By on March 25, 2009

Honda planned its new Insight hybrid to cost less than Toyota’s ubiquitous Prius in hopes of snagging economy-minded hybrid shoppers. Unfortunately for Honda, the Insight wasn’t quite the bargain they’d hoped for. Despite rumors of an $18,500 base MSRP during planning, the Insight ended up just a few grand away from the Prius at $20,470 base (including delivery charge). And now Toyota is returning the favor, telling Automotive News [sub] that it’s planning a Yaris-based “economy hybrid” to undercut the Insight. “We are going to compete by expanding our hybrid-vehicle lineup to smaller hybrids, in the class of the Vitz and Yaris,” says Prisu chief designer Akihiko Otsuka, using both the Japanese domestic and overseas market names for Toyota’s supermini. The implication is that this baby hybrid will hit all of Toyota’s major markets possibly beginning as early as 2011. But Honda isn’t taking the news sitting down reminding AN that a Fit Hybrid is also being planned which could bring Honda’s hybrid entry cost down even further. All of which is good news for hybrids, which seem ready to finally leave behind their eco-accessory reputation and get stuck into some good, old-fashioned value competition.

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26 Comments on “Toyota Planning Yaris-Based Hybrid...”


  • avatar
    buzzliteyear

    It’s about NSFW-ing time!

    It will be nice to have some choices the next time I purchase a new car.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_CR-Z

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    If the Yaris continues to be the tinny little shitbox that it is currently, then who cares? The Fit is a way nicer car for the money, as is the Versa (Nissan? Hybrid Versa? Anyone listening?). My experience with the Yaris is a trip from Midland to Dallas in a 3 door model, and what a complete ass whipping. Evidently the idea of sound deadening material never even crossed the mind of the guy that designed that thing!

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    This is one of the reasons Honda and Toyota have done so well over the years-they have pushed each other and not worried about the backmarkers.

    Bunter

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Nice idea; when my Fit lease is up I’d definitely be looking at something like this, as would a number of people I know.

    A good complement would be a Sienna hybrid, especially now that SUVs no longer have quite the cachet they used to.

    If the Yaris continues to be the tinny little shitbox that it is currently, then who cares?

    What people forget about the Yaris is that it is smaller, cheaper, weighs a lot less than, and gets better mileage than the slightly-larger Fit or much-larger Versa—and as such it’s not entirely fair to compare them. If you want what is absolutely the cheapest new car to buy, run and maintain, you cannot beat the Yaris.

    Though you’re right that some sound-deadening would help.

  • avatar

    I love compact/subcompact cars, particularly hatches. Right now, the only cars that I would consider buying to replace my aging Jeep would be the Honda Fit and the upcoming Ford Fiesta. The Versa is a maybe. Sitting in the Yaris, one gets a sense that this is the absolute cheapest car that Toyota could produce; the center-aligned gauge cluster shouts, “half-assed world car!” & the general cheapness is overwhelmingly obvious.

    Hybridizing the Yaris might yield a car with mileage notable enough to get me in one, but they’ll have to work on making that interior comfy first. Currently, the Yaris beats the Fit & other competition pretty handily in the efficiency game, it would be nice if you felt like a grown-up while driving one.

    Nissan, Honda & Ford have realized that just because someone wants a small car, they don’t necessarily want a crappy car – when’s Toyota going to come around?

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Actually, the hybrid premium on the insight is close to where Honda said it would.

    A Civic DX-VP (base but with AC and automatic) is $17.1K.

    While an Insight LX (base, with CVT) is $19.8K.

    So the hybrid premium is really just $2.7K. They were going for $2K, and I bet thats what it is to honda, the extra $700 are for the smug-emission-tax…

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    The Fit and Insight are at least much better looking than the Yaris. I haven’t ever sat in a Yaris, but I have driven a Versa and thought it was quite nice. However, leafing through the CR auto issue I was surprised to see the Versa has abysmal reliability scores compared to pretty much every other subcompact on the market.

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    So if Camry and Civic Hybrids didn’t really sell well in the past because they didn’t look different. Why all of a sudden would Fit and Yaris full on hybrids be in large demand?

    Wouldn’t mild hybrid start/stop systems be a better match for a car that already gets pretty good gas mileage without increasing the cost a lot since price is the major selling point here?

    I think Toyota/Honda and all other manufacturers are making a mistake by not offering mild hybrid designs as the base model for all of their vehicles.

  • avatar
    tedward

    isn’t the Insight essentially a Fit hybrid anyway? Sure, they’ve changed some structural arrangements to cram batteries etc… but my understanding is it’s a Fit +$4k in hybrid gear.

    The Yaris is an awful car compared to the Fit without a real-world price difference. I was shown one with a tachometer (!) and non-steelie rims and it costs the same as a Fit sport. I’m basing that claim on same-day visits and quotes from Honda and Toyota of Oneonta, NY. The seat is so high, with no height adjustment at all, (I’m 6’2″) that I’d need to replace it to buy one and the steering and clutch are the worst I’ve experienced in a new small car (while the Fit’s are decidedly not). The $14k starting price is an illusion unless you’re an S&M enthusiast or a midget who dosen’t like to drive. I’m doubtful that they can put a hybrid in there and sell them without having to also add features that bring the price to Insight parity.

    Just another should’ve/could’ve Toyota product.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    So if Camry and Civic Hybrids didn’t really sell well in the past because they didn’t look different

    Yay, FUD!

    If “looking different” was the key, the original 2-door Insight would have sold twice as many as the Prius.

  • avatar
    petrolhead85

    I sat in a Yaris at our local auto show a couple of weeks ago. I got in, looked around the interior, played with all the knobs and buttons then got out and gave my semi-professional opinion on the car: “Eeeeeeeewwwwwww!”

