Call me a dufus. When I pushed the button on the Toyota Yaris Hybrid I wondered why it wouldn’t start. So in a panic I called Deon Joubert Racing who delivered the test car to me. “How do you switch it on?”. I asked. “Just push the starter button and when the icon lights up the Yaris is ready to go.” It did start the first time but the motor is so quiet that you can’t hear it rumble to life.
It reminded me when keyless starting was still a novelty (at least to me). You had to depress the clutch or the brake pedal before the car would start. No brand names but some years ago a car was delivered to me with the then latest keyless technology and try as I might I could not get the engine to turn over, even unscrewing the cover where the key usually goes. Until I phoned for help … then it came alive with a roar. It was as easy as pushing the brake and a button. But I digress. The design of the Yaris Hybrid which was launched here late last year has been refreshed to include a redesigned dashboard, better quality finish inside, leather and fabric seats, a new face with chrome trimmings and LED daytime running lights. Carbon emissions are 82gm/100km and Toyota claims fuel consumption of 3.5 litres/100km for the 1.5 (1 497cc) engine which puts out 74kW. However, the figures were measured under perfect driving conditions unlike those of us who have to contend with different altitudes, poor roads, the vagaries of city traffic and motorway mayhem. I calculated fuel use at just over 4 litres/100km, which is not too shabby. I drove the hybrid all over the Peninsula, up hills, down dales, through mountain passes and in heavy traffic. It is ideally suited to stop-start city driving when the petrol engine passes the strain onto the electric motor. On the open road the Yaris Hybrid is not exactly a speed merchant, it trundles along at a leisurely pace but it does have enough grunt to overtake and that’s when the noise from the CVT becomes intrusive. Ride comfort is good and two (large) adults can sit in comfort at the rear. Standard across the range is a multimedia touchscreen system connected to a six-speaker sound system. Electric windows, the steering wheels, which has all the right buttons can be adjusted for tilt and reach. The alphabet of safety features: ABS with EBB, Brake Assist and four airbags is also standard.
The Yaris has quite a lot going for it: fuel economy for one and of course Toyota’s reliability factor. If you’re planning a long trip, and even though there is enough space (286 litres) for a family’s holiday luggage, don’t expect to get there in a hurry. But you’ll enjoy the drive.