Time may have slowly abraded the reputation of Toyota’s supermini, but at the turn of the last decade the original Yaris was launched to considerable acclaim. A direct result of the Funtime concept range unveiled in 1997, the production model lived up to the pedigree, offering buyers a spacious, well made small car with playful looks, an imaginative interior and amenable driving style that was talented enough to score European Car of the Year on its way to serious sales figures.
Its success helped to gently reshape the supermini market just before BMW’s Mini arrived in 2001 to completely disassemble it.
Since then, and despite a comprehensive re-make in 2005, a phalanx of polished budget rivals have made the Yaris’s cute-as-a-button styling look as dated as the older generation of buyers who subsequently took refuge in the car’s reputation for dependability.
The latest model is intended to reverse the trend and reoccupy the ground ceded to competitors, particularly among young buyers who have so far favoured the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Mazda 2.
Among that esteemed company, the Yaris was the first to be offered with a hybrid powertrain, even if the accolade of the first in class went to the Honda Jazz hybrid. Still, the Yaris Hybrid offers an interesting diversion to pure petrol or diesel power.