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First drive: 2020 Toyota Yaris prototype

Not that the engine is running much of the time, at least in urban environments. Indeed, Toyota claims that the Yaris can run on electricity 80% of the time, something we can entirely believe. The handover between power sources is virtually imperceptible; there’s only a bit of engine noise and a faint vibration through the steering…

Not that the engine is running much of the time, at least in urban environments. Indeed, Toyota claims that the Yaris can run on electricity 80% of the time, something we can entirely believe. The handover between power sources is virtually imperceptible; there’s only a bit of engine noise and a faint vibration through the steering wheel to tell you that the Yaris is sipping petrol. And ‘sipping’ is the right word; on our two-hour test route, which included towns, motorways and even some challenging mountain passes, we averaged 61.4mpg, according to the trip computer.

That economy is particularly impressive when you consider that the Yaris is now far happier to be driven briskly on a winding road. Its steering might not be particularly talkative, but it’s naturally weighted and very precise, making it easy to place on the road, while body lean is far less noticeable. Grip is decent and the handling is surefooted yet agile. Sure, you’d have more fun in a Ford Fiesta thanks to its feelsome steering, delightful manual ‘box and more neutral balance, but at least corners are now something to be enjoyed and not avoided. The downside is that, on the 17in wheels of our test car – the largest available on the Yaris – the ride is on the firm side. It’s perfectly pleasant on smooth but undulating roads, but larger potholes and pimples can thud through the car uncomfortably.

Hopefully things will improve on smaller wheels, but it’s also worth remembering that this car isn’t the finished product. We should, then, make an allowance for the interior, where we encountered a few plastics that weren’t quite up to production grade. Even so, the squishy dashboard, large fabric inserts on the doors and expensive-feeling switches and buttons impressed us. Sadly, the dim-witted infotainment system with its yesteryear graphics and sluggish responses put a downer on things, especially because the hard-to-follow sat-nav got us lost several times.

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