Driven: New Toyota Yaris hybrid

South Africa is no stranger to hybrid technology. The Prius started it all, back in 2005 and Lexus took up the hybrid technology baton with its “performance hybrids” that today form an integral part of its line-up.

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In 2012 these sister brands account for most sales among SA's 13 hybrid models.

Despite South Africans' initial reluctance to accept alternative fuels – and their government’s continued resistance to incentivise the purchases of hybrid-powered vehicles – Toyota reports that acceptance of the technology is better, although still below the global average.

It’s with this idea in mind that Toyota has expanded its recently introduced Yaris range. Its local hybrid range, which already includes the latest Prius (introduced in April 2012) and the Auris derivative, has been bolstered by the addition of the Yaris HSD.

Toyota's Hybrid Drive System is now in its fourth generation and more than four-million of its hybrids have been sold worldwide.


This the most efficient Yaris yet – Toyota claims 3.8 litres/100km and 88g/km of CO2 emissions – is also the flagship of the hatchback fleet; there will be no traditional “hot hatch” variant, corporate communications boss Leo Kok said, and product planning vice-president Glenn Crompton admitted the automaker was optimistic in its approach.

“It’s a new way of looking at performance,” he said.

On the performance front, however, the HSD has a combination of a 55kW/111Nm 1.5-litre petrol engine, supplemented by a 45kW/169Nm nickel-hydride battery and electric drive based on that in the Prius. The total system output is 74kW. The two operate singly or together and the system is mated to a constantly variable transmission.

The downsized hybrid system combines the petrol engine with a lighter, more compact electric motor, transaxle, inverter and battery pack. The total system weight is 201kg.

But more than being just a more efficient version of the new Yaris, the HSD looks the part too with its slim upper grille, light clusters and distinctive blue hybrid badge. Aerodynamic enhancements, among them an underbody cover and slipstream deflectors, contribute to the HSD’s drag coefficient of Cd 0.286.

The cabin has a stand-out blue-grey dash, hybrid blue instrumentation and a Prius-like computer touchscreen displaying – among other data – real-time details on how the hybrid system is faring.

Toyota SA plotted an “economy run” as part of the launch route in which drivers who recorded the best (and worst) fuel consumption along the route were rewarded for their efforts. The winning team recorded 3.29 litres/100km over the 130km route.

The Yaris HSD’s cabin is very refined; not even the characteristic hum of the transmission making its way into the cabin. Somehow the blue accents and the bold dashboard add a splash of interest to the otherwise dark place.


There are two specification levels – the mid-spec XS (R223 800) and the XR (R245 900). Diode daylight running lights, auto aircon, Eco Indicator, anti-lock brakes and electronic brake pressure distribution, stability control and front and side air bags are standard on the XS; the XR adds more air bags (seven total), push-button start, cloth upholstery, front fog lights, a rear spoiler and cruise control.

Kerry Roodt, Toyota SA’s general manager of marketing communications, said: “The Yaris HSD is a true B-segment car designed to attract new, young and urban customers. It’s a hybrid for the youth market, a first step into the technology.”

The Yaris HSD makes a very convincing “starter hybrid” statement. It feels a lot more like a regular car than a mere expensive gimmick, a millstone the Prius has only recently starting to shake off, and it’s so user-friendly it can even provide fuel savings for the driver seemingly unconcerned by such trivialities.

Also, considering the relatively high cost of the regular Yaris range - the one-litre three-door starts at R127 800 and goes to R206 700 for the top-spec 1.3 five-door - the Yaris HSD could even be considered as a peculiar value statement. For an extra R20 000 you get the promise of reduced fuel consumption in a car that will actually reward you for the start-stop driving that plagues commuting drivers, while still have enough juice to make for pleasant longer journeys.

More importantly, perhaps, the Yaris HSD's most direct competitor, the Honda Jazz 1.3 ("mild") Hybrid costs R252 000, which could be problematic considering, on first impression, the Yaris is the more comfortable and drivable fuel-saving hatch. 

Vehicle specifications

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