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]

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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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