Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Drive [Photos: Antony Ingram]
Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Drive [Photos: Antony Ingram]Enlarge Photo
Why no Prius C?
While Toyota said the Yaris Hybrid won't be coming to the U.S. for highway economy reasons, there are a few more marketing-led answers as to why Europe gets the Yaris and the U.S. gets a Prius, and not the other way around.
Firstly, the strength of each badge must be considered. Yaris is Toyota's biggest-selling nameplate in Europe by quite some margin. It's the Toyota most customers are familiar with, so a hybrid model has greater market penetration than an all-new model like the Prius C. In the U.S, the regular Prius hugely out-sells the Yaris subcompact, so a car bearing the Prius badge has a greater impact.
Using the Yaris is also economically viable for Toyota. The current platform was designed with a hybrid system in mind, so the car's impressive interior and trunk space is unaffected. By using a near-identical powertrain to the Prius C, Toyota also benefits from economies of scale, making both cars cheaper to produce in a class where profit margins are lower.
There's no doubting that in Europe, the Yaris Hybrid is the most accomplished and important hybrid yet. It's the cheapest--undercutting many of its high-mpg diesel rivals--and it sits in a popular model line, in a high-selling sector.
It also makes the only other hybrid in its class--the Honda Fit Hybrid--seem obsolete. The Fit is $2,000 more expensive, less sophisticated with its mild hybrid technology, less economical, and where the Yaris avoids several road tax and congestion-charging schemes, the Fit attracts them with its higher CO2 emissions.
The U.S. won't miss the Yaris Hybrid, just as Europe won't miss the Prius C. Both cars are largely identical where it counts, and different where they need to be. And they're both very good cars.
Toyota provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person drive report.