Toyota Yaris hatchback review
“More economical, comfortable and stylish than ever, the latest Toyota Yaris is the best small Toyota yet”
- Eye-catching looks
- Lots of standard safety kit
- Lack of steering feel
- Slightly drab interior
- Smaller boot than rivals
The Toyota Yaris has gained a reputation over the years as fuss-free transport that’s a little lacking in terms of imagination and style. You’d buy something like the Renault Clio for its stylish looks, a Volkswagen Polo for the tech it offers, a Ford Fiesta for a sweet driving experience and a Vauxhall Corsa for its value. The result was that the Yaris became a little anonymous in the oversaturated supermini class, even if it is Europe’s fifth best-selling supermini and a very important car for Toyota.
Still, with this new Mk4 Yaris, Toyota has injected aggressive looks into the recipe in an attempt to turn buyers’ heads away from its rivals. The wheel arches are swollen to make it look lower and more squat, and there are lots of contrasting black trim elements to cast your eyes over.
There's also another reason to choose the Yaris over other superminis. The Yaris was the first supermini to feature a hybrid powertrain, and every new Yaris sold in the UK will have electrical assistance. You don’t really need to know that Toyota has changed from a nickel-hydride battery to a lithium-ion one, but you do need to know about the resulting improvements to the hybrid system. It’s punchier than before and can scoop up the energy you lose when braking; Toyota claims that, in town, up to 50% of driving can be done on battery power alone. Official WLTP figures stand at 92-98g/km in CO2 emissions and fuel economy of up to 68.9mpg. The downside is that the Yaris looks expensive to buy next to simpler non-hybrid rivals, with a starting price perilously close to £20,000.
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The car's petrol and electric motors produce a combined 114bhp and can complete 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds. On the road, the chassis is the first aspect to impress, as it’s so well sorted. There’s very little body roll through bends, and jolts from bumps and drain covers are, on the most part, cushioned nicely. The balance of comfort and composure is almost spot-on, which will appeal to many buyers who aren’t too interested in a sporty drive. The Yaris is responsive and has a tight turning circle, while the steering is among the best in class, even if it can't match the Fiesta.
What’s more impressive is the car’s refinement, as long as you choose smaller wheels. It's at its best in the confines of a city, and while it’s comfortable as a cruiser on the motorway, this is still its weakest area, with a fair amount of tyre noise and noticeable strain on the powertrain. Even on A-roads, transition between engine and motor is smooth, and the engine is quiet more often than not.
The interior is also an upgrade from before but it’s far from the standout feature of the car. The touchscreen isn’t up with the best-in-class, with slightly dated graphics and clunky buttons on either side. At least Toyota has now included Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so you can use your phone’s display on the screen instead. There's also some new tech like a 10-inch colour head-up display in top versions. We like that the Yaris feels well-built, but the dashboard does look a little bland compared to some rivals. Icon, Design, Dynamic and Excel trim levels will be offered, with a surprising amount of kit even in the standard version.
Practicality is about average for the class too. Adults will be fine in the back seats on shorter journeys, and there’s a 281-litre boot with all seats in place. It’s only 11 litres shy of the Ford Fiesta but there are plenty more practical superminis - the SEAT Ibiza offers 355 litres. Euro NCAP awarded the Yaris a top-notch five-star rating, thanks to every Yaris getting the latest Toyota Safety Sense system with adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and emergency steering.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The Toyota Yaris is only going to be sold as a hybrid model in the UK, despite early rumours it could also come with a petrol engine. We’ve only tested the hybrid so far, and it certainly promises to be economical. Toyota says that up to 50% of driving around town can be purely electric, and that up to 68.9mpg is possible. This did appear to be the case during our drive, with the car able to run in electric-only mode a surprising amount around town. It's possible to force the car to use just electricity in its EV drive mode but we found 'Eco' offered a good balance without hampering performance too much.
The Yaris hybrid produces between 92-98g/km of CO2 on the newer, stricter WLTP test, resulting in a low BiK band for company-car drivers.
Tax will cost £140 from the second year of ownership - the first year’s tax is rolled into the on-the-road price. Insurance groups haven’t been finalised yet but the previous Yaris hybrid started in group eight; about the same as a Ford Fiesta or SEAT Ibiza with a 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine. The Yaris will come with a generous five-year/100,000-mile warranty, like all Toyota models in the UK.
Engines, drive & performance
Besides the fast GRMN version, the Toyota Yaris has never aimed at the top of the supermini class for driving fun. Body roll is kept to a minimum in this latest version and the steering is responsive, so the car is adept at nipping through small gaps and navigating clogged city streets. You’ll be heading for the Ford Fiesta, Mazda2 or SEAT Ibiza if you want to feel part of the action, however, as the Yaris’ steering is noticeably devoid of feel.
The new Yaris sits on a different platform to its predecessor, and it now shares many more parts with the larger Toyota C-HR and Toyota Corolla. The new platform is much stiffer than the previous one, improving the car’s handling and allowing the engineers to reduce noise and vibrations.
