Road test: Toyota Yaris
Toyota has been continually improving its third-generation Yaris supermini, but the package of revisions we look at here is the most far-reaching yet, delivering an all-new look, a new 1.5-litre petrol engine and standardisation of the brand’s camera-driven ‘Safety Sense’ package. What was already a class act has just become genuinely hard to overlook.
If you were asked to name the cars vying for the title of best supermini, it would be a reasonable wager that the Toyota Yaris wouldn’t be among your top three. If, on the other hand, you had to name a small car that would be trouble-free, cheap to run and easy to use, it would be right up there.
The thing is, those criteria are exactly what many supermini buyers are looking for. The Yaris has always been a supermini that works well in the real world and this third-generation car is no exception. It has long lacked a bit of flair, though, and Toyota has belatedly realised this, endowing the latest model with a lot more styling input, as well as engineering improvements.
Toyota has worked to improve the driving dynamics of this car in recent times and the result is that if you haven’t tried a Yaris for a bit, you might be surprised by just how well this one handles. Probably the greatest efforts have been centred on improving refinement and to that end, more recent models feature better soundproofing material, refettled engines and sleeker aerodynamics to reduce wind noise.
The big news on the engine front is the introduction of a new 1.5-litre petrol engine to replace the previous ageing 1.33-litre unit. Power output is up 10 per cent to 110bhp, which makes the car nearly a second quicker over the 0-62mph sprint (which now takes 11.0s).
More important is the news that torque is up to 136Nm, so the crucial 50 to 75mph overtaking increment is a second quicker too. The engine can also be paired with an optional CVT automatic. As before, other Yaris engine options include a 1.0-litre VVT-i petrol unit and a 1.5-litre petrol/electric Hybrid which has been re-engineered for greater efficiency.
And on the road? The ride is better than it used to be, but it still gets unsettled over rougher surfaces. And though the steering is a touch more feelsome than long-time Yaris users might be used to, it’s still very light and better suited to metropolis rather than motorway use. Which is one of the main reasons why this car remains one of those you’d buy primarily to shoot to the shops and take on the odd motorway trip rather than to speed around Silverstone.
Toyota has spent more than 90 million Euros improving this model, so we’re talking about more than just a light facelift here.
The front end is completely new, much sleeker and classier than before. There are revised rear tail light clusters too. It’s a more assertive-looking design and Europeans like that.
In profile, this improved Yaris displays a smart door belt moulding, door mirrors with an optional folding function and classy 15- and 16-inch alloy wheel designs. A rear bumper and diffuser assembly give the back end a more self-confident look.
The interior features the Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system, complete with a seven-inch screen. This apart, the interior hasn’t changed much since this car was launched in 2011, which means that build quality from the French Pas-de-Calais factory is as strong as ever, and that the controls are sensibly positioned and extremely easy to get to grips with.
There’s also plenty of interior storage space, though some of the ledges provided tend to deposit their contents onto you once you corner with any speed. The boot offers 272 litres of space. Toyota’s impressive EasyFlat rear seats split 60:40, fold and slide bringing a useful degree of versatility and up to 477 litres if you need it.
Prices sit in the £12,500 to £19,500 bracket, which is pretty par for the course in the supermini segment.
Prices for variants fitted with the new 1.5-litre petrol engine begin at just over £15,000 and Hybrid models start at around £16,000. Toyota knows equipment levels for this car have to be very class-competitive, so even the most basic ‘Active’ version now gets the brand’s ‘Safety Sense’ package which includes a ‘Pre-Collision’ autonomous braking system, ‘Lane Departure Alert’ and ‘Automatic High Beam’, features you won’t find anywhere else as standard at the ‘Active’ variant’s price point. This base trim level also gives you rain-sensing windscreen wipers, power front windows, Bluetooth and a six-speaker audio system. Hybrid models additionally feature automatic air conditioning and projector headlamps.
If you can afford to go further up the range, there are ‘Icon’, ‘Icon Tech’, ‘Design’, ‘Bi-Tone’ and ‘Excel’ vaiants to choose from.
Particularly popular is the ‘Icon’ grade that gives you 15-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, air conditioning and a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information screen.
Plus at this level, you get the Toyota Touch 2 touchscreen-controlled multimedia system, a rear-view camera and the Toyota Safety Sense features are expanded.
The Yaris’ residual values have always held up better than a Fiesta and leagues better than a Corsa and will stack up even more competitively now that the efficiency of this latest model has been improved – at least in mid-range petrol form. The 1.5-litre unit is 12 per cent more efficient than its 1.33-litre predecessor, official figures suggesting a combined cycle performance of 56.5mpg and 109g/km – with manual transmission on 16-inch wheels.
Of course if you really prioritise efficiency, you’re going to want to look at the Hybrid model, which accounts for a quarter of all UK Yaris registrations. This manages a CO2 return of 75g/km, which translates to a combined fuel economy figure of 85.6mpg with virtually zero NOx and particulate emissions. The three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine that most customers choose now meets the stringent Euro 6 emissions standards and manages a carbon emissions figure of 99g/km.
Put down the car magazines, ask yourself what you really need a supermini for and then see if the Yaris doesn’t tick every single box.