The littlest Toyota, the Yaris, is about to become hybridized too, and the engineering job to reduce the size of its Hybrid Synergy Drive system for the diminutive car is worth a look. The system uses a new 1.5-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine that weighs 16.5kg less and is 10 per cent more compact than the 1.8-litre unit used in the Prius and Auris. Likewise, other major components such as the electric motor, power control unit and transaxle were also made lighter and smaller, but the power has remained robust at 99 bhp (74 kW) - most importantly, the hybrid Yaris will go on sale mid-year with very low fuel consumption, emissions, and ownership costs.
Toyota is gearing up for a worldwide onslaught of hybrid vehicles in 2012 - part of a strategy to put out no less than ten new hybrids by 2015. The company has already begun launching hybrid versions of the Yaris light platform, the Auris/Corolla hatch and the medium Camry sedan in larger markets across the world - Japan, Europe and the US. But the most prominent (and branding wise the most important) is the expanded Prius family - Prius, Prius+ and Prius Plug-in Hybrid.