Renault Zoe R90 ZE40 Dynamique Nav
List price £22,670
Target Price £13,231
Our favourite electric car has an impressive driving range and very low running costs.
Toyota Yaris Hybrid 1.5 VVT-i Excel Nav
List price £19,545
Target Price £18,289
Updated Yaris Hybrid offers good fuel economy and road tax exemption yet no range anxiety.
The year is 2040. Robots rule the planet. The latest Dyson hypercar has just set a new lap record around the Nürburgring. The only new cars you can buy are electrified. And the UK is still negotiating its exit from the European Union.
Yes, okay, some of that will (probably) turn out to be nonsense. But in 23 years’ time, it’s true that, if the Government sticks to its word, the new car market in the UK will be made up exclusively of electric and hybrid cars.
But why wait until you’re old and grey before making the switch? Depending on your lifestyle, a small electric or hybrid car could make a lot of financial sense right now – particularly if you’re a company car driver or regularly venture into London’s Congestion Charge zone.
To find out which is the better type of eco-car, we’re pitting our favourite electric car, the Renault Zoe, against the recently revised Toyota Yaris Hybrid. The latter emits less CO2 than any other car that doesn’t require any plugging in and claims a mighty 85.6mpg, so it should offer many of the cost advantages of a pure electric car without the obvious drawbacks.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
The hit of torque you get the instant you prod the Zoe’s accelerator pedal makes it the much nippier car around town. In fact, it streaks away from traffic lights with surprising urgency. Above 50mph, though, the Yaris builds speed more swiftly; for instance, it’s a second quicker from 50 to 70mph.
When you’re driving gently at low speeds, the Yaris does a decent job of utilising its electric motor as much as possible, smoothly switching to petrol power as you pass 30mph. However, accelerate more briskly and the petrol engine screams away as the automatic gearbox clings on to high revs until you lift your right foot. This makes the Yaris seriously grating to drive on faster roads.
Conversely, the Zoe cocoons you in a bubble of serenity with the light whir of an electric motor the only soundtrack; it’s quieter than the Yaris at all speeds. It’s more comfortable, too, dealing with imperfections in the road more adroitly than the firmer-riding Yaris, although the Zoe’s body does bounce around more over dips and crests on faster roads.
You don’t get much feedback through either steering wheel, but the Zoe’s steering is more precise and naturally weighted, allowing you to place the car confidently through corners. However, the Yaris hangs on more gamely through faster bends and its body stays more upright. Still, neither car is much fun to drive compared with, say, the Ford Fiesta.
Both cars are easy to manoeuvre at low speeds – a good thing considering they’re mainly designed for town driving – and the Yaris has an impressively tight turning circle of 9.4m, compared with the Zoe’s 10.6m. It takes a while to get used to the Zoe’s regenerative brakes, but they are still smoother than the Yaris’s, which are very grabby.
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