The striking and muscular makeover marks out the new Toyota Yaris with the Japanese brand moving to make its fourth generation of supermini carrying that nameplate a more distinctive model.
On the road
On the road
The new car is actually shorter than its predecessor, coming down by 5mm, but that combines with a 40mm reduction in height and 50mm increase in width to visually change the proportions into a more squat and sporty looking stance, especially when combined with the bulky front and rear bumpers.
The line-up is a simple one, with the one powertrain being a new version of Toyota’s hybrid system that combines a 1.5-litre petrol engine with a small electric motor capable of powering the car on its own in short bursts before recharging via either recuperating deceleration energy or the petrol engine.
1. The hybrid powertrain is much-improved in terms of performance and refinement, although it's not always the quietest
2. The cruise control won't engage when the car is set to 'Brake' mode rather than Drive, which means you have to keep flicking between the two rather than leaving it in Brake
3. The Yaris doesn't always feel the most premium of cars, for example the door handles feel flimsy and the doors shut with a cheap-sounding clang
According to Toyota, the new hybrid system is 22% more efficient overall, despite power being up from 100hp to 114hp, improving the 0-62mph acceleration time by 15%. The company claims the Yaris can run at up to 80mph on battery alone, although in practice it’s tricky to persuade the car to stay in EV mode at much over 30mph. The Yaris will though run on the battery for decent periods in its native environment of urban running.
The new system offers emissions of just 92g/km for the lower two trim levels, rising to 98g/k for the higher trims that go from 16-inch to 17-inch alloy wheels. That means fuel economy figures of up to 68.9mpg, and BiK bands of either 21% or 22% depending on the trim level.
There are five of those trim levels, including a spec-lavished range-topping Launch Edition model sitting nearly £2,000 clear at the top of the range. It kicks off with Icon, and runs through Design and Dynamic to get to the Excel spec that will top the range once the Launch Edition model is no more.
Decent levels of safety kit has long been one of the Yaris’s strong suits, and the new model takes that to a new high with adaptive cruise control, lane trace assist, traffic sign assist and auto high beam all standard on every car, while the Excel trim adds blind spot assist too. All cars also get a standard kit list that includes automatic aircon, a reversing camera (but no parking sensors until you get to the top trim level), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which Toyota is belatedly onto the bandwagon with, and automatic lights and wipers. Stepping up by £1060 to Design brings a digital speedo on a colour display, as well as a touchscreen media system that goes up by an inch to 8.0 inches, nicer alloys, LED headlights and rear lights and rear privacy glass, while another £950 to Dynamic adds larger, 17-inch, wheels, front sport seats, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control and an uprated audio system. The extra £300 up to Excel gives drives front and rear parking sensors with automatic braking, auto-fold mirrors and blind spot monitoring.
The cabin is a story of several parts. It looks good and offers plenty of stowage spots for a small car, but there are various elements that make the Yaris feel cheaper than some of its rivals. The door sounds tinny when slammed, and the door handles give the same feeling, while plenty of the plastics in the cabin are to be filed under solid and durable rather than soft and plush. The steering wheel also thumps harshly against the lock-stops when going for maximum turn. But the space isn’t bad at all for four, given the Yaris’s small footprint, and although the boot is a touch smaller than most rivals, it’s got a decent depth to it.
The touchscreen system is not the most advanced in terms of design or functionality, but has a simplistic charm to it, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are welcome additions, especially as an in-built sat nav system isn’t available – which makes the presence of a ‘Map’ button on the multimedia controls strange. The central dashboard display is also small, and can only display one set of trip or car information at once, on top of the speed and gear selection in flanking roundels, rather than more complex offerings from competitors.
From the outside, Toyota has done an excellent job of making the Yaris look more sporty and eye-catching, compared to what was a fairly sober and anonymous predecessor. The new car already looks like the hot-hatch-styled version rather than the regular model, which is a strong look.
The drive will never quite match those sporty pretentions, once you realise it’s packing just 116hp, although that’s not to say the driving experience is anything to criticize. The ride quality impresses, especially over bigger bumps and thumps where it absorbs well, especially on the smaller alloys of our Design-spec test car, and the powertrain, while still not perfect, is a big improvement on Toyota’s previous hybrid system.
The car still offers a bit too much noise when hard acceleration is requested, but it’s a slicker system now and doesn’t feel like power is escaping through the racket rather than being translated into pace, as has sometimes been the case with older Toyota hybrids. Fuel economy seems to get closer to official figures than many cars manage.
