Toyota's improved Yaris is a car that really gets people talking. June Neary finds out why.
Will It Suit Me?
Like most people in the thirty plus age group, as a child I was fascinated by the sci-fi series Doctor Who. Thankfully, none of that scary stuff could break the force field that kept my big brother and I safe from harm behind Dad's armchair. Having said that, even the greatest amount of imagination couldn't make the corner of the living room spacious and comfortable like the Doctor's Tardis. As we grew, and viewing conditions became even more cramped, we admitted defeat and watched from the settee. After all, you just can't make something that's small on the outside and big on the inside. Those were the days of black and white and it was probably then that car manufacturers first began working on making the 'Tardis' concept a reality. Today, Toyota has crossed the final frontier - enter the second generation Yaris, a car we're looking at here in lightly updated form. For me, interior space is a top priority when choosing a car and that would probably be the case no matter what my lifestyle involved - it's not just important for mums with a couple of kids and a dog to find room for. In fact, it's a major issue whether you're a business woman with a load of kit to haul around, or simply run-of-the-mill like me. (A shopaholic, chocaholic married to a tall football playing bloke who can rarely find enough leg/ headroom. We've also been blessed with the standard 4.2 feline companions to transport to the vet, etc.) Having said all that, most of us don't want to nip down to the chippy in something that resembles a small house, either. If you're wondering if there's a point to all this rambling, the answer is yes; and you'll understand when you step inside the latest Toyota Yaris. This car offers all the advantages of a tiny Citycar - low fuel consumption, ease of parking, cheap insurance groupings and low purchase price - with most of the benefits of a larger, faster modern Supermini. I probably don't have to tell you that a Yaris would definitely suit my needs.
Give me a car for a week and within a couple of days the back seat will be lost under a sea of things that could just be useful - various CDs, food, drink (alcohol-free of course), spanners, sinks, things for recycling, etc. In fact, I like to think of a car's rear seating area as a handy extension of my handbag - but not in the Yaris. With tons of storage space, over 15 litres, lots of cubbies hidden around the cabin and a good-sized split-level glovebox, I turned into Mrs Tidy Car. The second generation Yaris model we're looking at here has been treated to a light facelift, along with a range of engine and handling tweaks supposed to bring it back into contention in the tightly-fought supermini segment. As before, this car is still shorter than the latest generation of larger superminis such as the Ford Fiesta and the Renault Clio. Part of the reason why these cars are so large is compliance with pedestrian impact legislation which is adding a few centimetres to the nose of many cars. The Yaris gets round this one by arcing the bonnet high over the unyielding mechanicals to provide a deformable surface. This means that despite being shorter on the outside, the Yaris is competitive in terms of interior space and easy to park at the same time. Fold the EasyFlat rear seats down and you're treated to the largest stowage area of any supermini. This system allows the rear bench to be split 60:40 and both sections to slide independently. Therefore it's possible to transport long, bulky items without impinging on a rear passenger's legroom allowance.
Behind the Wheel
On the road the car's upgraded 1.0-litre petrol engine is both lively and economical. Toyota say the Yaris can reach a top speed of 96mph and achieve 0-62mph from rest in around 12 seconds. There is also a petrol 1.33-litre variant with Stop & Start technology, a petrol Hybrid and a 1.4 D4-D diesel option. With keen fuel economy, low inertia and low emissions, the 1.0-litre I tried is a better choice than the diesel for the urban sprawl and crawl. Marry that to the tight turning circle and you have a very agile and wieldy city scoot. As I climbed into the driver's seat for the first time I was teleported back into sci-fi land. The rather unconventional fascia looks removed from the supermini norm, with a 3D effect on the main display. More conservative buyers may find it a bit Buck Rogers but it's certainly distinctive. On the road, the Yaris lives up to Toyota's promises - it handles safely and competently.
Value For Money
At prices that start from just over the £11,000 mark, there's no denying that this car offers excellent value for money. Buyers have the option of three or five doors and all variants come with impressive equipment levels - just like a larger car. Keyless ignition features on plusher models as well as climate control and a trip computer. The Yaris is also is covered by the company's comprehensive five-year warranty.
Could I Live With One?
This is a car that's a real charmer and on top of all of its other attributes, it looks good. Yes, I could live with one - and we'd be very happy together.