Toyota is one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world, producing about 10 million vehicles per year. The reason for that success is down to an unwavering commitment to reliability and innovation, as evidenced by being one of the first manufacturers to mass produce a petrol-electric hybrid vehicle (the Prius) in 1997 and by spearheading the push for zero emission hydrogen driving with the Mirai. Find out more about the Toyota car models and SUV range as well as history of the brand…
A brief history of Toyota
Toyota Motor Company established
Having invented the automatic loom in 1918, Sakichi Toyoda provided the finances for his son to make his start in the automotive industry.
Toyota Production System
Toyota pioneered the Toyota Production System, an efficient set of principles that have been widely used and adapted within the motor industry and beyond.
Overseas production begins
With sales companies set up in Taiwan and Saudi Arabia, small-scale overseas production of Toyota vehicles begins in Brazil.
Toyota enters the UK market
The Toyota Corona saloon is launched in the UK, with the Corolla launched in 1966.
UK chosen for European manufacturing
Toyota chooses the UK as the hub of its European manufacturing activities, with a car plant opened in Burnaston, Derbyshire and an engine factory opened in Deeside, Wales. Burnaston was originally the exclusive global production centre for the Toyota Avensis and Auris before they were discontinued.
Toyota Prius introduced
Toyota launch the Toyota Prius, the first mass-produced petrol-electric hybrid. Toyota remain the world’s leader in sales of hybrid cars.
Toyota Mirai introduced
Having begun the development of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle in 2002, Toyota’s first hydrogen vehicle is released in 2014. The Toyota Mirai is now in its second generation with a range of over 400 miles.
The Toyota Aygo recently entered its second-generation, and this stylish looking and bargain-priced city car has proven to be an inspired choice in the segment. Whereas it has struggled to compete with the Kia Picanto, Toyota’s reputation for faultless reliability ensures it is one of the big powerhouses in the used car market.
Toyota aims for the Aygo to be ‘Fun to drive’ and ‘easy to fall in love with’, and it achieves that in part thanks to a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine which offers 72PS. While that might not sound a lot of fun, when driving and parking in busy city environments it’s more than enough. Even better, it’s very frugal with over 50mpg achievable.
A compact crossover, the Aygo X, is due imminently too. Possibly the first ever city car crossover, it features a wider wheelbase, raised driving position for improved visibility, as well as styling cues such as plastic wheelarches to differentiate it from the regular Aygo.
The Toyota Yaris has always been a favourite among young drivers thanks to its low running costs and cheap insurance as well as plenty of tech as standard.
The latest edition of the Yaris continues this, while also boosting the green credentials of drivers by only offering a 1.5-litre hybrid engine in the range. This delivers 114bhp and provides more than enough power to make it a capable performer around town.
Bucking the trend slightly, with even the smallest supermini pretty big now, the Yaris has actually shrunk slightly compared to the previous model. This not only makes it look sportier than before but the hybrid battery helps it function in pure electric mode around town for nearly 80% of the time according to Toyota.
The range offers a level of variety rarely seen in the segment too. This includes the sporty GR Yaris (left), which offers drivers the benefit of knowledge and technology born from Toyota Gazoo Racing’s WRC team to offer a maximum 257bhp and 360 Nm of torque.
The Toyota Yaris Cross (above right)is another unique addition to the range, combining everything the manufacturer does well – city cars, hybrids and SUVs – into one well-built, frugal and spacious package.
It can be argued that the Corolla is the jewel in Toyota’s crown. First introduced in 1966, it was the best selling car in the world by 1974, best selling nameplate in the world by 1997, and in 2021 reached the milestone of 50 million models sold over 12 generations meaning it’s one of the most successful Toyota car models ever.
The most recent edition of the British-built hatchback was launched in 2019, and also happens to be better than ever. Taking the fight to its nearest rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus, it offers drivers an enjoyable ride, upmarket interior and cheap running costs.
With the mass-hybridisation of Toyota’s offering, the Corolla offers two engine choices – a 1.8 or 2.0-litre petrol-hybrid – with both engines solely offered with an automatic gearbox. This not only makes driving effortless but offers low emissions making them cheap to run in and around town.
Away from the traditional hatchback bodystyle of the Corolla, the range has been extended to offer a saloon variant (above left) which is slightly cheaper than the hatchback and a sporty Touring Sports hybrid too (above right).
The Toyota C-HR is a car that turned a lot of heads when it was launched in 2017. With futuristic styling, the sleek compact crossover was introduced as a rival to the Nissan Juke and offered the full benefit of Toyota’s hybrid expertise.
The C-HR (which stands for Coupe-High Rider) relies on its styling to differentiate it from the highly competitive small crossover segment, and preceded the current design trend for coupe-esque SUVs. The interior continues this trend with its cozy cabin offering an 8in touchscreen infotainment, glossy plastic finish to the dashboard and black roofline make the C-HR feel like a cocoon-esque environment.
Powered by a choice of 1.8-or 2.0 petrol hybrid engines mated to an automatic gearbox, the engine choices seem at odds with the exterior and interior styling by not offering the performance its looks promise.
While Toyota has been praised for their innovation and popularisation around hybrid and hydrogen engines, they’ve been criticised in the past regarding their scepticism of battery-electric technology as a long-term solution for zero-emission driving. The bZ4X is their answer to that: the first of seven “bZ” Toyota car models to be launched globally by 2025.
Recently released, the Toyota bZ4X very much feels like a ‘see, we could have released an EV whenever we wanted!’ type moment. It features a range of up to 286 miles, and can be charged in 12 hours 45 minutes using a 7.4kW home charger at a rate of 18 miles per hour of charge according to ev-database.uk.