The Yaris hybrid uses a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine coupled with a small electric motor and battery. With a total output of 114bhp, the Yaris gets from 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds, which is reasonable and about average for this size of car. As with the Toyota Prius, Corolla and C-HR, a CVT automatic gearbox is the only option on the hybrid model.
CVT gearboxes don't have the best reputation amongst keen drivers, but it performs like a regular automatic in most situations. Thanks to the electrical assistance, there’s less of the CVT’s infamous ‘rubber band’ effect and harsh noise when you heavily press the accelerator pedal. It’s even refined on a motorway, but a fast, twisty road does highlight the hybrid’s limitations. There are no such issues with the chassis; we feel it could easily cope with more power.
The main priority of the Yaris hybrid is efficiency, and it does very well in this regard. Thanks to regenerative braking (harvesting the energy otherwise lost in braking), the car runs on electric power as much as possible, and the engine cuts in smoothly without interrupting a conversation between passengers. The engine can switch off and let the electric motor take centre-stage at up to 70mph.
Interior & comfort
We’ve mentioned the Toyota Yaris’ platform change elsewhere in this review, and there’s another benefit of switching to the same underpinnings as bigger Toyota models. Because it’s stiffer, Toyota’s engineers had the ability to reduce the noise and vibrations in the cabin. A stiffer torsion beam at the rear of the car has allowed the suspension to be softer, so the car rides better and most bumps and drain covers don’t jolt you too much, so long as you stick to the trims with smaller wheels. Superminis used to be noisy and distinctly uncomfortable on the motorway, but that’s not the case in the Yaris.
The dashboard looks far more sophisticated compared with the previous generation, with the touchscreen emigrating to the top of the centre console instead of being plumbed into it. While it looks smart, we think the overall design is still a little drab compared to rivals, thanks to swathes of dark grey plastic.
If you’re more worried about build quality, the Yaris will suit. It’s clear that the Yaris will be among the best superminis when it comes to the way it's engineered.
The entry-level Icon trim level is hardly meagre, with 16-inch alloy wheels, a seven-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a reversing camera. It also gets automatic lights and wipers, while the Design trim increases the touchscreen to eight-inches and adds LED exterior lighting, electric rear windows and an optional panoramic roof.
Dynamic sees 17-inch wheels fitted, along with dual-zone climate control, a JBL speaker system, keyless entry and sports seats with part-synthetic leather upholstery. Adding a City Pack for £750 includes all-round parking sensors, auto braking, folding door mirrors and blind spot alerts. The Excel sits at the top of the range, adding the same features as the City Pack, along with the option of an £800 Tech Pack with a 10-inch colour head-up display. A Launch Edition will also be available for early buyers, with a two-tone red and black scheme.
It's a vast improvement that the infotainment features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto this time round, so you can use your phone’s interface on the car’s screen instead of relying on Toyota’s setup. The Toyota system is a little clunky and far less intuitive than the best infotainment systems on the market, and it’s not helped by dated graphics.
There’ll be no digital instrument cluster like you get in the Peugeot 208, but we found the head-up display worked very well, showing you all the relevant information without you having to take your eyes off the road.
Practicality & boot space
It’s unusual for a new car to be smaller than its predecessor, but the latest Toyota Yaris is slightly shorter than the car it replaces. However, the wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear wheels) is 50mm longer, which has slightly improved cabin space. Adults will be perfectly happy in the front but those above six feet tall will feel a little cramped in the rear seats. It’s perfectly adequate for short journeys but, if you’re planning to carry adults in the back regularly, they might thank you for buying something like a Renault Clio instead.
It’s a similar story in the boot. Measuring 281 litres with the rear seats up, it’s within touching distance of the Ford Fiesta’s 292-litre boot (you wouldn’t notice that difference when loading up) but some way off the class leaders. The Nissan Micra offers 300 litres, the VW Polo and SEAT Ibiza both offer over 350 litres and the Clio provides up to 391 litres of space - more than cars in the class above. What’s more disappointing is that the boot is actually five litres smaller than the one in the last Yaris.
Reliability & safety
Euro NCAPhas now put the Toyota Yaris through its paces, awarding it the maximum five-star rating. All Yaris models get state-of-the-art Toyota Safety Sense systems, so even the entry-level car gets adaptive cruise control that works at motorway speeds and in stop-start traffic, lane-keeping assistance and emergency steering assist - this can swerve you into another lane (if it’s safe to do so) when the system senses you’re about to have a crash. The pedestrian detection system will also scan for people walking across the road you’re about to turn into - and stops the car if it thinks you’re going to hit them.
The car’s reliability is as-yet-unknown but we expect the Yaris to be painless to own. The platform has previously seen use in Toyota’s family cars, and the brand itself came sixth in our 2020 Driver Power list of the top 30 manufacturers. Out of all the Toyota owners that responded, a lower-than-average 9.6% of owners had experienced a problem within the first year of ownership.