Impressive all-round offering from Toyota’s Yaris Hybrid

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If you want to feel as green as it is possible to feel behind the wheel, there’s not much that can top the sensation of humming along in virtual silence as an electric motor delivers your forward motion.

Toyota has spent more than a decade refining and improving its hybrid drive system and at the same time has spread it over an increasing range of models.

Now it is offering the still-fresh Yaris supermini in hybrid form for the first time.

It’s hard to spot that dual-power Yaris from its conventionally powered cousins.

Toyota hybrid geeks will notice the blue-tinted badge at the front and a discreet ‘Hybrid Synergy Drive’ applique at the rear, but the biggest change is arguably the most beneficial.

Due to the extra cooling demands of the hybrid system, there is a substantially larger grille at the front and the bumper has been restyled to accommodate it. It gives the Yaris Hybrid a bit more presence than the standard car and is all the better for it.

Mechanically, though, there are no great surprises in store, just a few small detail tweaks to the hybrid recipe.

The Yaris Hybrid uses essentially the same set up as the Auris Hybrid but with the four-cylinder petrol engine downsized to a more suitable 1.5-litres.

Sandwiched into the Yaris’s underbody is the petrol engine, inverter, electric motor and battery pack - but even more impressive than that, cabin space is unchanged over the standard car.

Slotting all this tech into the diminutive Yaris inevitably means an impressive set of stats.

The headline figures of 80.7mpg combined and 79g/km are spectacularly low, on a par with the best eco-diesel superminis and significantly better than any rival petrol-powered car. It also has a significant advantage over conventionally powered rivals in that it can operate in all-electric mode.

There’s very little to distinguish the Yaris Hybrid from its siblings once you’ve climbed inside. The cabin is identical apart from a slightly different instrument display to keep you updated on the actions of the powertrain. It might not be the most exciting interior but it is obviously well built, with sizeable buttons and clear displays.

Start it up and drive away with the car in Eco mode and whenever possible the Yaris will accelerate smoothly and silently away solely on electric power.

That doesn’t necessarily mean slowly either, as you need a strong prod of the accelerator to get it to jump into petrol power. That’s a real boon in the city as you can stay electric below 31mph but still keep in the swim of traffic.

When the 1.5-litre petrol engine does kick in, it does so without any huge fuss, and unless you have the right pedal pinned to the carpet, there’s very little in the way of noise. The system drives through a CVT gearbox for maximum efficiency, although the flip side to this is a steady hum from the engine when full acceleration is called for - but that shouldn’t be very often in a car this frugal.

When driven with care and restraint, the Yaris Hybrid is in its element, and keeping a close eye on the system status in the instrument cluster promotes a thrifty driving style. Do so and your reward is not only low fuel consumption but also low noise as the petrol engine falls silent when not needed, even if the speedometer happens to read over 31mph.

Adding to the relaxing experience is the fact that the suspension does a good job of soaking up bumps, and while it’s no limousine, the Yaris Hybrid delivers a relaxed drive.

The flip side is that the Yaris is not as much fun as some of its keen rivals and anyone looking for an eco-supermini with a sporty flavour is looking in the wrong place. However, the Yaris Hybrid is very good at what it is designed to do; provide a fuss-free, highly economical drive with the potential for all-electric running and do so while offering a good specification and the solid Toyota reputation. Against limited hybrid competition in this sector, the Yaris Hybrid is far and away the best offering.

Whether it matches up against diesel-powered opposition is a matter for the spreadsheet and the style council. Either way, there is no doubting that the Yaris Hybrid is a impressive all-round package.