Combining the sleek and advanced look of an electric vehicle with confident SUV design, the bZ4X takes styling cues from the Toyota CH-R and RAV4 to offer something truly unique in the Toyota range.
Whereas the Corolla might be the jewel in Toyota’s crown, few manufacturers can point to one vehicle as influencing the entire industry wholesale. Long before the word ‘crossover’ was ever uttered in a marketing meeting, Toyota created the Recreational Active Vehicle 4-wheel drive (RAV4) to act as a bridge between their capable off-roaders and Toyota car models.
Now in its fifth generation, it has moved with the times and adjusted its market position to compete in the highly competitive crossover market. That has meant a rethink on styling, with the latest RAV4 taking a hint of inspiration from the C-HR by featuring unique angles and a large front grille which dominates the front. Like many other models in the Toyota range, it is available exclusively with a 2.5-litre hybrid engine with automatic transmission and a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
A plug-in model of the RAV4 was introduced to the range recently to offer drivers a significantly higher capacity battery and a greater pure electric driving range of up to 46 miles.
The movie might have said ‘there can be only one’ but Toyota are obviously trying to sell more Highlander’s than its Hollywood namesake. This latest addition to the burgeoning Toyota SUV range offers a premium design with luxurious interior as standard and aims to hit that sweet spot between the crowd-pleasing RAV4 and capable Land Cruiser.
Having been on sale in Australia and Japan for a couple of decades, the Highlander combines the benefit of Toyota’s SUV knowledge with qualities of comfort, drivability and safety. It offers a fuel-efficient hybrid powertrain, intelligent all-wheel drive, flexible seven-seater combinations and a two-tonne towing capacity.
Like the RAV4 it’s a hybrid and features a 2.5-litre petrol engine with a small battery and electric motor, allowing drivers to use the battery at speeds up to 38mph before the petrol engine kicks in. As a result, fuel economy is around 38mpg which is pretty good for a petrol vehicle this size.
Toyota GR Supra
That’s enough about SUVs for now, lets talk about something totally unique from Toyota. Something that combines performance and style and offers high-end comfort along with a thrilling driving experience: the GR Supra.
Inspired by over 50 years of rich racing heritage, the GR Supra is a two-door coupe that delivers an exhilarating blend of power, balance and agility. With two engine choices available – either a 2.0 Petrol turbocharger offering 254bhp or a 3.0-litre offering 335bhp – it’s one of those cars guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Front-engined, rear wheel-drive, and low-slung, the build of the GR Supra ticks all the boxes of a sports car, bellied by its ability to reach 62mph in 4.3 secs in the sprightly 2.0-l model. All of this makes it one of the most exhilarating Toyota car models in their range.
As the first mass market hybrid ever produced, the Prius is one of the most important of all Toyota car models. Now in its fourth generation, it’s safe to say Toyota has perfected the formula which is why the Prius is one of the best hybrid vehicles on the market.
While its popularity has waned in recent years as pure electric has become more attainable, you’ll still find the Prius is the car of choice for the private hire and car ride service sectors. With its 1.8-litre petrol engine combined with a 71bhp electric motor, a 1.31kWh battery stores regenerative energy from braking for use when needed, it’s easy to see why.
The latest Toyota Prius is also the most refined on the road ever too, with the styling of the car aiming to make the most of its aerodynamic efficiency.
A plug-in model of the Prius is also available featuring the same 1.8-litre petrol engine albeit with a larger battery and a greater pure electric driving range of around 30 miles. This combines to offer a fuel economy of around 217mpg.
A rarity on UK roads thanks to the complete lack of hydrogen infrastructure outside of London (seriously, there’s no refuelling stations between Sheffield and Aberdeen), the Mirai feels almost like the car that never was among other Toyota car models.
With subtle saloon-esque styling, the Mirai is truly a trailblazer in disguise. Every aspect has been carefully designed, from the sloping roofline to its stylish profile, to deliver looks and efficient performance.
With an estimated fuel economy of around 320 miles, Toyota truly believe hydrogen is the next step in the age of zero emission driving. It’s powered by electricity made in its innovative fuel cell stack which fuses oxygen and hydrogen together, meaning you refuel much like you would with a petrol or diesel pump: this also means it doesn’t take anywhere near as long as an EV to recharge. Alas, as it’s still in its infancy in the UK, the car costs from £54,920.
Whereas we may look back on the Toyota Mirai the way we have done with the Prius in years to come, in the here and now it’s a car that’s hard to recommend in the UK.
Toyota Land Cruiser
Anyway, enough about all that, let’s talk about SUVs again.
If the previously mentioned Toyota Highlander has a focus on on-road driving, the tough and taller Land Cruiser is squarely aimed at those routinely going off-road. The epitome of a true SUV, its off-road credentials have been honed over the course of 65 successful years and remains unique in its ability to combine outstanding quality, durability and reliability with unrivalled performance and ever greater levels of luxury, prestige, and comfort.
Crawling through a river, climbing hills, descending a rocky track – the Land Cruiser’s ability to overcome the roughest terrain and bring you back safely is legendary. After all, this is a model that traversed Mount Fuji when it was first built in 1951.
On the latest model, this is achieved by an on-board MultiTerrain Monitor with Under-Vehicle Terrain View to give you an instant overview of your surroundings. Furthermore Active Traction Control further helps drivers overcome wheel spin and stabilise the vehicle when accelerating on slippery roads and in muddy conditions. The key to all of this is the Land Cruiser’s 2.8 diesel engine offering 204hp.