Toyota Yaris review
Rivals beat the Toyota Yaris for fun driving and quality feel, but the Toyota is a practical and reliable supermini
While the original Yaris made its mark based on being a straightforward, sensible supermini, the latest model trades on its unique aspects more than anything else. There are more stylish, practical, well equipped and fun options out there for the money, but ultimately, nothing else in its class comes equipped with a proper hybrid powertrain.
If that's the main reason why you'd be drawn to the small Toyota, there's little we can do to swerve you away. After all, it's one of the cheapest proper hybrid cars you can buy - only Suzuki's less in-depth SHVS versions of the Ignis and Swift are cheaper. More mainstream buyers will remain tempted by the likes of the Ford Fiesta, however.
This is the third-generation of Yaris that Toyota has offered for sale in the UK, but in spite of a loyal following, the Japanese manufacturer’s supermini hasn’t managed to unseat the European ‘home-brand' heroes like the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo in the minds of the buying public.
The original version launched in 1999 was hardly a paragon of style or dynamic appeal, but Toyota has been adding desirability to the model by degrees. With more flair and better equipment than ever, the latest Yaris feels thoroughly European – which of course it should, as the model has been built in France since 2001. A new fourth-generation Yaris is coming later in 2020, which will not only feature an SUV spin-off but also a homologation GR Yaris hot hatch.
One area where the Toyota supermini has taken a lead is with the availability of a petrol-electric model. The Yaris Hybrid stands out as the only full hybrid supermini on the market, although Honda did dabble with a Jazz hybrid until fairly recently. However, with such high levels of efficiency now available in the city car sector from ‘regular’ petrol or diesel models, the Yaris Hybrid is not quite the draw it might be. It’s a popular option, but even its super-low CO2 emissions no longer qualify for free road tax under the latest VED regime, so it remains to be seen how sales hold up.
A 2017 facelift for the Yaris reportedly saw the introduction of 900 new parts to the car, with a new front and rear-end design giving the model a contemporary Toyota family feel. The quality and feel have been improved inside, too, with a new TFT screen instrument panel for all but the basic Active model.
The entry-level Yaris Active is pretty basic with 15-inch steel wheels, a six-speaker CD system and Bluetooth, but you do also get a pre-collision warning system, automatic air-con and automatic wipers thrown in. The Icon is next up with 15-inch alloys and a 7-inch touchscreen with a reversing camera and a push-button start, while the Icon Tech adds navigation and parking sensors.
The range-topping Excel adds partial leather and Alcantara upholstery, automatic climate control and auto headlamps. A selection of Bi-tone models feature LED lights, a two-colour paint-job and rear power windows.
More recently Toyota has added two interesting new options to the line-up. The Y20 model celebrates 20 years of the Yaris with a number of visual additions such as two-tone paint jobs reminiscent of the Mk1 model's colour palette, 16-inch alloy wheels and a few Y20 bespoke elements in the cabin.
The GR Sport model is a new addition for 2019 too, adding a bit of hot-hatch flavour to the regular line-up. It gets a bodykit inspired by the range-topping GRMN model plus some suspension and steering revisions, and is offered with the Yaris' hybrid powertrain.
With the three-door models dropped from sale, all the mainstream models have the five-door body style, with a choice of three engines. In addition to the 1.5-litre petrol and hybrid models, there’s also a 1.0-litre petrol, which is best reserved for urban driving. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard across the range, apart from the Hybrid, which has a CVT transmission. An automatic transmission is available on the 1.5-litre petrol.
Though no longer available new it's worth mentioning the Yaris GRMN hot hatch. The limited-edition model was a halo for the Yaris badge with a unique look and suspension set-up, and it also stands out from other Yaris models thanks its engine: a supercharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder unit that is all-but identical to the engine found beneath the rear bodywork of the Lotus Elise.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingRivals beat the Toyota Yaris for fun driving and quality feel, but the Toyota is a practical and reliable supermini
- 2Engines, performance and driveIt’s comfortable and competent around town, but (with the notable exception of the GRMN version) the Yaris isn’t exactly thrilling to drive on the open road
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsEfficiency is definitely the trump card of this little Toyota – all versions are impressively affordable to run
- 4Interior, design and technologyA fresh, contemporary face gives the Yaris a distinctive look, and there’s plenty of technology on offer inside, too
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceWith its Tardis-like interior, the Toyota Yaris serves up plenty of space for passengers and luggage alike
- 6Reliability and SafetyA five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating and Toyota’s strong reputation for reliability make the Yaris a pretty safe bet