Ryan Bubear heads upcountry and drives the brand new Toyota Yaris HSD...
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Cool. Hip. Trendy. Whatever you choose to call this condition, the vast majority of youngsters want to be it.
This is why they tend to buy the type of cars which are as much a fashion statement as a mode of transport. But hybrids, despite the almost pretentious popularity of the Prius among Hollywood A-listers, have never really had the street-cred to make any sort of meaningful impact on the youth market.
Part of the reason, of course, is price. And then there's the fact that hybrid-only models tend to make overt "look-at-me-I'm-saving-the-world" statements. Which, let's face it, just isn't cool. At least not outside of Hollywood...
But with the Auris HSD (which we reviewed a little while back) and now the B-segment Yaris HSD, things are quite a bit more subtle. "Hybridising" an already established model just makes so much sense. In effect, you can still do your bit for the environment without shouting about it from the rooftops.
HSD the flagship
That said, the Yaris HSD (Hybrid Synergy Drive) has been launched as the flagship model of the Yaris range. With a few rather tasty defining characteristics, this is basically a Yaris with added styling and HSD. Which means you can save fuel and be green in a subtle yet stylish way. Win-win, really.
The Yaris HSD is the cheapest, smallest hybrid on the South African market. It makes use of a re-engineered second-generation Prius 1.5 Atkinson petrol engine linked to an electric motor and 144V nickel-metal hydride battery. Importantly, these components (which have shed plenty of size and weight) don't alter the usable interior space of the Yaris. With the battery pack squeezed under the rear passenger seats, the boot retains its 286-litre capacity and a full-size spare is standard. Practicality is thus not sacrified at the altar of greeness.
The total system power output is 74kW, with the VVT-i petrol engine producing 111Nm and the electric motor 169Nm (the latter available from zero rpm). This sees the Yaris HSD hit three figures in some 11.8 seconds. More importantly though, Toyota claims a combined fuel consumption of 3.8 litres per 100km and CO2 emissions of just 88g/km.
And that's not just a claim. On the launch drive, journalists took part in a typically competitive economy challenge. Tanks were brimmed, odometer readings taken, and fuel caps sealed. The teams then drove about 130km, in varying road and traffic conditions, finishing at a petrol station in Magaliesburg. Our team placed third with a final figure of 4 litres per 100km, with the winning pair actually beating the quoted figure. In theory, that means the 36-litre tank could take you close to 950km.
Silence is golden
The e-CVT (continuously variable transmission) is pleasantly hushed, and two driving modes in addition to "normal" are available (stop-start is standard). Eco mode sees throttle response reduced and the air-con unit optimised for fuel economy, while EV mode allows the Yaris HSD to operate on electric motor power alone (and thus with zero emissions), up to speeds of 50km/h. This makes it — like the Prius and Auris HSD — a full hybrid. And eerily quiet.
The exterior details setting the HSD apart from the common-and-garden Yaris include hybrid-specific LED lights (DRLs and lamps around the back), larger lower grille, slimmer upper grille, projector-type headlights, and blue Toyota badging. Profiles of the front bumper corners, bonnet, A-pillar, door mirrors, roofline, rear bumper corners, rear lights and even the wheels have been designed to maximise the Yaris Hybrid's aerodynamic efficiency. Underbody aero adjustments have also been made.
Two trim levels are on offer: the XS and range-topping XR. From the outside, the XR model gets front fog lights, tints and a rear spoiler. Inside, XS models get electric windows, automatic climate control, remote central locking, touchscreen (controlling audio, Bluetooth and on-board computer with hybrid-specific functions), USB port, and multi-functional leather steering wheel.
The XR adds a start button, cooled cubbyhole, reversing camera, extra speakers, electric rear windows, leather/fabric trim, electro-chromatic rear-view mirror, cruise control, and automatic lights and wipers.
The Yaris HSD has a five-star EuroNCAP safety rating, and gets ABS (with EBD and BAS) as well as Vehicle Stability Control (VSC). The XS model has four airbags as standard, while the XR gets three more. Both models have a three-year or 100 000km warranty, extended to eight years or 195000km on hybrid system components, and a four-year or 60 000km service plan.
In short, it's well-specced and looks decent without losing the practicality of the ordinary Yaris. Toyota is conservative with its sales expectations, saying that it hopes to sell between 20 and 25 Yaris HSD units a month in South Africa. Over time, that figure will surely grow.
So, the Yaris HSD is the first hybrid — besides perhaps the Honda CRZ — that actually comes close to making green cool enough (and cheap enough) to appeal to a younger, trend-conscious audience.
And good on Toyota for (again) being the first to take the leap.
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See page 2 for specs and pricing.