Ryan Bubear has his second helping of the Toyota Yaris 1.5 XR HSD...
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The vast majority of people are dead keen on "saving the world", but very few are prepared to even try if it's going to hit them where it hurts most. We are, of course, talking about the wallet, and not the crotch.
Just think: if protecting the environment were cheaper than actively killing it, we'd each have the carbon footprint of an anorexic ant. Clad in tie-dye T-shirts and munching on organic carrots stored in handy hemp backpacks, we'd happily go about our daily lives — which would involve hugging the odd tree and recycling Meat-Free Monday pamphlets — safe in the knowledge that we're "part of the solution". And, of course, even safer in the knowledge that we're saving a buck.
But, alas, adopting a "green" lifestyle is generally not a cheap decision — particularly when it comes to cars.
Affordable and green?
And this is exactly why the launch of the Toyota Yaris HSD (that stands for Hybrid Synergy Drive) earlier this year attracted so much attention. You see, it was billed (and still is) as the cheapest hybrid in South Africa. How was this achieved? Quite simple, really — by "hybridising" an already established model, and making use of a re-engineered and downsized version of the drivetrain used in the second-generation Prius. The result is a full hybrid priced from just under R20k more than the range-topping petrol Yaris. It's also the country's lowest carbon emitter, spewing out just 88g per kilometre. Not bad.
But perhaps more pertinent is the issue of fuel economy. Just how much fossil fuel can the Yaris HSD save you (and, of course, the world) at the pumps?
Well, the big savings are to be had by keeping the HSD in full electric mode for as long and as often as possible. In this mode, the 55kW 1.5-litre Atkinson Cycle engine (the total system output is 74kW) shuts down completely, and the small electric motor provides the go-forward juice, using absolutely no petrol, emitting no noxious gases and making as much noise as Parliament on a Sunday. Of course, certain conditions have to be met to take advantage of this — the battery must be holding sufficient charge and the vehicle's speed must be below 50km/h, for instance.
e-CVT for efficiency
The Yaris HSD's efficiency is also boosted by an electric continuously variable transmission (e-CVT), which is pleasantly hushed when driven sedately. Really plant your right foot though (which, admittedly, a hybrid owner is unlikely to do too often), and an angry hairdryer drone fills the cabin.
Using (and staying in) "EV Mode" requires incredibly light throttle inputs. This means that pulling away from traffic lights at a pace deemed acceptable to the motorist behind you is rather difficult. That said, we were determined to end up with a real-world consumption figure, so our week of driving involved piloting the HSD in as fuel-efficient a manner as possible, without needlessly holding up other road-users. So while we weren't exactly breaking any speed limits, we certainly weren't the slowest car in the slow lane either.
The driving style required to be take advantage of the hybrid powertrain is quickly learned, and the "past consumption" bar graph accessed through the Hybrid Energy Monitor touchscreen illustrated how our driving became more efficient with each trip. This monitor displays real-time information too, including fuel range, instant fuel consumption, and average fuel consumption per minute over the past 15 minutes.
So, how did we fare? Well, we didn't quite manage to match Toyota's claimed combined cycle consumption figure of 3.8 litres per 100km, nor did we beat our record achieved on the launch economy run earlier this year. But we weren't far off, returning a final figure of 4.3, which translates into a theoretical 837 kilometres from the 36-litre tank. Again, not bad at all.
Importantly, the Yaris HSD's "greenness" doesn't force a compromise on space and practicality. You get the great headroom and decent rear legroom of the "normal" Yaris, and boot space is unaffected too. Thanks to the nickel-metal hydride battery being squeezed under the rear bench, there is still a very usable 286 litres of luggage space, and a full-sized spare finds a spot too.
The HSD's exterior styling is tasty yet subtle, and features a spot of aerodynamic wizardry too — but unless you look closely, you could quite easily mistake it for a common-and-garden Yaris. There are two trim levels available: XS and XR. The former gets a pretty comprehensive standard features list, which includes dual-zone automatic climate control, six-speaker audio system (USB/iPod), touchscreen, Bluetooth, multifunctional steering wheel, electric front windows, leather steering wheel, 15-inch alloys, LED DRLs, and four airbags.
For about R23k more, the XR adds a start button, reversing camera, illuminated/cooled glovebox, two extra speakers, electric rear windows, leather trim, cruise control, electro-chromatic rear-view mirror, auto headlights, auto wipers, front fog-lights, privacy glass, rear spoiler, and three extra airbags. Plenty of goodies, then.
Toyota doesn't expect to move huge numbers (not quite yet, anyway) of what is the world's smallest hybrid. In contrast to the vehicles most drivers are used to, the Yaris HSD excels in slow-moving traffic, but suffers a bit on the open road. So it best suits those who drive mostly short distances, in areas where the speed limit is 60 or 70km/h. And those who enjoy sneaking away from car guards in near silence.
While the Yaris HSD is incredibly efficient, it won't provide enormous fuel savings over the 1.0-litre or even 1.3-litre petrol Yaris — particularly if your daily commute involves plenty of highway driving — so it's unlikely to win over hardened sceptics.
But as a "lifestyle" vehicle, it represents a significant step towards Toyota offering a hybrid version of every vehicle in its range, and gives a new set of younger buyers the option of going green too.
While it won't single-handedly save the world, it certainly makes the option of trying quite a bit easier. And — just as importantly — quite a lot cheaper too.
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See page 2 for specs and pricing.