Toyota Yaris HSD Bi-Tone – Eco-life is bliss in the metropolis image

The Japanese automaker, the world’s largest and also the biggest company in its home country, has a pretty impressive eco-friendly goal to reduce its average emissions from cars by 90 percent by about 2050.

And I really believe that green goal has everything to do with its model strategy. The so-called Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 includes the aforementioned challenge to reduce by 90 percent new vehicle CO2 emissions – and that’s actually just one of the six main goals the automaker has set for itself. This could be seen as in stark contrast to the global sales challenger Volkswagen, which has shamed the entire automotive industry following the Dieselgate scandal. The idea of having such a massive reduction in terms of emissions – and implicitly fuel consumption – is deeply rooted in the Japanese automaker’s way of seeing life and that is integral to the way it produces automobiles today.

The Yaris HSD we drove is just a gear in the main assembly – we can trace it as a relative of the Prius hybrid – as it shares the same powertrain with the Prius c that is not being sold in Europe. And I believe the Japanese started altering their philosophy once they initiated the Prius “revolution” way back in 1997 – with all the hybrid models across the range and the Mirage fuel cell car now available tracing their origin back to this single model introduction. Today Toyota is so much more than that Japanese producer with very reliable but dull autos. Granted, the Yaris, which has been facelifted back in 2014, has the smallest share of the latest design philosophy, but having almost all vehicles across the range using the HSD system is an obvious achievement nonetheless.

Toyota Yaris HSD Bi-Tone (32)

Design, Interior and Gadgets
Getting back to the Yaris HSD we’re testing, this time around we were treated to a Bi-Tone edition that is here to spice things up a little, with the upper side of the body painted black and the lower side in pearl white. The subcompact model gains some character among the rest of competitors thanks to the decals, which have been also matched with dual-tone alloy wheels. The 2014 refresh brought some of the newer character lines form the latest design philosophy – Toyota now has a large lower grille and quirky designs for the front and taillights. But more importantly the Yaris is still not an advocate of the extreme traits used more often today. The new generation Prius for example will spark unusual (for Toyota) love/hate reactions when first seeing the design – but that’s not the case with the Yaris. The softness of the previous generations is dully gone, meaning the model will also be interesting to the male audience, but the design traits still blend nicely all around. We can see the other models in the range – the Auris or the RAV4, for example – have not gone down the extreme road as well and we’re happy that Toyota has decided to add some flair to its designs, but can still remain restrained when the business case calls to.

The interior, meanwhile, is very contemporary and has all the usual traits we’re expecting from the Japanese automaker. That means a level of quality that transcends the subcompact class (of course the Yaris HSD price in itself is way higher than we’re used to in the segment). We have soft touch materials and a high level of attention to details. No cracks or screeches will be present during the drive, so people can rest assured that while Toyota is embracing a new direction the old ways have not been forgotten. While the powertrain is entirely high-tech, the Yaris command center doesn’t attest to that as much: it does sport a central tablet-like display with touch controls for most of the functions – infotainment system, powertrain display, board computer. But we were expecting something else from a model that is capable of going for miles on electric power alone. If you’re not looking carefully you can even mistake the HSD for a regular Yaris – the dead giveaways are the EV mode and Eco buttons, which have been hidden under the parking lever. We have a classic instrument cluster and the tablet-like display is sitting in the middle of the dashboard making it sometimes hard to read under direct sunlight – we would have much appreciated if it was slightly angled towards the driver.

The front driving position is good, with a tall person as myself easily finding the right balance for a comfortable and easy drive – though at times the central display was hard to reach at the extreme tip away from the driver. The front seats are soft and comfortable even for longer rides and we appreciated they’re not undersized as in other competitor models that use this subterfuge to make the cabin appear roomier. I also appreciate that while from the outside the model appears to be deploying the usual “cab-forward” architecture, stepping inside the cabin revealed it to be otherwise. This is important because I found that models using this system to appear roomier are actually smaller inside with the dashboard assembly stretching far inside the habitat and cutting down on available space.

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That’s not to say the Yaris is a full-trip five person vehicle – we’re still talking about a model that will primarily dwell inside sprawling metropolis. But the four passengers that will fit inside will have room to spare and the only compromise will be in the back when discussing knee room. The upside is the trunk space is good – standing in at 286 liters. In terms of gadgetry the Yaris is starting to show its age – we do have touchscreen controls and things such as USB connection and Bluetooth but the rivals are starting to deliver things like in-car applications and even Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Engine, Transmission and Handling
The main selling point for the Yaris HSD Bi-Tone won’t be the dual tone bodywork but the Hybrid Synergy Drive system. As I said before, the Yaris shares its powertrain with the Prius c (Aqua in other markets) which stands as the third member of the Prius family and is a full hybrid gasoline-electric subcompact hatchback. The model isn’t sold in Europe because, well, Yaris is already filling that exact slot. But they do share the powertrain which consists of a Generation 3 Hybrid Synergy Drive using a 1.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder, 16–valve with VVT-i gasoline engine. The latter is the same as the one used by the earliest of Priuses, but taken down the “beltless” road – small electric motors actuate all the functions operated before by the accessory drives. It’s all engineering talk from now on if we want to explain the progress of the third generation, but we’re actually more interested in things such as the new high-voltage battery and inverter, and smaller auxiliary 12 volt battery. That’s because they’re located under the rear bench – and they’re protected from impact thanks to a tubular steel cage – and in this way they’re also not using up space anywhere else, first and foremost in the trunk. The Yaris HSD shows that bulging hybrid powertrains are a thing of the past and in everyday sue there’s no difference between the HSD and a regular Yaris.

