Toyota Yaris Hybrid Review
The Toyota Yaris has never really had a reputation for excitement – at least not in eco-friendly Hybrid form – but the current model is a bit different. Because while the world-beating GR Yaris, complete with its absurd amount of power and ridiculous bodykit, may grab all the headlines, the Yaris Hybrid has flown under the radar.
But we’re here to rectify that and put the spotlight on the Yaris you’re most likely to lease.
Those who are generally averse to spoilers may want to skip down to the next section, but we can tell you now that the Yaris is great. Now offering more efficiency, more style and more quality than ever before, it’s a fantastic small hatchback that’s up there with the very best in its class.
Select's rating score* - 3.7 / 5
At a Glance
It’s immediately apparent that the new Yaris Hybrid is a very modern car, with some futuristic styling and the ‘Hybrid’ legend writ large on the tailgate. The interior feels much the same, and while there are some cheap plastics kicking around in disappointingly obvious spots, it’s stylish and well put together.
Space is acceptable, rather than plentiful, but there’s plenty of equipment as standard and the pricing is competitive – particularly considering the complex powertrain.
Speaking of which, the hybrid system is very efficient and surprisingly punchy, which helps to create a more engaging driving experience than some might expect.
But the Yaris Hybrid is really a study in common sense. It’s a great small hatchback that’s cheap to run and decent to drive, without setting the world on fire. And the way those qualities have been wrapped in an attractive, desirable shell has helped to turn the Toyota into a real contender.
Chief among the Yaris’ charms is undoubtedly the hybrid powertrain. It’s relatively quiet and refined – especially at lower speeds – and it uses the electric motor more than you might expect. Lift off on the motorway and the engine falls silent. Waft through town and the engine revs may well read 0.
Not only is that good for your ears, but it’s good for the planet and your bank balance, with low emissions and low fuel consumption marking the Yaris out from its competitors.
But that isn’t the only reason to opt for the Toyota. The Japanese company is well known for its engineering know-how, and the Yaris feels as solid as anything in its class.
Admittedly, some of the plastics are a bit cheap, but they’re all bolted together immaculately and there’s no doubt they’ll last the course. Toyota is so confident that if the car is serviced at a Toyota dealer, the warranty could last for up to 10 years or 100,000 miles.
It’s no guarantee of reliability, but it’s as close as you’ll get.
Performance & Drive
The Yaris Hybrid – as opposed to the super-duper GR Yaris (about which you can read more in our separate review) – is available with just one engine option. It’s a three-cylinder, 1.5-litre petrol engine that comes with a standard ‘self-charging’ hybrid system and a kind of automatic gearbox. The system is designed to run on electricity at low speeds or when little power is needed, allowing the petrol engine to operate only when necessary.
When the petrol engine and electric motor work together, the Yaris produces 116hp, which is enough for a perfectly respectable 9.7-second dash from 0-62mph. The top speed is 109mph.
Although that doesn’t sound too remarkable, the Yaris feels fairly punchy, with plenty of eagerness from the combination of powerplants. It isn’t exactly sporty, but it’s more than quick enough to nip in and out of traffic or provide adequate enjoyment on a good road.
Handling is surprisingly positive, too, with the low kerb weight of around 1.1 tonnes making the car feel light on its feet. It also has plenty of grip and the body doesn’t roll around too much in corners. The steering is a bit light and it’s very short on feel, but while that isn’t brilliant on a back road, it’s ideal in town. It makes the car easy to drive at low speeds and easy to park – even in fairly tight spaces.
The only real problem is the ride, which feels a bit stiff and wooden at times. It thumps over bumps and smacks into potholes quite harshly, and doesn’t make much effort to round off the worst of Britain’s dire road surfaces. However, that’s partly down to our Dynamic-spec test car’s standard sports suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels, which provide a definite sense that the car is set up for handling rather than for comfort. Lowlier models would likely be more comfortable.
Running Costs & Emissions
Thanks to the hybrid system, the Yaris Hybrid is very economical, returning around 60mpg on the official economy test. Our test car didn’t prove quite so frugal, but it still managed well over 50mpg on a mixture of roads without any attempts to drive in a particularly economic fashion. With a little effort and on the right roads, the high 50s should be manageable.
The other advantage is low emissions. The Yaris emits fewer than 100g of carbon dioxide per kilometre, which means company car tax is lower than it would be for a similarly powerful petrol or diesel engine. Expect to pay something around the 24% mark in 2022/23, when the most efficient petrol-powered VW Polo would be closer to 30%.
Interior & Technology
As you might expect from a brand with the reputation of Toyota, the Yaris is very well built. Everything feels tough and durable and well engineered. The buttons feel well damped and tactile, while there are no rattles or creaks from the cabin. The doors sound a bit tinny when they close, but otherwise it’s a shining example of how to build a small car.
But while it’s difficult to fault the engineering, many Japanese companies struggle when it comes to material quality, and the Yaris is no exception. There are some nice, squidgy plastics in there, but they’re balanced out by some hard, unforgiving panels that lower the tone slightly.
