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Hybrid is for disciples only

THE Toyota Yaris Hybrid is a great piece of engineering. Toyota has shrunk the size and weight of its hybrid system to fit into a supermini without compromising on space in cabin or boot. There are many pluses: low fuel costs (Toyota claims more than 80mpg in mixed driving), low noise levels and extremely low C02 emissions. Great.

This formula in a Yaris, a long-time leader in its segment, should have us all running out to buy one, but sadly the package has limitations that dampen its appeal. This is an urban car that loses a lot of its sheen when out of its comfort zone where the combination of electric and petrol power work best.

Around town the Yaris Hybrid is a pleasure to drive. The electric CVT automatic transmission takes you effortlessly through the urban crawl, the drive is quiet (even the engine noise is muted), there is a great turning circle and the cabin is roomy and airy. The icing on the cake is the 79g/km of C02 (€170 road tax) and a genuine 44-48mpg around town.

These figures are thanks to the torquey little hybrid addition that drives you on battery power, only allowing the 1.5 litre petrol engine to cut in usually above the 50km mark. The only danger is from constantly watching the colour touch screen to monitor your performance. This can be a big distraction initially as you pick Eco Mode to try to nudge an even greater distance on battery. It all makes good sense for the environment and your wallet.

The e-CVT is not at ease in overtaking and high-speed driving, and with the throttle hard-pressed to keep up performance, economy drops and engine noise increases.

This is a car that likes city driving, and therein lies the problem. City drivers tend to do low mileage, so why go to the top end of the supermini price list (€18,900 and an extra €1,000 for the luxury version) when a cheaper Yaris D-4D diesel model will excel in both country and town driving, with only minimal difference in the fuel return figures? And the D-4D will be a better secondhand seller.

Given that the hybrid technology pushes the price a few grand over other supermini models at this entry level, the Yaris Hybrid is likely to attract only the true disciples.

In fairness, Toyota Ireland has insisted on a very high specification level, and on board is vehicle stability control, traction control, hill assist control, seven airbags, emergency brake assist, dual climate control, LED daytime running lights and special seat trim.

The Yaris Hybrid comes with three years' warranty and five years on the hybrid technology.

Irish Independent