King Henry would approve

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I’ve often wondered what it would be like to show an iPod to someone in the court of Henry VIII. Quite possible, the funniest thing on Earth, or quite possibly the last thing I ever did.

Either, they would bow down to me, hailing me as their leader, after which I would be fed grapes, carried in a golden horse cart of excellence, and awarded the wealth of the nation simply for my enjoyment.

Or, more likely, they would arrest me, torture me, and then kill me. Simple.

This brings me neatly on to the new Toyota Yaris Hybrid. When Toyota first launched hybrid systems in the late nineties, the motoring journalists of the world reacted much like the court of Henry VIII, and tore the Prius to pieces.

“It’s fowl and horrible,” they cried. “The batteries kill foxes and squirrels,” they proclaimed from the rooftops. “Its fuel economy is nothing like that of a diesel and it is for Hollywood e-list celebrities who have no sense but more money than most countries,” they sniggered.

I had no opinion on the matter, as I was six years old at the time. But I’m sure I would have listened to the journalists and agreed, simply because there was no strong argument to bat them away with.

Now though, the tables have turned somewhat. At the launch in Amsterdam, I couldn’t believe a hybrid Yaris would be 12% cheaper than a 1.33 petrol Yaris over 60,000 miles.

I also couldn’t believe that I was driving like a fool, with no great intention of getting good fuel economy, and I managed 76 mpg, just 4 mpg less than the quoted 80 mpg the car can supposedly achieve on the combined cycle (although to be honest it will probably get even more than that).

There were other positives to the car too. The ride was good, it handled well, it looked fantastic and it was decisively unfazed on the motor way, which was a big surprise.

And it was so quiet, which was probably a problem for all the cyclists at the launch in Amsterdam who couldn’t hear me coming.

If you’re new to CVT gearboxes though (very, very basically, it acts like one gear that can do any speed and any revs) you might find it a little distracting. Put your foot down and there’s no clicking up through the gears, just a constant shout from the engine.

And if you want a fast car, go for something else. The electric motor is nippy in town and the 1.5 petrol engine is strong, but 0-60 takes just over 11 seconds. Like I said, if you’re used to an M3 you might be disappointed.

But putting up with the speed issue and the CVT gearbox (it’s only loud when you really push it), the Yaris Hybrid is a fun, quite quiet and, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but look at it? The back looks like a McLaren Mercedes SLR, and the front looks so much better than the last Yaris.

Should you buy one? Well, I’d be tempted. And I bet if you took it to Henry VIII he’d welcome you into his palace and put you in the Royal suite.

In memory of Harold Packham. He always liked his cars!