It might seem minor, but arguably the worst offender is the trim on the steering wheel, which feels scratchy and low-rent. That said, cost-cutting is a fact of life in cars this size, and the Yaris still feels better built than most of its rivals. It just lacks the premium feel of a VW Polo or Audi A1.
Fortunately, it’s quite nicely styled, with modern lines and some neat touches, including the ‘binocular’ instrument display with two small, round digital readouts either side of the configurable square screen. It may not be as high-tech as the full digital screens you get in an A1, but it isn’t bad. It’s quite cute, really.
The same cannot be said for the touchscreen, however, because that is the Yaris’ Achilles heel. With poor screen resolution, outdated graphics and laggy response times, it’s one of our least favourite touchscreen infotainment systems.
The one saving grace is the standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay tech, which allow you to pair your smartphone with the car and use some of its apps on the move. It’s a much more intuitive arrangement, and it’s better to look at than Toyota’s own sub-par display.
Practicality & Boot Space
When all’s said and done, the Yaris is not a massive car, so perhaps it’s unfair to expect enormous amounts of boot space or a roomy rear bench. At the back, the Yaris has a 286-litre luggage bay, which makes it much smaller than that of the VW Polo or Seat Ibiza. However, it’s a good shape, which makes it feel more spacious than it is, and there isn’t much of a load lip to worry about when filling it up. Add in seats that fold flat and the Yaris’ practicality score rises slightly.
Sadly, there’s no saving the rear space. Legroom is limited and headroom isn’t exactly abundant either. Nevertheless, it’s fine for kids, and the space in the front is laudable. Even the tallest adults will have no trouble getting comfortable in the Yaris, although the notchy adjustment for the driver’s seatback is a bit of a disappointment.
As you’d probably expect from a brand such as Toyota, the Yaris scored strongly in the Euro NCAP crash tests. The top-tier, five-star rating it received put it up there with the very best cars in its class, including the Renault Clio, Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. The Yaris scored well in every area, achieving high scores across the board.
But Toyota still offers its little hatchback with plenty of standard safety equipment designed to prevent accidents from happening in the first place. Even the basic Icon models come with the Toyota Safety Sense 2 suite of technology, including a system to brake automatically if the driver fails to respond to a hazard, lane keeping assistance and road sign recognition technology. Adaptive cruise control is standard, too, allowing the car to automatically maintain a safe distance to the car in front.
The Yaris range is neither large, nor overly complicated, with a choice of four trim levels on offer. Things kick off with the basic Icon model, which features 16-inch alloy wheels, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a reversing camera. It also gets the Apple Car Play and Android Auto smartphone integration tech, automatic air conditioning and automatic lights and wipers. For a supposedly entry-level car, it’s astonishingly well equipped.
So well equipped there seems little point in moving up to the Design model, which gets a larger eight-inch touchscreen, ‘binocular-inspired’ digital instruments and full LED lighting, plus rear power windows and privacy glass. Oh, and it swaps the standard 16-inch alloys for machined bi-tone wheels of the same diameter.
Next up is the Dynamic model, which ups the ante slightly with 17-inch alloy wheels, a JBL premium sound system and part-leather sports seats. It also gets two-zone climate control and keyless entry with push-button engine start. Finally, the Excel tops the range, with its grey interior, extra safety equipment and satin chrome interior styling features.
The options list is expansive, though, and it includes goodies such as a head-up display, panoramic glass roof and two-tone paintwork. Speaking of which, there’s a selection of bodywork paints including the usual array of whites, greys and blacks, plus the rather smart Scarlet Flare red and the rich Galactic Blue.
The Toyota Yaris is up against some small but mighty rivals, including some of the best-selling cars available in the UK. Among the most prominent are the brilliant Ford Fiesta and the slightly less brilliant Vauxhall Corsa, although neither car offers the same level of hybrid power. Similarly, the sporty-looking Seat Ibiza and its classier sister, the Volkswagen Polo are also competing for your affection in this part of the market.
Then there are the other big names, including the value-orientated Skoda Fabia, the stylish Renault Clio and the much funkier Peugeot 208. There’s also the more spacious Citroen C3 and the Honda Jazz, which is one of the few alternatives to come with a proper hybrid powertrain for added efficiency. If you want to look further afield, there’s the rather elegant Mazda2, the Nissan Micra or the budget options – the Dacia Sandero and Suzuki Swift.
At the opposite end of the scale, there are also more upmarket rivals including the Audi A1, which is based on the Volkswagen Polo. Don’t discount the Mini Hatch, either, because that’s a great car to look at, sit in and drive.
Verdict & Next Steps
The Yaris may not quite have the appeal or the handling of the Ford Fiesta, and it certainly doesn’t have the class of the Volkswagen Polo, but it’s still one of the best small cars you can lease. If you want reliability, economy and quality, mixed with decent road manners and a surprising amount of punch, the Yaris will suit you down to the ground.
Where to next?
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**Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Toyota Yaris
**Correct as of 27/01/2022. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £1,617.30 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.