  • avatar
    tedward

    I don’t think that a criticism of vehicle stlying quite qualifies as FUD M1EK.

    SkiD666
    I agree wholeheartedly on the start-stop system suggestion (less so with the mild-hybrid idea). I don’t know all that much about the specifics, but from what I’ve gathered it involves beefing up the starter and the oil injectors; there has to be a legal department/liability reason why it’s taking so long to hit American markets. Anyone out there know what else (mechanically) would be involved?

  • avatar
    M1EK

    tedward, it’s not a criticism of vehicle styling; it’s the old lie about “people only bought the Prius because it looks like a hybrid”, ignoring the fact that it was much bigger and more useful than the Civic Hybrid while still getting better mileage.

  • avatar
    Whuffo2

    There’s just one significant problem with the Yaris in hybrid or standard trim – it’s butt ugly.

    I mean, it took some effort for the Toyota stylists to turn out a vehicle design that was so incredibly bad. It’s offensive – put a hybrid powertrain in it and it’ll still be offensive.

    I thought that the Pontiac Aztek took the all time crown for awful design – but the Yaris is giving it stiff competition. Underneath the ugly, the Aztek was a pretty good vehicle. Underneat the ugly on a Yaris, there’s nothing but a penalty box grade shitbox.

  • avatar
    jpc0067

    Wow. So much hate on the Yaris.

    It is what it is. No more or less, no apologies necessary.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Gee, maybe I can retrofit the Yaris hybrid drivetrain into my 05 xB. Or not, and stay way ahead.

    Toyota will have a tough time making a Yaris hybrid at a sellable price point. They’d be much better off just releasing a 1.0L diesel or similar mileage-getter.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    REALITY CHECK TIME!
    How many U.S. consumers are going to pony up 20-25K
    for a hybrid.
    Case closed ..done deal!
    The market is flooded with great cars that are IMMENSELY more practical and accommodating!
    Lets make California its own country!
    since this is the only state these cars will sell in.
    49 states wouldn’t be so bad,and we could pick up a 50th cheap,one that doesn’t try to mandate national policy!

  • avatar
    KixStart

    oldyak, “REALITY CHECK TIME! How many U.S. consumers are going to pony up 20-25K for a hybrid.[?]”

    About 750K Americans, so far, of the Prius alone. Then there’s the other Toytoa, Lexus, Honda and Ford hybrids sold to date.

    Why do you ask?

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Oldyak,

    I think that the Prius, last year, outsold about half the models in GM’s lineup. Maybe more. I’m pretty sure it outsold Buick and Saturn and it probably outsold Pontiac at retail (something like half of all Pontiacs go to fleets).

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    oldyak wrote:
    REALITY CHECK TIME!
    How many U.S. consumers are going to pony up 20-25K for a hybrid.

    Lots of people. The new Prius will finally have a telescoping steering wheel and a height-adjustable seat. That makes it quite attractive to me.

    The market is flooded with great cars that are IMMENSELY more practical and accommodating!

    Really? List a few. No sedans please. Sedan and practical do not go together in the same sentence. Oh, and no trucks, please. Lots of us live in the cities, and trucks are the antithesis of practical and accommodating to us.

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    In our new economy many people will choose the $15K auto and keep the $7K “gas card”.

  • avatar
    eh_political

    Huge mistake on the current platform. Toyota is playing with fire if they do not upgrade the Yaris to Fit levels before adding the hybrid. The mauling Honda would administer in every comparo would be profoundly damaging to the mighty T’s image.

    It’s one thing to offer a bare bones, no excuses, no frills ride, but to bolt on thousands in hybrid technology could damage the entire Yaris franchise, simply by drawing attention to it. The Yaris is a default ride for conservative buyers who want basic transportation without thinking about it. Refugees from trouble prone used cars, or unreliable domestics.

    It would be far wiser for Toyota to decontent the Prius to Insight levels, possibly by limiting colour, options, trim and so forth.

  • avatar
    carguy64

    Why don’t Mitsu just come back with a version of the Mirage 1.6 I 4 engine and make a car getting 35/39 without the BS of Hybrid, seriously I had a Colt/Mirage..sat 4 people, though snug, but got dam’m great gas mileage! Really I appriciate the Hybrid techology, but too expensive when new batteries have to be replaced..hence the so- called savings 50/45…break that down when you have to replace the batteries more like 30/35.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    but too expensive when new batteries have to be replaced.

    Yay! More FUD!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    There’s just one significant problem with the Yaris in hybrid or standard trim – it’s butt ugly.

    I’m not sure about that. The hatchback gets called “cute” more often than it does “ugly”, and isn’t objectively that bad-looking a vehicle.

    The sedan isn’t pretty in base trim, but the sport package helps a bit. It’s a huge improvement over the Echo, and probably slightly nicer than the Accent, Rio, Aveo and Versa sedans. Not much competition, I know, but the dork-box sedan market is a North American exclusive, and there’s only

    I thought that the Pontiac Aztek took the all time crown for awful design – but the Yaris is giving it stiff competition. Underneath the ugly, the Aztek was a pretty good vehicle. Underneat the ugly on a Yaris, there’s nothing but a penalty box grade shitbox.

    Oh, come on! The Aztek was a slower, heavier, thirstier, less capable and—this is important—uglier version of GM’s excretable minivan platform. I wouldn’t call that a “good vehicle underneath the skin” by any stretch.

  • avatar
    nikita

    “I was surprised to see the Versa has abysmal reliability scores compared to pretty much every other subcompact on the market.”

    A Mexican-built, French-designed car with abysmal reliability scores?

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