Toyota Yaris review
The Toyota Yaris is spacious and reliable, but lacks the sparkle of the Ford Fiesta
The Toyota Yaris supermini has long sat in the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo’s shadow, failing to offer the same fun driving experience or high class interior. However, reliability, practicality and running costs mean the Toyota is still worth a look.
Available with three or five doors, as well as a choice or petrol, diesel and hybrid engines – there are plenty of Yaris models to choose from. All are cheap to run, and all come with a height-adjustable driver’s seat, USB connectivity and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. Trims range from the basic Active, through Icon, Sport and Excel. Top spec cars are pretty good value too, adding 16-inch alloy wheels, LED DRLs and a touchscreen infotainment system.
The basic 1.0-litre petrol engine is economical but gutless, taking 15.3 seconds to hit 62mph. The 98bhp 1.33-litre is a better bet for most drivers, slashing the 0-62mph time to 11.7 seconds while still returning almost 60mpg. The 1.4 diesel is not only the most economical (74.3mpg) but also the fastest (0-62mph in 10.8 seconds).
If you want rock bottom running costs though, and spend most your time in town then the Yaris Hybrid is worth a look. On the smallest wheels it emits just 75g/km of CO2 – making it free to tax and exempt from the London Congestion Charge.
Our choice: Yaris 1.33 VVT-i TR 5dr
Engines, performance and drive
The Toyota Yaris isn't bad to drive, but while there's good grip and composure, the steering has little feedback and doesn't feel as nimble as a Peugeot 208 or Ford Fiesta.
At the base of the Toyota Yaris engine range there's a 69bhp three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine. This is great for driving around town but can get a little noisy at motorway speeds. It’s utterly gutless too, so you’ll need to plan any overtaking manoeuvres well in advance.
Go for the 1.33-litre petrol enge, and you get a smooth four-cylinder engine under the bonnet which is quiet and refined at idle. It’s also unruffled on the move, although you need to use all of the engine’s revs to extract the best performance.
Meanwhile, buyers doing more miles might want to consider the 1.4-litre D-4D diesel, which goes from 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds and has a top speed of 109mph.
The six-speed manual gearbox has a light yet positive shift, so it’s easy enough to keep the engine in its relatively narrow power band, while the rest of the Toyota’s controls are light and easy to use. There’s not much feedback from the steering, but turn-in is positive, and the Yaris feels light and manoeuvrable – especially around town.
The CVT automatic gearbox in the Toyota Yaris Hybrid has an advatnage over some of its rivals around town, making quiet and smooth progress if you’re gentle with the throttle. However, while the Yaris is king of the urban jungle, it feels all at sea on the open road.
When you hit the throttle to accelerate, the gearbox holds the revs uncomfortably high in an effort to maxmise the engine’s pulling power - at anything other than a sedate cruise, the Yaris Hybrid feels thrashy and underpowered.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The great thing about the Toyota Yaris is that all engines in the range are very efficient. We'd definitely opt for the hybrid; it features an electric motor paired with a 1.5-litre petrol engine, meaning it manages 81mpg and emits jet 79g/km of CO2.
The economical 1.4-litre diesel manages 72.4mpg and emits a tax free 99g/km of CO2. Elsewhere, the entry-level 1.0-litre petrol engine returns a respectable 58.9 mpg, while the more powerful 1.33-litre petrol achieves 55.4mpg.
Residual values are strong, and there are plenty of models for sale on the UK used car market. Meanwhile, fixed-price servicing and a low insurance group rating should help to keep costs down.
Interior, design and technology
Toyota has tended to forge its own path when it comes to styling, and while earlier versions of the Yaris didn’t set the world alight with their rounded shapes, the current car has some sharp angles in its design to keep it interesting. What’s more, the 2014 facelift has arguably made it even more distinctive.
The biggest changes are reserved for the nose, where you’ll find a new headlamp design featuring high-intensity LED daytime running lights on Sport models and above, and a grille that takes inspiration from the new Aygo city car. On the Yaris, it comprises a subtle ‘X’ that cuts from the lights through the Toyota badge and into the bumpers. It’s a distinctive styling cue, and certainly looks more dramatic than the Polo’s upright nose.
Elsewhere, Sport models get unique 16-inch alloys, a subtle boot spoiler and rear privacy glass, while at the back you’ll find full LED tail-lights; but again, these are reserved for Sport and Excel models.
The distinctive red dashboard, door inserts and seat trim in our pictures come as part of the Piri Piri pack, which is a no-cost option on Sport models – you get simple, dark-grey plastic as standard. However, for us, the red trim adds a dash of excitement to the otherwise low-key design.
On the plus side, Toyota’s new Touch 2 multimedia system is easy to use and the seven-inch touchscreen responds quickly and logically, while the optional sat-nav is also relatively simple to operate.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
This is where the Yaris excels as Toyota gives it a boot that's 25 per cent bigger than the previous-generation car, meaning you get 286 litres of boot space. That's quite spacious, and definitely edges the Volkswagen Polo. With the rear seats folded flat, this increases to 768 litres.
In regular Yaris models there's plenty of rear leg and headroom, and three adults can easily ft in the back. Meanwhile, storage spots and cubbies are plentiful.
On Hybrid models, Toyota hasn't compromised on space either thanks to clever packaging stores the battery pack which sees it encroach into the footwell, leaving an awkwardly shaped bulge for occupants to place their feet around.
Reliability and Safety
One area where the Yaris will excel is reliability. Despite a handful of high-profile recalls, the brand has a first-class reputation for building cars that will run and run, and, like the rest of the range, the Yaris gets a five-year/100,000-mile warranty.
The third-generation Yaris placed 76th out of 200 in Driver Power 2015, a drop of 19 since the previous year. It achieved high scores for reliability, running costs and in car-tech, but fell short for performance, seat comfort and practicality. Toyota came eighth overall – a climb of nine places over 2014.
The Yaris has a five-star Euro NCAP rating. You get seven airbags and tyre pressure monitors, although Toyota doesn’t offer the advanced options of the rival VW Polo, such as adaptive cruise control and tiredness alert.