Driven: New Toyota Yaris hybrid

2012-07-18 08:25

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

  • citizen.kane.35 - 2012-07-19 08:00

    Quite honestly in a small car of comparitive size like for example the Kia Picanto, Tata etc at about R80-R120K to only save 3L per 100KM... its does not make economic sense to buy any hybrid. To get your R100K extra investment back is basically impossible over the lifespan of the car

      ebon.geist - 2012-07-19 15:23

      Absolutely true, unfortunately. Sadly, choosing to do the "right" thing costs the individual. This is the biggest challenge facing proponents of going green - convincing people of the need to make a personal sacrifice for the greater good. I am not sure that idea will ever fly unless governments actively get involved. Say what you like about carbon taxxes (and their horrible implementation) but at some point they will probably become necessary to save us from ourselves...

  • thabzmadi - 2012-07-19 08:19

    The difference between a non hybrid new Yaris at R127 800 and a base hybrid at R223 800 is over R96 000, that's more than 3 years worth of fuel at an average of R2500 per month cost???...not to mention the hybrid buyer would still incur fuel costs... Why should I buy this if it is not worth it for my pocket? Save the Earth I hear you say? But emission differences between the two are not mentioned in the article and not to mention the overall carbon footprint in the life cycle of both vehicles...so close but yet so far. No thanks but I rather keep my 8yr old 1.6 and not buy either to minimize damage to the environment and my long term finances!!!

      ebon.geist - 2012-07-19 15:18

      Thabz, I hate to have to give you the truth but you can't have your cake and eat it. Either fork out and pay for a green vehicle or accept that you are making a bigger carbon footprint. Emission differences between the two is basically proportional to the fuel consumption (since they use the same fuel and combustion process). You can check on Toyota's website. The normal Yaris is 5.6l/100km and 131g/km of CO2 vs the HSD's 3.8l/100km and 88g/km of CO2. The overall carbon footprint of any car is predominantly caused by the fuel it consumes (in the case of a hybrid, about 85-90%) and the difference in carbon footprint between the manufacture and disposal of a regular vehicle and that of a hybrid is less than 10% (or put another way 1-1.5% of the lifecyle carbon footprint). So by buying a hybrid you reduce your carbon footprint by about 30%. Considering that your old 1.6l probably consumes around 8-10l/100km, you would probably score a nett carbon saving after driving about 30 000km in your hybrid (ie after that time, the total CO2 from manufacture of the car + driving would be less than the CO2 output of your old car). Honestly though, the price of hybrids does make it difficult to go green. So I am not going to criticise you for your choice (econically you are making a much better choice using a normal car). Just saying though that that it is a myth that using old technology is good for the environment.

      ebon.geist - 2012-07-23 15:40

      Clearly people don't "like" to hear the truth or the facts. It is much better to live a convenient lie than an inconvenient truth. That is the conclusion I am forced to draw after seeing Thabzmadi's comment greatly liked - in spite of being filled with non-factual sentiment that is lacking in any substance, compared to my accurate response which is generally disliked. I think I could easily live with the fact that people don't like the facts on the table. To be perfectly honest I don't particularly like the fact that we really all should be spending a lot more money to curb our CO2 emissions. The sad thing is suspect that those disliking my comment above genuinely do not believe what I have written. They genuinely prefer ignorance - operating on the twisted logic that if they believe hard enough that there is no problem, then it will go away all by itself. sigh. Denial is bliss.

  • russell.bennett1 - 2012-07-19 09:28

    You're paying purely for the smugness factor, although I have no idea how you can be smug about being one of the ones suckered by the blatant scam that is hybrid technology. The car industry knows hybrids are mere lip-service stopgap solutions, full electric cars are much more the solution but the problem is they're nowhere near ready for the mass-market except perhaps in Eu/US/Japan where average travelling distances are lower and electricity infrastructure is abundant.

