Drivers looking for sizzling performance, spine-tingling thrills and outrageous power do not generally include a Toyota Yaris in their shortlist.

Hold on to that thought for a moment while we look at the qualities that have made the well-behaved Yaris a teacher’s pet among superminis.

While all of the range can boast practicality, versatility and economy, the petrol-electric hybrid model remains a unique selling point, accounting for more than 40 per cent of all Yaris’s European sales.

Take a look at the facts box at the end of this piece and you will see that the official fuel consumption figures offer the prospect of achieving almost 80mpg*. In a couple of hundred miles spent mainly up and down and over the Cotswolds I got close to 60mpg, hardly surprising perhaps as the temperature stayed stubbornly below zero and power was being constantly sapped by heating, lights and wipers.

Built in France, the third-generation Yaris has been given a facelift with more refinement, an upgraded interior and improved safety. All versions are now fitted with a laser-operated pre-collision system with autonomous emergency braking, automatic high beam, lane departure alert and a camera that recognises road signs and displays the current speed limit in the instrument panel.

And all versions, apart from the entry model, also have a centrally-mounted colour information screen that, depending on specification, displays everything from the Bluetooth phone link and audio settings to the satellite navigation map. Rain-sensing windscreen wipers, electric front windows, Bluetooth and a six-speaker audio system are also standard.

Power on the test car came from a new 1.5-litre petrol engine that is designed to meet more stringent emissions standards, while delivering more power and torque than the previous 1.3-litre engine, Toyota says it can also give an improvement in fuel economy of up to 12 per cent over the previous engine.

Where the hybrid model is concerned, Toyota says engineers have focused on achieving an even quieter ride, while also improving ride comfort and steering accuracy.

On the move, road noise is the main intrusion into the cabin but only at higher speeds and it is not overbearing. As with any continuously variable transmission there is also a lag between applying the accelerator and the response, but if you drive smoothly and avoid sudden acceleration and braking you will hardly notice it.

The test car came in elegant Excel specification, complete with automatic air conditioning and part-leather and Alcantara seat upholstery, 16-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and chrome side sills, and LED front and rear lights.

The Icon, Icon Tech and Design grades sit at the heart of the line-up and the Yaris is also being offered in new Bi-tone models with a wider choice of contrast exterior paintwork finishes.

I mentioned at the start of this piece that the Yaris has a reputation as being the best-behaved pupil in class, but that is about to change. A naughty child is about to join the range later this year in the shape of the high-performance, 1.8-litre, supercharged, 205 horsepower Yaris GRMN, inspired and influenced by the company’s recent return to the World Rally Championship.

Here are Toyota’s top tips for achieving better fuel economy.

Auto facts

Model: Toyota Yaris Excel Hybrid

Price: £20,760 as tested

Insurance group: 8E (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 78.5mpg

Top speed: 103mph

Length: 394.5cm/155.3in

Width: 169.5cm/66.7in

Luggage capacity: 10 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 7.9 gallons/36 litres

CO2 emissions: 82g/km

Warranty: Five years/ 100,000 miles