Toyota Yaris Hybrid Driven: Why Europeans Won't Get Prius C

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The Toyota Yaris Hybrid is as significant a car for Toyota in Europe as the 2012 Toyota Prius C is for the company in the U.S.

It's the cheapest hybrid on the market, emits the lowest levels of CO2 of any non plug-in car--vital for European taxation reasons--and returns impressive gas mileage figures.

GreenCarReports was invited to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, to drive the new hybrid--and we discovered some interesting reasons as to why Europe gets a Yaris-based hybrid, rather than the dedicated Prius C.

Same car, different body

Mechanically and electrically, the Yaris Hybrid is very similar indeed to the Prius C, meaning it uses the same 1.5-liter, four-cylinder Atkinson cycle gasoline engine, and the same electric motor and drivetrain.

Combined output is 98 horsepower. The engine can serve up 81 lb-ft of torque, and the electric motor contributes 124 lb-ft, though a combined figure isn't given.

As a result, performance is likely to be very similar between Yaris and Prius C. Toyota quotes a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 11.8 seconds, with a top speed of 103 mph. Both cars have a drag coefficient of 0.28, and the Yaris is the lighter car, at 2,400 lbs to the Prius C's 2,500 lbs.

Visually the Yaris Hybrid offers plenty of tweaks over the standard Yaris, with LED-adorned lights front and rear, a Prius-like front end treatment and of course, the "hybrid blue" badge front and rear. Inside, it's all standard Yaris, with a few specification changes and some blue detailing to continue the corporate hybrid theme.

Driving the Yaris Hybrid

Like the Prius C, the Yaris Hybrid is more fun to drive than the regular Prius, owing to the lighter body, quicker steering and firmer--though not uncomfortable--suspension set-up. We've driven cars that are more fun, but few Yaris Hybrid owners will mind.

At the same time, it's as easy to drive as any other hybrid, with the the smooth electric continuously-variable transmission letting the revs rise and fall to deliver the required power and torque in any situation. That's if the engine is on at all--Toyota downloaded data from every car, to show the assembled press that between 40-50 percent of our driving had been done entirely in EV mode.

Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Drive [Photos: Antony Ingram]

Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Drive [Photos: Antony Ingram]

Enlarge Photo

When you push harder, the engine drones away like any other CVT-equipped car, but during our time with the car these spells were mercifully short. EV mode really did dominate, the system happy to take over driving duties up to 30 mph. Often, backing off after gasoline-assisted acceleration to higher speeds, EV mode would let us drive along at up to 40 mph--hugely beneficial for saving gas.

Using those techniques and driving with economy in mind, we returned some spectacular economy figures. A mixture of urban driving and open 50 mph roads saw us average 63.5 mpg in our top-spec T-Spirit model--nigh-on identical to the official European 64 mpg urban figure, numbers we often describe as 15-20 percent higher than you'd expect from an EPA rating.

In case you were wondering, that didn't even require traffic-disrupting 'hypermiling' techniques--it simply involved driving with economy in mind. Even driving with economy firmly out of mind, a colleague struggled to return lower than 47 mpg, a figure the Yaris Hybrid also seemed happy to return on the few freeway sections we encountered.

That's very similar to the Prius C's official 46 mpg highway rating, and it makes the Yaris Hybrid a very efficient car indeed.

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Comments (6)
  1. I own a Prius c. I am very pleased with the fuel economy. Now maybe the "c" is different than the Yaris Hybrid, but I have to drive *differently* to maximize fuel economy, slower acceleration to stay in electric mode, coasting down hills, etc. But what I really want to say is that it sounds like if I had a choice between the Prius c and the Yaris hybrid, I would choose the Yaris. The "c" has a cramped back seat and unless you fold down the seat, the cargo area is tiny. Sure it is a subcompact, but c'mon, give us a few more inches.

  2. Interesting to hear your thoughts, Ed.

    To confirm, to get the stated figures I had to consciously drive with economy in mind and naturally Toyota had chosen a route to allow the best chance of getting high economy figures.

    However, it did seem that over those same routes, a deliberately heavy-footed driving style still returned impressive economy, though we didn't get any significant highway driving, where economy may suffer a little.

    Regarding slow acceleration to stay in EV mode, Toyota actually recommends accelerating with the engine and then backing off to kick in EV mode - that way you don't hold up traffic, but also uses the greater engine power to accelerate, and more efficient EV mode to maintain speed. We're covering this soon!

  3. Yeah, I have to say I have found the experience of driving the "c" is more complicated (and therefore more interesting) than can be encapsulated in a paragraph. When I am in traffic I do just as you say and accelerate with the gas engine and then cruise in electric mode.

    I have been getting numbers (according to the car) in the mid to upper fifties in hilly Pittsburgh, which is quite satisfying, for what it is worth. I guess if I just drove the "c" rather than trying to tease it into electric mode, I might get mileage numbers in the low 40's, but seems like almost any hybrid could do that. Almost no hybrid can get fifty three in the city (without ninja hypermiling skills).

    Check out the Prius c numbers on

  4. I really wish that when a manufacturer creates something that is innovative and works better than previous they wouldn't revert to the old design when introducing a new model.The one item I am writing about is the return to a traditional staggered gate transmission selector.On the second gen Prius its perfect,on the latest Prius less so and now on the Yaris gone altogether.I have the staggered gate on my IQ and find it crude,noisey and needing a visual glance to select direction. I do not believe it would be any cheaper to produce than the Prius electric switch type considering the numbers already made.Is this throwback to convention customer driven or dictated by bean counters?

  5. I should have clarified why I think the selector is perfect on the second gen Prius... it's ergonomically correct as one can select direction without removing their hand from the steering wheel.its quiet,it's a modular electric switch fed through the computer with safety features preventing misuse. And finally it does'nt take up floor space.

  6. Hi Don, sorry for the late reply to your comment. I'm actually in agreement with you - I like the high-tech switch-style shifter in the Prius, and much prefer it to a regular auto gate. I also like how little the smaller shifter intrudes into the cabin, particularly over a floor-mounted unit.

    However, I think you've hit the nail on the head. In Europe, where Yaris buyers are relatively conservative, a traditional gear gate is a more comfortable step than going to a Prius-style unit. It may also be cost-related, since apart from detail changes it's presumably the same physical unit.

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