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Fourth-generation Yaris ups its scale and sporting quotient, but to what effect?

The Toyota Yaris is heading back to its roots with the new, fourth-generation version that’s in our road test cross hairs this week.

Having been with us for a little over two decades, the French-built small hatchback has done well enough to become Toyota’s biggest-selling individual model in Europe; just as you’d expect a supermini from a volume car brand to do.

Oversized blister for the rear wheel arch is unusually bold for a mid-range supermini but most testers liked the added on-street presence that it helps to provide. It looks bolder still in a brighter metallic colour.

And yet Toyota would clearly like it to do better. So now that the company has an all-new TNGA-B model platform to deploy on the Yaris (it’s related to the one that has produced impressive results under the latest Toyota C-HR, Toyota Prius and Toyota Corolla, but not quite the same), it has taken the opportunity to redesign and reimagine its supermini on a clean sheet of paper.

The result, as you might have noticed, looks rather more like the original Yaris of 1999 than either of the subsequent generations. Like its showroom siblings, it’s a modern Toyota that offers only a petrol-electric hybrid powertrain.

Although it is likely to sell on the strength of its fuel efficiency and active safety credentials, it peddles significantly better performance than its petrol-electric predecessor as well as much-improved handling and driver appeal. Interestingly – and not by coincidence, you suspect – this is a car described in exactly the same suspiciously catchy terms as the original Yaris was, one distinguished by “big small” characteristics both static and dynamic. Consider that an attempt to sweep away some of the memory of the Yaris’s awkward-looking teenage years if you will.

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But whether you think such labelling is meaningful or not, now’s our chance to explore the new Yaris’s qualities and characteristics in detail and to find out how much potential this smaller, meaner, stiffer and more modern Toyota has to finally break in among Europe’s biggest-selling superminis in volume terms.

The Toyota Yaris line-up at a glance

Toyota has resisted the urge to offer this latest Yaris with regular petrol motors and has instead focused exclusively on its new 1.5-litre hybrid powertrain – largely because it would have been the best-seller anyway.

Starting prices are a bit steeper than the supermini norm as a result, but the pay-off is appealingly low CO2 emissions and competitive efficiency. Icon represents the entry-level trim and is followed by Design, Dynamic, Excel and Launch Edition models.


Toyota Yaris First drives