button and an Eco button, with the former putting the car into electric mode (dependent on speed and battery levels) and the latter adopting a generally greener approach to power delivery. Most of the road test was spent in Eco mode, which was adequate for daily driving.
There’s still quite a premium to be paid for hybrid motoring. And unless your conscience and your wallet are on the same page, going the hybrid route doesn’t seem to make much sense. We reckon save the R40 000, make a donation to the World Wildlife Fund, and get the 1.3-litre petrol Yaris. -Star Motoring
Follow me on Twitter: @mineshbhagaloo