The Toyota Yaris supermini line-up has been further revised with revised grades, specifications and a smart bi-colour paint option. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
Toyota keeps on improving its third generation Yaris supermini, adding in a fresh 'Design' variant to the line-up, plus improving equipment levels and offering a Bi-colour paint option. In recent times, this can has been Europeanised with sharper styling, a better quality interior, retuned suspension, enhanced refinement and tweaks to improve efficiency across the board. What was already a class act has just become genuinely hard to overlook.
If you were asked to name the cars vying for the title of best supermini, it would be a reasonable wager that the Toyota Yaris wouldn't be amongst your top three. If, on the other hand, you had to name a small car that would be trouble-free, cheap to run and easy to use, it would be right up there. The thing is, those criteria are exactly what many supermini buyers are looking for. They don't care if the car can't take the Esses at Donington flat without lapsing into understeer. It's an irrelevance for most but car magazines still put a huge priority on handling and award their 'best of' titles predominantly on which cars are most fun to drive at the limit. The Yaris has always been a supermini that works well in the real world and this third generation car is no exception. It has long lacked a bit of flair though, and Toyota has belatedly realised this, endowing the latest model with a lot more styling input, as well as engineering improvements.
Toyota has worked to improve the driving dynamics of this car in recent times and the result is that if you haven't tried a Yaris for a bit, you might be surprised by just how well this one handles. Probably the greatest efforts have been centred on improving refinement and to that end, more recent models feature better soundproofing material, refettled engines and sleeker aerodynamics to reduce wind noise. Four engines are available. The 1.4-litre D-4D diesel, a hybrid that these days features better fuel economy, and two petrol engines. The 1.33 petrol unit's exhaust system is these days better insulated and the three-cylinder 1.0-litre powerplant has had a lot of budget thrown at it. Performance is better than it used to be and noise and vibration have been cut. Toyota has tried to improve handling too, stiffening the bodyshell and tweaking the suspension. Does it all work? Well, it depends upon your expectations. Though the ride is better than it used to be, it still gets unsettled over rougher surfaces. And though the steering is a touch more feelsome than long-time Yaris users might be used to, it's still very light and better suited to metropolis rather than motorway use. Which is one of the main reasons why this car remains one of those you'd buy primarily to shoot to the shops and take on the odd motorway trip to the mother-in-law, rather than to speed around Silverstone. That's why there are no hard core hot hatch versions, no performance fireworks and little for the enthusiast to get too excited about when it comes to pin-sharp response at the wheel.
Design and Build
The Yaris takes its styling influence from the second generation Aygo citycar, with the X-shaped frontal graphic giving it a far sharper look. It's these days a more assertive-looking design and Europeans like that. The headlights feature projector technology for high and low beams and the clusters incorporate LED daytime running lights. In profile, this improved Yaris displays a smart door belt moulding, door mirrors with an optional folding function and classy 15 and 16-inch alloy wheel designs. A rear bumper and diffuser assembly give the back end a more self-confident look, garnished with a neat set of LED light clusters. The interior features the Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system, complete with a 7-inch screen. This apart, the interior hasn't changed much since this car was launched in 2011. Which means that build quality from the French Pas-de-Calais factory is as strong as ever. And that the controls are sensibly positioned and extremely easy to get to grips with. There's also plenty of interior storage space, though some of the ledges provided tend to deposit their contents onto you once you corner with any speed. The door bins are useful though, able to accommodate a decent sized drinks bottle with ease.The boot offers 272-litres of space. Toyota's impressive EasyFlat rear seats split 60:40, fold and slide bringing a useful degree of versatility and up to 477-litres if you need it.
Market and Model
Prices sit in the £11,500 to £18,000 bracket, which is pretty par for the course in the supermini segment. Toyota knows equipment levels for this car have to be very class-competitive, so even the most basic version gets a leather steering wheel trim, air conditioning and the Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system. Dual-zone air conditioning, rear privacy glass, push-button start, automatic headlights and wipers, cruise control and auto-folding mirrors are also be available on other trims. There's also now been an effort to better visually differentiate each model in the range. This is done with different styles of trim materials and colours. For example, Toyota offers different lower grille finishes (unpainted, metallic black or piano black) and the grille surround inserts (chrome, satin chrome or piano black) are specific to each grade. The wheels, seats, centre console, instrument panel and steering wheel inserts also offer scope for giving each grade its own look and feel. A fresh 'Design' grade has been added ino the line-up. This gives you the Toyota Touch2 infotainment system complete with Bluetooth along with a DAB radio and a rear view camera, plus you get a rear spoiler, 16-inch alloy wheels and cruise control. The Yaris Design models can be given extra visual impact with a bi-colour paint option that provides an Eclipse Black metallic finish for the roof, front pillars, door mirrors and upper grille with contrasting Vermillion Red or Glacier Pearl White bodywork. The latter comes with a bespoke two-tone grey interior and seat upholstery; both versions add a black headlining.
Cost of Ownership
The Yaris' residual values have always held up better than a Fiesta, a lot better than a Corsa and leagues better than a Punto and will stack up even more competitively now that the efficiency of this latest model has been improved. One of the biggest beneficiaries is the hybrid model, which accounts for a quarter of all UK Yaris registrations. This sees CO2 emission drop from 79 to 75g/km, which translates to a combined fuel economy figure of 85.6mpg with virtually zero NOx and particulate emissions. The three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine that most customers choose now meets the stringent Euro 6 emissions standards and enjoys a reduction in carbon emissions from 110 to 99g/km, qualifying it for free road tax.
The original version of this MK3 model Toyota Yaris was one of those cars that grew on you but it didn't have the force of personality to impress you with sheer showroom wow factor. The latest model ups its game usefully in that regard. Is that enough to propel it into the top bracket of superminis? In truth, it was already there, but went largely unrecognised by the popular press. These latest changes probably won't impress those who pore over 0-62mph times or wax lyrical about handling adjustability. But what the Yaris lacks at the ragged edge on a Welsh mountain road, it more than makes up for in everyday use. Put down the car magazines, ask yourself what you really need a supermini for and then see if the Yaris doesn't tick every single box.