      ebon.geist - 2012-07-19 16:08

      Russell, I have seen a number of your posts in the past and there is a recurring message: You don't like to feel guilty about anything you do, so your defense mechanism is to go into denial and attack that which would highlight your choices as being "bad". The fact is that hybrid engines are not a "scam" any more than any other motor car. They categorically save fuel and reduce emissions compared to regular engines. If that is not important to you then so be it. You have no need (or right) to attack those people who believe these things are important and who are willing to put their money where their mouths are. The fact you perceive some drivers of Hybrid's to be smug is irrelevant. Even if they are smug they are still doing something, at their own expense, to reduce their carbon footprint. If anything though, it is your attitude that comes across as being very, very smug. How's that for irony?

      ernst.j.joubert - 2012-07-20 09:58

      @ebon.geist: Very well said.

      ernst.j.joubert - 2012-07-20 10:02

      @Ebon and Russell: Hybrids are great but there is one problem I have with them: They still burn gas. They dont give me, the consumer, a choice in the energy I use.

      ebon.geist - 2012-07-20 12:05

      Ernst, I don't disagree. I guess I like to see hybrids as the current "Lesser Evil". I think the reality of our situation is that humanity is still largely dependent on fossil fuels of one form or another to meet our energy needs. Sustainable fuels are still far too expensive to be considered a viable solution in any kind of real world scenario where we have to be able to actually afford them. In the meantime, I see any way of getting more efficiency out of the fossil fuels we burn as being a good thing. Combined with a gradual transition to sustainable energy I see our dependence on fossil fuels decreasing over time until eventually we can abandon them altogether.

  • lourens.a.kloppers - 2012-07-20 16:06

    wtf is up with this car's pricing? You can get a renault clio sport for R259900! just about 10k more than this.

      ebon.geist - 2012-07-23 15:44

      Simple answer: A hybrid employs expensive technology to reduce fuel consumption. A Clio Sport employs expensive technology to increase performance. I cannot understand why you expect the two cars you are comparing to be in any way even remotely similar since they pursue two, almost diametrically opposing, objectives.

  • motor.mouth.376 - 2012-07-22 08:51

    Hey Toyota. So you CAN make pretty cars!!!! So why don't you lose that stupid "smiley face" on the regular Yaris range. I opened two tabs in this site and compared them side by side....They don't even look like the same manufacturer.

  • tania.riley.754 - 2012-11-12 09:05

    I would like to suggest that everyone should go into a toyota dealership and go and compare the differeces between a Yaris at R127 ooo and a 1.5 hybrid yaris. ENORMOUS cosmetic and functional differences between these specs. The whole experience is not about price. The toyota cost of ownership is also generally a lot cheaper than other models generally speaking. it is not about any one factor such as cost of the purchase or the cost of the fuel...it is the overall cents per km running cost of owning a vehicle that is what makes it a rands and cents winner. costs like servicing and maintenance ...even when the service plan is over...this needs to be factored in as well. parts availability makes the toyota product an overall winner for sa residents. the largest parts and sales of any car in this country ensures better availability and better service levels. my vote is with the toyota product...irrispecitive of whether you are an out and out greenie or not!

  • Nikhil Bhoola ? - 2013-04-24 09:14

    My wife recently purchased a Yaris HSD XS. Toyota managed to give it to us at a discounted price of R 215 000. We were a bit skeptical on purchasing this car because as many had already mentioned its a bit expensive. Anyways we got it and to be honest - we loving every minute. Both of us are not tree huggers but it makes you feel better that you driving a car that has the least impact on destroying the earth. The claimed 3.8 l / 100 km is a far offshoot from what we getting but just to put things into perspective the car is driven hard - very hard. My wife is a physiotherapist on the move and she is always in a hurry. I drive the car totally on the weekends and really hurt this car (my daily drive is a 2002 Corolla RXi with performance upgrades). I simply love the torque on this Yaris because the petrol and electric motors combine during acceleration and give you that wheel spin even for an automatic. We currently getting 4.6 l per 100 km and the highest we've ever seen this thing do is 5.1 litres per 100 km. Basically it costs R400 to fill the tank - and that gives us roughly 650 kms +. Its not bad for the way we drive. If you are a slow driver then this car is ideal for you - you may even get less that the claimed 3.8 km /100 km. I say this because this car uses no fuel in traffic, city driving and driving round the neighborhood. The only time the petrol engine kicks in is during hard acceleration, steep inclines and over 60 km/h. I dont think its a bad car.

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