TOYOTA SA has launched the third installment of its Hybrid Synergy Drive (HSD) range in the form of the Yaris HSD, which follows the Prius and Auris HSD models. With manufacturers bent on reducing their carbon footprint, hybrid models are closing the gap towards the ultimate objective of zero emissions.

While full electric vehicles are very much a possibility, our local infrastructure must improve in order to make the technology more feasible. Until then, hybrid technology will be a key player in the realms of greener motoring.

According to Faeez Barnes, product planner at Toyota, more than 4-million hybrids have been sold worldwide, with the US and China accounting for the bulk of that figure, making the company the biggest manufacturer of hybrid vehicles.

So what sets the Yaris HSD model apart from its siblings? Well, for starters you have a much deeper airdam, LED daytime driving lights and rear brake lights, blue hued badging, and hybrid badging on the front flanks and boot. The interior carries on the blue theme with the instrument cluster needles, stitching on the steering wheel and the gear knob all finished in a blue hue. Then you get the touchscreen interface with features that include Bluetooth connectivity and hybrid specific eco functions.

Two trim levels are available in the form of the XS and XR, both kitted out with 15-inch alloy wheels. The XR also features keyless entry and start, a reverse camera and cruise control. Based on the second generation Prius, the 1,5l engine (55kW and 111Nm) with Atkinson's cycle is allied to a more compact electric motor (45kW and 169Nm) that is said to not impede on either the passenger or boot space.

Being the smallest hybrid model in the range, the company says the new compact electric motor sees a 6% reduction in the weight of the hybrid transaxle and an overall weight reduction of 11% over the Auris HSD's system. Combined power is 74kW with fuel consumption claimed at 3,8l /100km while carbon emissions are pegged at only 88g/km.

Driving the front wheels through a CVT (continuously variable transmission), I found the gearbox a lot smoother than some of those available in its counterparts, and with less of the dreaded droning characteristics.

In order to ascertain how economical the vehicle is, we embarked on a 130km economy run where we managed 1,64l /100km (verified by Richard Carstens of Motorsport SA) - is less than half the claimed figure.

Granted, that the figure was achieved with much bleating as it meant constant feathering of the throttle and coasting on the odd downhill, and keeping the engine within the eco mode band. While the number is mighty impressive, it is not a true reflection of its consumption in real world conditions, and I will stick my neck out and say that you are likely to achieve between 4l /100km and 5l /100km, which is still thrifty in anyone's books.

A while back we drove the Honda Jazz Hybrid and found that the average fuel consumption achieved was similar to what we achieved in our then long-term Jazz 1.5 EX, which in my books simply discounted the model from being an alternative to its petrol driven models, which are much cheaper. In contrast, the Yaris HSD achieves what it says on the box, but the cost still means that the technology will remain a preserve for a select few.

There are similarly economical diesel models in the form of the VW Polo 1.6 TDI, which while it may emit a slightly higher carbon emission of 113g/km over the Yaris, it still remains exempt from the 120g/km threshold. In fact, the Polo 1.2 TDI Bluemotion emits 89g/km, which is only 1g higher than the Yaris HSD, and it costs R185300. Also, the fact that the government does not subsidise vehicles that are below the emission threshold, means that hybrids remain relatively more expensive than their equivalent diesel models. Should the government become proactive and advocate for vehicles with the least impact on the environment and have in place the necessary rebates for such, then I feel that more people would buy the hybrids.

Nevertheless, the Yaris HSD certainly ticks all the right boxes as far as fuel and carbon emission standards are concerned and I commend the manufacturer for doing its bit to counter the effects of global warming

Pricing: Yaris HSD XS R223800 Yaris HSD XR R246900