THE hybrid is here to stay but are you ready for it? Have you been persuaded either through your pocket
THE hybrid is here to stay but are you ready for it? Have you been persuaded either through your pocket or your conscience to buy into a different way of motoring?
These seem to me pertinent questions particularly as most carmakers — even those of whacking great 4x4s — already have hybrids on the road or are working flat out to get them through the production line.
There is nothing new about the hybrid — a car driven by a combination of petrol/diesel and electric power — because the technology has been around for some time. But it seems to me that hybrids — with full electric cars close on their heels — are now marching smartly into a brave new world of motoring. The future’s power sources for cars, we have to believe, will be nothing like we have seen before.
But staying in the present there are naturally those who scorn such cars: you can see it in their eyes when they bear down on you in their throaty V6s and V8s. Yet like it or not, hybrids and engines with even more sophisticated power sources are the way things are going. Eventually progress will have its wicked way with us all.
Toyota you feel is acutely aware of how things stand when it comes to car production. The Japanese giant, which is one of the biggest makers of hybrids, last week reclaimed its top spot as the world’s “most valuable automotive brand”.
I mention this because when any brand is worth around £16 billion, and describes itself as one of the biggest “movers” in car manufacture, then it is to be reckoned with. And Toyota’s modus operandi for some time now has been to make a lot of hybrids ranging from everyday cars that sell across the globe to the more exotic, two cars Toyota Racing has unveiled for the 2013 TS030 Hybrid World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Which brings me to one of those “everyday” cars, this week’s drive, the Toyota Yaris Hybrid. Toyota says the Yaris has been “developed to be the most affordable full hybrid in Europe”. The test car (including £450 for metallic paint and £650 for Touch and Go — technology that gives you multi-media access, for example, Google Local Search connectivity) came in at £18,095.
For this you get very good fuel consumption on all cycles (combined, 76.3mpg, urban 83.1mpg and extra urban 76.3mpg). Your 1.5 CVT engine achieves more than respectable emissions of 85g/km and you can swish along quite comfortably with an engine that produces 98bhp.
However, you have to understand that hybrid driving is different from driving a car with either solely a petrol or diesel engine. In many ways, hybrid driving is less stressful, particularly one so well thought-out as the Yaris Hybrid — comfort all round in this five-door car is surprisingly good for both front and back seat passengers. There are some nice touches inside for what I would describe as a big small car. Perforated leather steering wheel trim, part-leather upholstery, driver and passenger vanity mirrors with covers, cruise control, front footwell illumination — all these things add value to cabin comfort.
In urban situations you glide as much as drive and when you pause at traffic lights or in queues (something we all do many times during any one journey) the engine in electric mode is so quiet you can literally hear birds singing in the trees (if indeed there are any birds available to serenade you).
The point is that while there is power there in the Toyota Hybrid to a degree (0 to 62mph in 11.8 seconds) and a possible top speed of 103mph if you come from a generation of drivers such as myself who cut their motoring teeth on sports cars and GTis eager to impress (and make some noise about it) to some extent you have to re-educate yourself in driving.
I would say the hybrid way can be a happy way. There is the blessing of great fuel economy and less stress. In the case of the Yaris Hybrid, you get an accomplished car for your money. But I would ask again the same question: is it time for you, as a motorist, to go for something entirely different?
Toyota Yaris Hybrid factfile
Model tested: Toyota Yaris Hybrid T Spirit 1.5 CVT 5-door
First full hybrid model in European B-Segment
Toyota Yaris Hybrid T Spirit 1.5 CVT 5-door:
* Total on-the-road price: £18,095
* First full hybrid model in European B-Segment
* Identical occupant and luggage space as conventional Yaris models
* New vehicle warranty: 5 year/100,000-mile pan-European mechanical warranty; 3-year paintwork warranty; 12-year anti-corrosion and perforation warranty; one year full AA cover