As more and more manufacturers start to offer hybrid options in their lineups, more and more people are starting to ask the question, should I plunge coin into the hybrid version. This is the question we asked ourselves recently as the EFTM Garage played host to a pair of Toyota’s latest Yaris; a mid-spec petrol engine SX and a top-spec ZR Hybrid.

The new Yaris has garnered considerable controversy because of its move up-market and the subsequent hike in RRP. The Yaris range kicks off with the $25402 (drive away in NSW) Ascent Sport before moving up to the mid-spec SX at $30438 and topping off with the $33609 ZR.  A hybrid powertrain is available on all but the Ascent Sport for a very reasonable $2k. Strictly speaking, the sublime Yaris GR is also part of the range, but at around $60k it really is a different kettle of fish and has more that is not Yaris than is Yaris. 

Without question, expensive for a city car, but largely worth the outlay. Your spend gets you Toyota’s rock star retained value, great quality, vast dealer support and reasonably good equipment levels.

Warranty is up’ed to five years (with an additional two years on engine and drivetrain in certain circumstances), but is still short of Kia’s class-leading seven years. Speaking of Kia, while the Yaris betters Kia’s Picanto with a more comprehensive safety suite, it lacks the wireless charging and wireless Apple CarPlay fitted to the much, much cheaper Picanto. Toyota labels this safety pack ‘Toyota Safety Sense’.

In addition to the features shared with the Picanto, such as active cruise control and autonomous braking, the Yaris adds traffic sign recognition and intersection turn assist. The former I can live without, the latter is a life saver, literally, preventing the driver from turning across the path of an oncoming vehicle. Still, it’s a lot more expensive, so the Yaris needs every advantage it can get.  

If you like what you see and are happy to pay the premium Toyota asks, you won’t be disappointed with the Yaris. It’s a cracking little car. The only quibble comes from the CVT automatic transmission fitted throughout the range. Simply a legacy of this type of fuel saving transmission, it drones annoyingly most of the time. Interestingly, I also found the hybrid drivetrain frustratingly annoying. But first, a quick refresher…

Hybrid power comes in three main flavors: BEV (Battery Electric Vehicles), where the car is only powered by electricity, such as Tesla’s Model 3; PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles), such as Mercedes’ GLC 300e; and HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicles), where the car is powered by petrol and electricity. HEV is the path Toyota popularised with their Prius and continues to use in this latest Yaris. 

The advantage of HEV is simple – range. The battery is charged by the car’s internal combustion engine and will keep charge for as long as there is petrol in the tank; if it runs out of charge, the car’s petrol engine takes over. The disadvantage, and it’s a kicker, is that you get to experience the delicious power delivery and silent running of an electric drivetrain in only a number of limited situations – starting, very low speed traffic and when stationary. It does provide fuel savings (a claimed 3.3l/100 vs 4.9l/100 for non-hybrid), but I can’t help but feel that Toyota has backed the wrong horse. 

The limitations of the HEV system used by Toyota are exposed by every PHEV on the market. In a PHEV, the driver experiences the joy of full electric drive at all times until the battery is drained. This is when the car’s internal combustion engine kicks in. Of course, the disadvantage is that once that battery is drained then you’re not going to see electric motion again until you are back home, plugged in and topped up.

Still, with a short commute and a range of around 30km – 50km offered by most PHEV, it is possible to avoid having to use petrol at all. Even on a longer commute, you get to enjoy torquey, silent drive at all times for at least part of the drive. Furthermore, on more expensive HEV vehicles, such as a Lexus, sound deadening and refinement help mask the constant transition from electric to petrol, while on the light-weight Yaris, this transition is very noticeable. 

So, if I was in the market for a small car would the Yaris be on the list? It would be bloody well near the top, but I’d give the hybrid a miss and rely on that killer resale when I trade it in for a Yaris PHEV… as long as Toyota can swallow its pride and back a different horse.