Toyota Yaris Hybrid review

The 2020 Yaris Hybrid is a major step forward from its predecessor and should be more of a worry for its rivals

Toyota Yaris Hybrid 2020
£18,500
Hybrid

Pros

  • Handles very well
  • Great potential fuel economy
  • Improved interior and infotainment

Cons

  • Uninvolving to drive
  • Rear seats tight for adults
  • Not the prettiest small car
Car type Fuel economy CO2 emissions 0-62mph
Hybrid 105mpg (estimated) 86g/km (estimated) 10.3 seconds

Buyers have been able to purchase a Toyota Yaris Hybrid since 2012, but for this new fourth-generation model arriving in mid-2020, Toyota expects the electrified version to make up a greater proportion of sales than before.

Toyota offers only hybrid power in its larger Corolla, Camry, C-HR and RAV4 models, building on the hybrid expertise it has amassed over four generations of the Prius, but in the price-sensitive small-car market, it will continuing to offer a manual-gearbox 1.5-litre petrol alongside this hybrid, for the moment at least.

Key rivals for the new Yaris Hybrid include the Renault Clio E-TECH and Honda Jazz (which boast similar hybrid drivetrains) as well as efficient petrol versions of its traditional sparring partners the Ford Fiesta, Opel Corsa, Peugeot 208 and Volkswagen Polo. In terms of dimensions, the new Yaris bucks industry trends by being slightly smaller than the old one: it's 3,940mm long, but has a 50mm longer wheelbase for greater interior space.

Under the metal, its hybrid powertrain is a big improvement on that of the outgoing model, with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine working in tandem with an electric motor. And where the old Yaris Hybrid had a nickel-hydride battery, the new one's is lithium-ion – the same battery technology used in pure-electric cars.

In total, the system makes 114bhp and can get the car from 0-62mph in a reasonable 10.3 seconds. That compares to 138bhp and 8.3 seconds for the Clio E-TECH, although most hybrid supermini buyers will be more concerned with efficiency figures, and the early estimates from Toyota look good: 86g/km CO2 emissions and 105mpg fuel-economy – the latter sounding more like the figure for a plug-in hybrid model. Toyota says that in urban driving, the Yaris can be expected to spend up to four-fifths of the time in pure-electric, zero-emissions mode, promising exceptional efficiency for city and town dwellers who rarely venture on the open road.

Figures aside, what's it like to drive? The answer is 'pretty good' – which isn't entirely surprising when you learn it sits on a scaled-down version of the impressive Corolla's mechanical underpinnings. Body lean in corners is well contained, so you don't feel your head rolling around on twisty roads, but at the same time the suspension is nicely comfortable on rougher surfaces.

There's not a lot of feel through the steering wheel, but it responds very quickly to a turn and feels ideally suited to negotiating busy urban traffic, tight side streets and multi-storey car parks, with a very small turning circle. Greater battery power means the petrol engine cuts in much less frequently than it did in the third-generation hybrid Yaris, making for a smoother drive at lower speeds.

If you accelerate hard, you do experience the noisy rise in engine revs that characterises Toyota and Lexus hybrids (and anything else with a CVT automatic gearbox), so it's best to take some time to get used to the system and employ more gradual increases in speed for a more relaxing driving experience. The only place it comes apart a bit is when you're trying to keep up rhythm and momentum on winding country road, where you're likely to miss the extra level of involvement and control a traditional petrol engine and manual gearbox brings.

Other disappointing aspects of the new Yaris Hybrid include a somewhat cramped rear passenger area and a notably smaller boot than you get in its Renault Clio rival: 281 litres versus 380. Elsewhere, while the old Yaris' in-car technology was woefully behind the times even when it was new, this model gives a better account of itself, with full Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration included from the off. Our test car also featured a head-up display, but elsewhere the dashboard is less high-tech than what you get in the Volkswagen Polo.

Full UK specifications and pricing for this Yaris are still being ironed out, but we do know that even the entry-level version will come with a significant amount of advanced safety technology, including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and emergency steering assistance.

Overall, this feels like the most relevant and impressive Toyota supermini we've seen for many years. Unlike some of its rivals, it's not concerned with eye-catching interior technology or particularly swish exterior design. Rather it looks at getting the basics that buyers want right, foremost among them being low running costs and hassle-free ownership.