"Toyota's supermini newcomer is 100mm larger than the previous Yaris resulting in a bigger boot and more interior space."
The current Toyota Yaris is a big improvement on the model it replaces, but is still some way off being a serious contender in the fiercely contested supermini class. Its style takes inspiration from the rest of the Toyota range including the Verso MPV and Prius hatchback, and looks good next to rivals like the Ford Fiesta and bargain Hyundai i20. It offers a long list of standard equipment in a practical body, and although list prices are rather high, it comes with an extensive warranty and used values are strong. There's a range of economical petrol and diesel engines, as well as an environmentally friendly hybrid, which emits a tax-busting 79g/km of CO2. If you want a dependable small car that is comfortable to drive and offers plenty of interior practicality, the Toyota Yaris could be the supermini for you.
The current Toyota Yaris is bigger than its predecessor, but its actually 20kg lighter, which means it feels more agile on the road. It's no sports car though, and if you value driver enjoyment then you’ll be better off with a Ford Fiesta or Mazda 2. The steering is light, and although that's great around town and when parking, it feels a bit vague and lifeless at higher speeds, where it struggles with sudden direction changes and bumps in the road. There's a selection of engines to choose from including a 1.0-litre three-cylinder and a 1.33-litre petrol, as well as an economical 1.4-litre D-4D diesel and 1.5-litre Yaris Hybrid. The entry-level 1.0-litre is fine around town but struggles at motorway speeds, and if you do a lot of longer journeys you’ll be better suited to the diesel. The hybrid car is exceptionally clean, and although the CVT automatic gearbox tends to whine at higher revs, it works well with the engine and emits just 79g/km of CO2.
There's plenty of space inside the new Toyota Yaris. Up front there's plenty of head and legroom, while in the back you can seat three without too much complaint. The seats are supportive and the whole car feels genuinely well made, though it can’t compete with the VW Polo in terms of interior quality. The noisy petrol engines are best avoided if you spend a lot of time on motorways, as is the CVT automatic gearbox, which tends to whine at higher revs. For a more hushed ride, the economical diesel is your best bet – with the low revs making for decent high-speed refinement. Ride comfort is good, with the light controls and soft suspension making the Yaris incredibly easy, if a little uninvolving to drive.
Toyota now offers all its cars with a comprehensive five-year, 100,000-mile warranty. It also finished 5th in the 2012 Auto Express Driver Power survey – a testament to the company's impressive build quality – proving Yaris owners are a satisfied bunch. The range of highly-reliable engines have been carried over from the previous generation Yaris, with the addition of an environmentally-friendly hybrid model. It's a safe car, too, with seven airbags, ABS and traction control as standard. It also scored a maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP's stringent crash tests thanks to electronic stability control and clever brake assist technology.
Even though the new Yaris is 20kg lighter than the old model, it is actually larger and more practical on the inside. The boot is 25 per cent larger, at 286-litres and split-fold rear seats are standard across the range – making transporting longer items a doddle. There is loads of head and legroom up front, while in the back there is enough space to rival cars like the bigger VW Golf and Ford Focus. What's more, unlike many of the Toyota's supermini rivals, there is plenty of room for three across the back thanks to a totally flat floor – giving the middle seat passenger somewhere to rest their feel on longer journeys. The interior is well-laid out and feels built to last – with all but the base-spec cars getting a touchscreen control system as standard, as well as numerous useful cubbyholes dotted around the cabin.
Value for money
The Toyota Yaris is priced on a par with the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo, but can’t match either for driving enjoyment or interior quality. What's more, lower-priced rivals like the Hyundai i20 and Kia Rio offer better value for money and similar levels of kit. However, all models apart from the entry-level T2, include air-con, Bluetooth and a reversing camera as well as alloy wheels and a touch-screen entertainment system. Sat-nav can be added for a reasonable price, while sporty SR cars get a roof spoiler and sports suspension. Flagship T Spirit models are expensive but do come with a panoramic roof, auto lights and dual-zone climate control. Used prices are typically strong, with plenty of models for sale on the second hand market.
All the engines in the Yaris range are relatively fuel-efficient. The entry-level 1.0-litre petrol will manage 58.9mpg, while the 1.33-litre car with the automatic gearbox will do 55.4mpg. The 1.4-litre diesel is your best bet if you cover high miles, and will return 72.4mpg on a motorway run. Emissions of 104g/km mean it's cheap to tax, too. However, if efficiency and rock-bottom running costs are top of your list, then you should consider the Yaris Hybrid, which matches a 1.5-litre petrol engine to an electric motor to offer 80.7mpg and just 79g/km of CO2. This not only means it is free to tax, but it's London Congestion Charge exempt, too. All Yaris models fit into a low insurance group, while a comprehensive five-year warranty and fixed-price servicing should give owners peace of mind.