The third generation Yaris has been around for some time now – long enough in fact to have been subjected to no less than two facelifts since it was first introduced in 2011. With this latest refresh, Toyota has dropped its 1.33-litre engine in favour of a new 1.5-litre power plant that is both more powerful and more efficient than its predecessor.
Toyota has also really stepped its game up as far as standard safety equipment is concerned – a factor that will no doubt appeal to family buyers. Even the entry-level Active models come equipped with the Toyota Safety Sense system, which includes a plethora of alerts and warning systems including lane departure alert and autonomous emergency braking.
Looks and image
To the untrained eye, the changes to the Yaris’s appearance might go unnoticed. The new front end has been styled to imitate a catamaran ship – with a wide, angular grille dominating proceedings and giving the Yaris a slightly more aggressive demeanour.
Round the back of the car is where the most noticeable changes have been implemented. Toyota has completely redesigned the shape of the tail-lights, which supposedly echo those found on larger, more premium models.
Customers also have the choice of opting for the new Bi-tone specification, which adds a contrasting roof and pillars for an even more striking appearance – particularly when paired with the bold new Tokyo Red and Nebula Blue exterior colours.
While Toyota seems to have done a good job of freshening up the little Yaris’ exterior, the cabin unfortunately lets the side down somewhat. The dark plastics used on the mid-range models make the interior feel rather gloomy indeed, and feel rough and scratchy to the touch. That said though, while the materials used in the cabin might not win any awards for their aesthetic appeal, in true Toyota fashion they feel as though they will certainly stand the test of time.
Space and practicality
Having sat in the back seat of a three-door, first-generation Yaris recently, we were rather surprised to find the new five-door only model felt as though it had less headroom and less legroom in the rear.
Sat behind a six-foot driver and front passengers, taller adults in the back of the new Yaris will find their knees brush against the seats in front of them, while their heads might narrowly avoid touching the roof. There’s certainly not an abundance of room in the back of the car, but two adults should be able to travel reasonable distances without getting too uncomfortable. Squeezing a third adult passenger in the middle seat would certainly make things unpleasant, although a trio of small children should fit just fine.
As far as boot space is concerned, the Yaris offers up 286 litres of storage capacity. While this figure might not be class-leading by any means, it should meet the requirements of most family buyers.
Behind the wheel
Our experience of the Yaris was mostly limited to low-speed, urban driving, which it handled amicably. The controls were light and easy to operate, meaning the little Toyota was incredibly easy to place exactly where you wanted it – a factor that will no doubt appeal to the many buyers who will buy one of these for almost exclusive city use.
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Motorways didn’t really cause it to flinch, either, with the Yaris remaining planted and confident throughout. Where it did fall down, however, was in the engine refinement department, with the 1.0-litre engine in particular making itself heard at cruising speed. There was a good deal of wind noise whipped up by the Yaris’s door mirrors, too.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to put the Yaris’s handling abilities to the test, as the Dutch roads that made up our test route were all arrow straight and silky smooth and didn’t cause the supermini to break a sweat. Final judgement on the Yaris’s dynamic capabilities can’t really be passed until we’ve had a go back on British soil.
Value for money
We got behind the wheel of the mid-range Icon Tech model, which costs from £15,045. Standard equipment is generous, with features such as satellite navigation, rear parking camera and a seven-inch touchscreen multimedia system all included as standard.
One of the key selling points, however, is the large emphasis that Toyota has placed on safety across the entire Yaris range. All cars – from the entry-level Active model all the way up to the Excel and Bi-tone models – come with Toyota Safety Sense as standard. This includes Pre-Collision System, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Alert and Automatic High-beam. Road Sign Assist is also included on cars in Icon specification and above.
Who would buy one?
Toyota is primarily targeting young families with the latest Yaris – and its strong focus on safety equipment should help strengthen its appeal with buyers in this demographic. That said, families aren’t the only people who will look to the Yaris as a means of getting on the road – the 1.0-litre versions should hold some sway with younger buyers as they won’t cost an arm and a leg to insure.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Toyota Yaris 1.5 VVT-I 6MT
Engine tested: 1.5-litre Dual VVT-I petrol
Price as tested: £15,845
Max speed: 109mph
MPG: 58.9 (combined cycle)