It’s not a sporty driving experience but the light steering is great for more urban settings, where the Yaris is most at home, and it’s not tricky to keep the car ticking over on the battery alone in traffic, allowing for a quiet and relaxed journey in heavier traffic.
While Toyota is a leader in hybrid tech, it no longer has the area to itself, with Honda’s Jazz and, imminently, Renault’s Clio, also offered as petrol-electric ‘self-charging’ hybrids. But the Yaris’s 92g/km compare favorably with 98g/km for the admittedly more powerful Renault and 102g/km for the Honda, which translates to an advantage of 4.7mpg in official fuel economy figures at 68.9mpg. By comparison, a regular petrol model such as the Ford Fiesta – which now has mild-hybrid tech for a small emissions boost – sit at 114g/km and 56.5mpg, although is more than £2000 cheaper thanks to the absence of complicated battery tech. But that all loops round on whole-life costs, where the hybrids perform well.
The Yaris’s biggest strengths are at opposing ends, with the sporty looks and economic hybrid powertrain being its top calling cards, and both are key to attracting business users. There are drawbacks – the boot isn’t massive, some of the cabin quality isn’t up with others in the class and the infotainment is fine rather than class leading, but the Yaris offers clever cabin stowage, an excellent ride quality and a driving experience that is more rewarding than previous iterations have managed. Overall, it’s a very positive change, and, like previous recent new Toyotas such as the Corolla and C-HR, is a new model that should increase in appeal by adding emotional to the rational that has always been there.
The Yaris dates back to 1999 across four generations of car, with the first baby five-door hatchback becoming Toyota’s first European Car of the Year winner in 2000 thanks in part to its excellent packaging.
Initially sold with 1.0 and 1.3 petrol engines, before a 1.5 T Sport model was added in 2001 and a diesel a year later, the Yaris replaced the Starlet model and was more successful in sales terms.
The second-generation Yaris followed in late 2005, becoming the first car in its class to hit the top five-star Euro CAP crash test rating, and in 2009 stop-start tech was also added.
The third Yaris was the one that added Toyota’s famous petrol-electric ‘self-charging’ hybrid powertrain, coming into the range in 2012, two years after Yaris number three went on sale in Europe.
The period around 2007 was the Yaris’s best in terms of European sales, hitting more than 250,000 in 2007 before declining to just over 140,000 in the end of the car’s life cycle in 2010. That recovered to over 210,000 in the past two years, the car’s best results in a decade, with the car accounting for more than 22% of Toyota’s European new car sales.
What they said
What They Said
“Yaris is our best-selling model in the UK market and has always performed well as a fleet model even though sales have traditionally been retail led. We expect this to increase further with the introduction of this all-new model which uses our fourth-generation self-charging hybrid technology to provide much greater all-electric driving capability."
"Key areas of increased fleet appeal include class leading CO2 emissions, a higher safety specification and reduced running costs thanks to better fuel economy and lower VED, even though the new model is actually more powerful. This all contributes to one of the highest RV’s in the segment, an impressive 51 per cent (three years/36,000 miles) for fleets.”
Stuart Ferma, general manager fleet, Toyota and Lexus GB
Need to know
Three things we like...
The new Yaris looks great – a big step forward from its predecessor
The shelf above the climate controls is just one useful stowage space
Apple CarPlay is finally making its welcome way across the Toyota range
...And one we don't
The dash display is a bit small and can’t show as much info at once as other systems
The steering is light, but that helps around town, and the powertrain is much slicker than previous hybrid units.
One of the most efficient non-plug-in cars on sale, and real-world figures seem to easily hit 60mpg on mixed use.
Comparatively small boot, although rear space isn’t too bad given the car’s compact footprint.
The Yaris offers sensible walk-ups in price and spec terms and a decent level of standard equipment.
The big area of improvement over an anonymous predecessor. The regular Yaris now looks like a performance version of the car.
Comfort and refinement 8/10
The Yaris rides bumps very well, and electric running is obviously refined. Although improved, the engine is still vocal under acceleration, as is the case with all petrol-electric hybrids.
There are lots of little stowage slots in the cabin and it all looks great as long as you don’t look too closely at some of the quality of more durable plastics.
Apple CarPlay is a welcome addition at last, but otherwise it’s all fairly basic but sensible and functional. The dash display is a bit small and can only show one set of info at once.
Whole life costs 9/10
Great running costs only let down slightly by high SMR.
CCT opinion 9/10
A successful refresh makes the Yaris striking as well as sensible.
Good looks, great emissions figures and a decent level of standard specification are all major plus points, although it doesn’t always feel the most premium of superminis.