The power level is of 75 hp for the internal combustion engine, 61 hp for the electric motor and the total combined output is of 101 PS / 99 hp. Since we’ve been around hybrids for years now, there’s nothing spectacular about describing the operation of the hybrid powertrain in the Yaris. If you have the battery full and you feel eco you can go for the EV mode – but only if you don’t go beyond a certain speed and feel lighter than usual on the accelerator pedal. Other than that you should actually leave the system alone to work out by itself the best scenarios for when to use electricity, when the petrol engine and when both are needed. If you like to play around, even in the normal mode (Eco activated or not) you can go electric if you mind the little needle in the instrument cluster that reads the used power levels (you have charging, eco in green and power in white). It’s fun to play with it but since the Yaris HSD’s systems work seamlessly you’ll forget about this in a short while.

The hybrid powertrains have evolved a lot since they were first introduced into mainstream vehicles and the Yaris HSD makes the transition between electric power, internal combustion power or both very easy and uneventful. The only times when you’re remembered about your different powertrain is when needing all the “muscle” – then the power needle will be up and atom and the engine noise will be fully present. The Yaris HSD is first and foremost a city car – dwell inside the cities all the time and you may never want to go to a bigger, more fuel thirsty vehicle. The fuel consumption during our test was a notch above 5 liters per 100 km (5,1 to 5.2 liters) but we eschewed the usual motorway ride – driving at speeds of 130 to 140 km/h are not really something to brag about in a Yaris – HSD or not. The Yaris, whatever the version, will feel at home in the city and will also indulge in rides outside the city but for longer trips you may want to look at bigger models – for example the Auris HSD or the RAV4 hybrid.

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Performance is not something to write home about – 165 km/h top speed and the zero to 100 km/h sprint is resolved in 11,8 seconds. People buying it are either eco-conscious or want to save on the long run on fuel costs. But the Yaris HSD has interesting ride and handling traits nonetheless. With a NiMh battery pack pushing down on the rear axle and a special “B” (Brake) position for the automatic transmission you can indulge in occasional sporty handling. That’s because the Yaris HSD has a low center of gravity, an exact steering wheel (though hardly informative of what’s underneath the front wheels) and the auto gearbox can mimic the manual transmission’s regression of gears when needed. So, while not intended in the first place, the Yaris HSD can also be a fun ride, especially since it also upholds the usual Toyota ride quality – low ride noise and exact suspension that will engulf almost any type of pothole. Last, but not least, the consumption is something worth considering – you can actually do better averages if you don’t leave the city because the powertrain will use more of its electric resources.

Likes/Dislikes
Pro: available space, with the HSD system not taking up any of it; the ride and quality rival any of Toyota’s bigger models, fuel consumption inside the city.
Against: pricing – it’s steep and you won’t make up the difference to a regular model easily just form lower fuel consumption; the gadgetry department could be better addressed since we’re in a high-tech vehicle.

Price
Starting price – Toyota Yaris 3-Door 1.0L 69 hp Terra Start – 17,600 EUR ; Toyota Yaris HSD Terra Hybrid – 16,250
Tested Version – Toyota Yaris HSD Bi-Tone – 19,356 EUR

Engine: 1.6L four cylinder, gasoline, start/stop (1497 cc) + Electric motor alternative current, 520 V
Power: petrol 75 HP (55 kW) at 4800 rpm + 61 HP (45 kW) for combined total of 101 HP (74 kW)
Torque: 111 Nm between 3,800 – 4,400 rpm + 169 Nm
Transmission: automatic, epicyclical mechanism

Dimensions: length – 3,950 mm, width – 1,695mm, height – 1,510 mm, wheelbase – 2,510 mm
Fuel Tank Capacity: 36 L
Battery pack capacity: 0,9 kWh – NiMh
Trunk Capacity: 286 liters
Weight: 1160 kg

0 – 100 km/h: 11,8 s
Top Speed: 165 km/h
Fuel consumption: urban – 3,1L/100 km, highway – 3,3L/100 km, average – 3,3L/100 km
Rating: 4.1 / 5