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First Drive: Toyota Yaris 1.5 VVT-i Hybrid Icon 5dr CVT Auto

£16,960 when new
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What’s that?

Be still your beating heart… it’s the brand new Toyota Yaris. It’s been given a new face – with more than a whiff of new Aygo about it – a revamped interior and some mechanical upgrades. There’s even a hybrid version.

Toyota likes its hybrids, doesn’t it?

Very true, as this slots in below its similarly green Auris and Prius stablemates. In fact, there’s a 1.4-litre D-4D diesel on offer but Toyota GB reckons that’ll be a minority-interest model. It wants 50 per cent of all Yaris models it sells in the UK to be hybrids by 2020.

Are there any other engines in the line-up?

Yes, an improved 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol with 99g/km CO2 and the same 1.33-litre four-cylinder petrol as before. The little 1.0 is appealing, if possessing the sort of acceleration that puts it in danger of being overtaken by kids on scooters.

Tell me more about this Hybrid, then.

It comes in two trim levels, the ‘Icon’ as tested here or the luxurious ‘Excel’, and mates a 1.5-litre Atkinson cycle four-cylinder petrol engine to an electric motor. This drivetrain was mildly fettled so it now coughs out just 75g/km of CO2, exempting it from both the London congestion charge and annual road tax. It can run in full EV mode at low speeds but is for the vast majority of the time calling on its combustion engine. Together, these two motors deliver 98bhp and 125lb ft, which sort of explains 0–62mph taking 11.8 seconds.

What’s it like to drive?

Fine in a city and OK once up to cruising speed. The switch from EV to hybrid running is silky smooth, the car feels very refined in terms of wind, tyre and engine noise if you’re driving in an appropriate manner. Toyota has toughened up the Yaris’s body with 36 new spot welds, fitted a stiffer torsion beam at the back and tweaked dampers and springs to improve the car’s driving character. It has worked to an extent, as the Yaris is a tidy handler, but it’s unlikely any potential owners are going to throw it into bends.

However, it can feel noisy and slow when trying to quickly up the pace. It’s saddled with an e-CVT gearbox, and we struggled to get anywhere near its official combined economy figure of 85.6mpg. The ride had a stubborn edge to it too that doesn’t bode well for UK roads.

Looks pretty good, though.

Toyota has spruced up the outside by giving it the same sort of ‘X’ branded face as the dramatic new Aygo, while ‘soft-touch’ is the hyphenated watchword within. It has even redesigned the dash architecture, which is unusual for a facelift. The cabin is definitely improved, if lacking any real visual flair.

What sort of kit do you get?

The Hybrid Icon starts from £16,195 and gives you 15-inch alloys, climate control, the Toyota Touch 2 seven-inch touchscreen in the dash, a rear-view camera and some other odds and sods. Top-ranking Excel upsizes the alloys by an inch, lobs in cruise control and part leather trim and sees LED lights sprinkled about the body.

Would you recommend it?

If you’re really eco-conscious and you badly want a small hybrid, yes. If you want a more appealing drivetrain, no – go for the 1.0-litre three-cylinder Yaris instead.

What do you think?

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