AS a stalwart of the supermini club, the Toyota Yaris has become increasingly important for the Japanese manufacturer.

A great deal of time and money has been lavished on improving the design quality and performance to widen its appeal to discerning customers.

The Yaris has an ace up its sleeve, of course, and that is hybrid electric power, a powertrain option that accounts for more than 40 per cent of all Yaris sales in Europe.

The latest Yaris saw the introduction of 900 new parts in a £76 million programme that saw significant changes to the front and rear styling to achieve a more refined appearance.

It’s a thoroughly modern mini inside, too, where you will find new colours and trims and improvements to the instruments and controls. For example, all versions apart from the entry Active grade model now feature a colour TFT multi-information display in the driver’s instrument binnacle.

Perhaps the most important introduction is under the bonnet, where a new 1.5-litre petrol engine designed to meet more stringent emissions standards has made its debut. The CO2 emissions figure of the hybrid version is a very impressive 91g/km.

This new unit delivers ten per cent more power and torque than the previous 1.33-litre engine, yet also posts an improvement in fuel economy of up to 12 per cent. Expect an mpg figure of about 55mpg, and more than that in city driving when the electric motor comes into its own.

All versions also get a suite of safety systems that include a pre-collision system with autonomous emergency braking, automatic high beam, lane departure alert and road sign assist

Particular attention has been paid to making the hybrid version a quieter ride through a raft of measures.

But there’s a lack of fun in the performance when that clever hybrid package is linked with CVT transmission. There is a distinct lack of sparkle to tempt buyers away from the class-leading Ford Fiesta, Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo.

It’s quite sluggish as well, with a 0 to 62mph sprint time of 11.8 seconds. If you are an urban dweller looking for a well-built and reliable supermini with hybrid performance, then the Yaris might make a good choice for you, but you will lose out on performance.

The focus for changes to Yaris’s interior was on keeping the look and ambience of the cabin feeling fresh and modern, introducing new upholsteries, colours and trim details and upgrading the instrumentation and controls.

Twin analogue dials flank a new 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, fitted as standard from Icon grade. Different information and vehicle data can be selected and adjusted using control switches on the three-spoke steering wheel, which itself has a new look with the addition of piano black trim inserts on Icon grade and higher.

Other detail changes include new propeller-style air vents, blue instrument illumination and a more streamlined, seamless execution of the multimedia screen and controls in the centre console, including new switches that are both neater in appearance and easier to operate.

The entry-level Active models feature a grey instrument panel insert and black cloth upholstery. For the Icon and Icon Tech versions the upholstery has a smart black/grey gradation pattern and the instrument panel insert and upper door trims are in a toning dark grey with a soft-touch finish and animal grain pattern.

The top-end Excel grade model features a smart, all-black interior, with part-leather upholstery and an all-round premium feel.

Exterior elements include 16-inch alloys, a rear spoiler and chrome side sills. LED headlights and rear lights are fitted.

The Yaris Hybrid remains a unique proposition in its segment, with best-in-class CO2 emissions. Just don’t expect any fireworks.

The lowdown:

Toyota Yaris Excel 1.5 Hybrid

Price: £20,790

Engine: Four-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol hybrid producing 98bhp

Transmission: Electric CVT

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 11.8 seconds; top speed 103mph

Economy: 55.98 to 58.85 combined

CO2 emissions: 91g/km

Star ratings:


Performance: ***

Economy: ****

Ride/Handling: ***

Space/Practicality: ****

Equipment: ****

Security/Safety: ****

Value For Money: ***