Five-Point Inspection: Toyota Yaris Hybrid

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

The Toyota Yaris is generally a pretty lamentable little car. This sub-compact hatchback is about as stylish as the grease-disposal bin behind your local truck stop.

Additionally it’s less fun to drive than a double-decker bus under a bridge that’s too low, plus its interior is as welcoming as an airplane restroom.

In spite of these pretty significant downsides the Yaris does have a couple of trump cards in its admittedly weak hand. It’s efficient and affordable, delivering small MSRP and large fuel-economy numbers on its window sticker.

Americans are exclusively offered a gasoline-powered version of the car but there’s more on the kiddies’ menu than just that. Instead of settling for grilled cheese, European customers can opt for a corn-dog, or in this case a hybrid version of the car.

How well does Toyota’s electrified Yaris fare? Does the addition of an amped-up drivetrain correct some of the standard car’s flaws? Let’s find out.

As mentioned, the Yaris Hybrid isn’t only offered to European buyers. The car was launched back in 2012 but the model we sampled was from the ’13 vintage. Toyota claims it’s the only B-Segment vehicle on sale in the Old World that’s offered with an electrified drivetrain, and we’d be inclined to agree; off the tops of our collective heads we can’t think of any other subcompact hybrids. Interestingly this little hatchback is manufactured in France of all places. We’re not sure whether to say oui or hei. Perhaps we should brush up on our Esperanto.

When it comes to smaller vehicles, affordability is critical. A few bucks on the window sticker can mean a lot to cash-strapped or otherwise economy-minded car shoppers. Even a minuscule pricing delta between two otherwise similar vehicles can drive some people to the cheaper option.

Keeping value in mind the Yaris Hybrid is suitably inexpensive. According to Toyota the car starts at a reasonable sounding $22,630, though we’re not sure if that includes other charges like destination and delivery fees or value-added tax many European countries love to levy. It’s a couple grand more expensive than the very similar Prius c we get in ‘Murica. Suffice to say the vehicle is accessible to many drivers.

This Yaris five-door is powered by, not surprisingly, a hybrid drivetrain. The star of this under-hood show is a 1.5-liter gasoline four-cylinder that produces around 73 horsepower and roughly 82 lb-ft of torque. The internal-combustion engine is paired to a continuously variable transmission as well as an electric motor. A nickel-metal hydride battery pack stores and releases electrons as required. Naturally a bunch of other electronic parts are included as well. System output totals a rather meager 100 ponies.

Of course in this instance the tradeoff for not having gobs of horsepower is stellar fuel economy, which the Yaris Hybrid ought to deliver. On the European test cycle it’s slated to consume between 3.1 and 3.4 liters of gasoline per 100 kilometers in city driving. Under “extra urban” conditions its consumption increases to anywhere from 3.5 to 3.7 liters per 100 clicks. In real numbers its combined score works out to anywhere from 64 to 67 miles per U.S. gallon (again, that’s from Euro testing). These figures aren’t too shabby, but acceleration is pretty poor. The zero to 100 km/h (62 MPH) jaunt runs the clock out at 11.8 seconds.

Ok, so now you know how the Yaris works, how much it costs, the distance it can stretch a gallon of fuel and where it’s sold. But one question remains: How does it drive? Well, unfortunately this part isn’t pretty.

The car’s on-road dynamics are absolutely deplorable. The steering is incredibly loose and as a result the tiller transmits nothing to the driver about what the front tires are doing. In tight situations like an autocross course the car feels like’s it’s all over the road; body roll goes seemingly unchecked.

The company may have quantified the Yaris Hybrid’s zero-to-60 time but in reality the car feels much slower. Imagine nailing the accelerator at breakfast and only reaching a mile a minute by lunch, that’s kind of what it’s like.

Wrapping things up, the Toyota Yaris Hybrid is an efficient and affordable car for economy-minded European drivers. Unfortunately its on-road demeanor is soppy at best, which totally ruins the overall experience. Frugality be damned, this car is no fun.

Discuss this story on our Toyota forum.

Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for AutoGuide.com. When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

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