Yet despite "Toyota" and "Hybrid" being siamese twins attached at the hip, they never managed to offer a convincingly mass-market hybrid in Europe. I'm talking about a car that everybody wants and can buy for no other reason besides it being the right car for them. Although the buyers don't seem to have noticed it yet, I think they came inches-close with the Yaris Hybrid.
Although Toyota has never officially admitted this completely, the Yaris Hybrid is the same car as the Prius C sold in America and its Japanese-speaking brother the Aqua. They all have the same 1.5-liter DOHC 16–valve with VVT-i, an electric motor and a combined output of 100 hp. They also share a number of body panels and all the glass, but have strategic differences, some of which I don't agree with. I'll get to that later, but first let me explain why the Yaris Hybrid is a good car for the European market.
As you've probably realized already, it's a supermini, and that puts it in the most successful category of vehicles in Europe. Competition is fierce, with the Fiesta, Polo and 208 leading the pack, all with their specific strong points. But the Yaris Hybrid has all the right moves that would get me to notice it if I was looking to a supermini.
It's reasonably compact (3905mm long), light for a hybrid (1,150 kg), offers a decent boot (296 liters) and with a top speed of 165 km/h and 0 to 100 km/h in 11.8 seconds is quite nippy. It should also be reliable and with a 5-year warranty, you're not going to have sleepless nights.
I might be biased here, but I think it's also amazing to look at, certainly better than the Citroen C3, Fiat Punto or Honda Jazz. A large black grille dominates the front end and makes it look bigger and more powerful than it actually is.
But its real strengths are in the drivetrain. Superminis usually have unrefined small engines and are preferred by women. In EV mode, the baby Prius is dead-quiet and the car comes with an automatic, so it's a lot more relaxing than anything else in the segment.
Now let's talk about the bad points, and by that I mean the single major blunder they committed by pricing like it was "special". The Yaris Hybrid feels just out of reach of regular supermini buyers, even the ones with big wallets. Yes, there are a few really posh diesels that can rival it, but this little fuel sipper could have been so much more if it had been… less.
The way it's designed and equipped, it's almost like they wanted to make a baby Lexus. Push button start, large color display, dual-zone climate control, leather steering and stick, rear parking sensors and a back-up camera… all these things make it really cool, but also put it out of reach of most people. A shame, really! Had it been just €1,500 cheaper, it would have made a lot more sense for normal people.
Too bad, Toyota could have been the maker of the hybrid everybody drives. Instead, they've just made a cool, good looking small hybrid that's more affordable, but still not cheap enough for 90% of supermini buyers.