Toyota has given its Yaris range, including this Hybrid model, an extensive update that sees it getting a fresher exterior design, too. It might not look as extreme as the larger Prius, but the new style has injected some much-needed character into the design of the Yaris. Updated features include new headlights that carry a more distinctive daytime running light signature and a front bumper that appears to have an even larger grille than before.

2017 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Drive
2017 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Drive

Along the side there are new sill mouldings, while the rear hatch has been redesigned to give it a more sloped appearance. The good news is that, while the overall length may have reduced by 5mm, there is no change to the boot capacity of 286 litres. Toyota’s designers have added new rear lights that are wider, too in an attempt to give the car a more purposeful stance.

Signifying the Yaris Hybrid is blue-coloured Toyota badging and Hybrid lettering on the front wing and tailgate. Uniquely, the Hybrid has gained technical updates that include new engine mounts, front sub-frame and drive shafts. These have come in a bid to increase refinement levels and satisfy a growing number of customers who, according to Toyota, have higher expectations as they are downsizing from larger and more premium cars. 

First impressions

Choosing the right colour and specification for the Yaris Hybrid can have an impact beyond its appearance. The Hybrid model comes with a choice of 15- or 16-inch wheels, the latter impacting slightly on fuel economy and emissions output. Choosing the smaller wheels means a 75g/km CO2 rating making the car Congestion Charge exempt.

2017 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Drive

Toyota has also added some new colours to the palette, along with a bi-tone version, which features a contrasting roof colour, plus more interior personalisation options. These bring more colour to the cabin across the dashboard facia and door cards in addition to coloured stitching on the seats. While you can have an all-black interior, this makes the cabin look quite drab, so we recommend picking something a little brighter.

At first glance inside the cabin, there doesn’t appear to be much different to the previous Yaris's, but Toyota has added a 4.2-inch colour TFT display into the instrument cluster. Like on larger Toyota models, this can show relevant driving data from the on-board computer, infotainment and media, as well as paired telephone information. It can also display what part of the hybrid powertrain is operating at that particular moment, along with a battery status readout.

2017 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Drive

From the driver’s seat, there is good outward visibility and door mirrors that provide a wide field of view. The steering wheel can be adjusted for height and reach and carries controls for the stereo and trip computer. Toyota has carried over its Touch 2 system, which includes DAB radio and a rear camera from Icon models upwards. This unit has a new fitting so that it now sits more flush with the dashboard panel.

Careful packaging means that the Hybrid model doesn’t lose out on interior passenger space. In the rear, there is room for three people, with the absence of a central transmission tunnel adding to foot space for the middle occupant. However, extra storage is restricted, and there is just one central cup holder. Those with small children will appreciate the improved ISOFIX anchor points that are now easier to access, though.

How does it drive?

The technical enhancements to the new Toyota Yaris have been reserved exclusively for the Hybrid model and these all focus on the areas of improving the overall refinement when driving. In most instances, when you press the large Start button on the dash, the Yaris will start off in electric vehicle (EV) mode. How far you’ll get on this depends on how little you press the throttle pedal, but the battery is only designed to provide electric propulsion for short periods.

2017 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Drive

In start-stop traffic it works particularly well, as it recoups energy back into the battery when braking. When the 1.5-litre petrol engine kicks in it does so almost seamlessly. In fact, when driving along at lower urban speeds it isn’t that easy to tell which motor is powering the car. Even though many of the technical changes have focused on making the petrol engine quieter, there are still similar levels of road noise as before, and out of town this isn’t helped as the wind noise picks up in line with the car’s speed.

Some may rue the prospect of the Toyota’s continuously variable transmission (CVT), but if you drive it as it is intended to be, i.e. not with the throttle pedal pinned to the floor at every opportunity, then the driving experience is, on the whole, a smooth one. Acceleration isn’t one of the Toyota’s strong points, with 0-62mph taking a lengthy 11.8 seconds, but this is a car designed for fuel economy rather than outright pace. Once you manage to get up to motorway speeds there is little effort required in keeping the Yaris Hybrid ticking along while the instrument needle hovers within the Eco zone.

The Yaris Hybrid does get a slightly different suspension setup as it is around 120kg heavier than the 1.0-litre version. The result is positive, with a less fidgety ride that feels better damped. Compared to the regular Yaris models the steering is a touch better as well. Both systems are light, but the Hybrid's just feels that bit more connected, partially helped by the car having a little more weight over the front axle. 

2017 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Drive

It’s worth mentioning fuel consumption, here. Like most modern cars, what can be achieved in the real world in the Yaris compared to manufacturer’s official figures can vary wildly in some instances. Toyota says that the Yaris Hybrid will return 85.6mpg on the combined cycle; the best we could achieve on some of The Netherland’s flattest roads (which included some very serious attempts at minimising petrol engine use) was 58.8mpg. Over longer periods of time this figure should improve and even those making less of a concerted effort should still be able to match what a good diesel engine could return.

But when you forget about trying to lift your right foot and coast at every opportunity the Yaris Hybrid is a relaxing car to drive and for short urban commuting is more than capable. The revisions made to this particular model certainly benefit it, but there is room for greater refinement.

Should I buy one?

For those keen on the idea of a small car that feels well put together and won’t cost that much to run in the long-term then the Yaris is certainly going to rank high on the list. It benefits from some of the positive attributes of near-silent electric running in traffic without ever having to worry about range anxiety or plugging it in. The Hybrid is the best of the Yaris bunch, but when you look elsewhere in the segment, there are other cars that offer more - especially when it comes to space, packaging and style.

Gallery: 2017 Toyota Yaris Hybrid First Drive