The original Toyota Yaris was a landmark car, since then it has lost ground to more talented rivals. Can it regain its crown from the formidable and long in the tooth Ford Fiesta?

Find Used Toyota Yaris 2013-2020 review deals
Offers from our trusted partners on this car and its predecessors...
Used car deals
From £2,494
Sell your car
In partnership with
Powered by

Time may have slowly abraded the reputation of the Toyota Yaris 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.

The Toyota Yaris needs to steal buyers back from Ford, Volkswagen and Mazda

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.

Back to top

In order to increase its appeal and cater for more buyers, the Yaris is also offered in six trim levels, ranging from entry-level Active specification to range-topping Excel, and three petrol engines - a 1.0-litre, a new 1.5-litre and the petrol hybrid. Toyota also treated its small city car to a light makeover for 2017, with new equipment added and some mechanical changes made to the hybrid. 

So, does the Yaris have enough merit to justify considering it over the likes of the hugely popular Fiesta? Our full review will reveal all.

Save you money 198


Toyota Yaris rear

Ever since its inception, the Toyota Yaris has been an object lesson in the advantages of neat packaging, but although 100mm of extra length has been turned into even more legroom, the latest model’s appearance seems more a consequence of the concerted shift in design criteria for superminis than a clever accommodation ploy.

Frumpy compact MPVs have pinched the Yaris’s high roofline party trick, leaving the segment to the domination of sculpted, vacuum-packed hatchbacks like the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo.

The Toyota Yaris is a neatly packaged and practical small car

The latest facelift attempts to bring some of the style found on the new Toyota Aygo into the mix, particularly by adopting that model's X-faced front-end design. It's an effective move, giving the latest Yaris a playful look. The 2017 facelift did little to disrupt this on the exterior, with under the skin changes made to the Hybrid to help improve its ride and handling.

There's also less of the old model's anonymity on the road - this is instantly recognisable as a modern Toyota.

The Hybrid version looks hunkered down compared to the standard car in the interests of aerodynamic efficiency. The more eagle-eyed will also note that different versions of the Yaris get their own subtle styling tweaks, including chrome trim around the front grille.


Toyota Yaris interior

If spaciousness were the sole factor by which small hatchbacks were judged, the Yaris would be a serious contender for class leader.

Arguably the biggest change which comes with the facelifted Yaris is inside, updates range far beyond the realm of a usual facelift. 

Equipment levels on the entry-level models aren't exactly impressive

There's a new, cleaner look inside, with much of the fascia given over to Toyota's Touch 2 infotainment system. It's a pleasing design, and worked well on our test route in the German city of Düsseldorf. Maps are displayed clearly and other functions including multimedia are all easily controllable.

Space is ample up front, and although taller passengers should only be confined to the rear bench on short journeys the Yaris' seats are supportive and comfortable.

Toyota insists that it has improved the quality of materials used to dress the new frame, but there’s more economising on display than is apparent in the European or even Korean opposition, and some misjudged experimentation with different grains produces an ugly swathe of eye-catching scratchy plastic. 

A new soft-touch strip across the centre of the car is a prime example, because while it does lend a premium air to the Yaris' cabin it also serves to highlight other, cheaper-feeling fixtures and fittings.

Entry-level Active models come with 15in steel wheels, heated door mirrors, electric front windows, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and Toyota's full suite of safety technology as standard. Upgrade to Icon and you'll find alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, manual air conditioning, road sign recognition, a rear view camera and Toyota's Touch 2 infotainment system with Bluetooth and DAB radio included.

New for 2017, is the Icon Tech trim which adds sat nav and front parking sensors to the package, while the mid-range Design model includes 16in alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, tinted rear windows and a sporty bodykit. For those after a bit more personalisation, the Bi-Tone trims may be worth considering with its black wing mirrors and roof, rear LED lights, LED day-running lights, electric rear windows and colour co-ordinated interiors, as well as the choice of four snazzy colours - Nebula Blue, Tokyo Red, Glacier Pearl and Platinum Bronze.

Topping the range is the Excel trim which adorns the supermini with a height adjustable passenger seat, 16in alloy wheels, a half-leather and half-Alcantara interior, and automatic lights and wipers. While those opting for the hybrid version of the Yaris can choose any of the six trims and will find dual-zone climate control and a push button ignition included in the package.


1.5-litre Toyota Yaris petrol engine

The Toyota Yaris engine line-up is carried over wholesale from the previous model, so buyers get the choice between two petrols, one diesel and a hybrid powertrain.

A low-powered 68bhp, three-cylinder 1.0 VVTi petrol props up the range in smooth and sonorous fashion, but the 98bhp 1.33 VVTi installed in our test car, has been replaced with a new 1.5-litre naturally aspirated engine producing 110bhp and 100lb ft of torque , while a hybrid version with 99bhp completes the range.

A hybrid version of the Yaris is offered and it made up 40% of sales prior to the facelift

Kicking off proceedings is the 1.0-litre three-pot. The pleasantly thrummy unit serves up 68bhp - and a torque figure to match - but its leisurely 15.3sec 0-62 sprint means it is left wanting when leaving the safety of slow urban traffic.

Downsized petrol engines are a natural accomplice to the supermini breed, and it’s no surprise that Toyota’s familiar 1.33-litre engine slots into the new Yaris neatly enough. The compact four-pot forgoes the current vogue for forced induction with its long-established Dual VVT-i variable valve timing system, now with minor internal revisions to boost fuel economy.

This engine can sometimes feel breathless and flimsy at very low revs – indicative of efforts made to keep the Yaris as parsimonious as possible around town – but with a maximum 92lb ft of torque available at 4000rpm and the full 98bhp at 6000rpm, it does eventually pull with some vigour, making conservative overtaking a realistic prospect.

Toyota suggests 11.7sec for the 0-62mph sprint. We all but matched that with a two-way average of 11.5sec to 60mph, which makes the car more than competitive with the equivalent Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. The Yaris’s performance feels better when revving through its six gear ratios than lugging in them; dropping out of the torque-rich mid-range on an incline results in a prompt loss of momentum that can be remedied only by swift downshifts on the flimsy-feeling manual gearbox. To put it in context, the new 1.5-litre engine is capable of knocking off 0-62mph nearly a second quicker than its predecessor, and is 1.2sec quicker between 50 and 75mph clocking in a time of 17.6sec.

Nevertheless, the motor is content to cruise without much fuss. Drivers partial to an instantaneous response from their right foot will invariably find themselves in a lower gear than is strictly necessary, but that’s no different from any of the European alternatives. Equally, the engine is quite vocal at higher revs, but the 70dB we registered at 70mph is par for the course in this class.

After the Auris, the Yaris is the second regular model to receive the hybrid treatment. But unlike the Auris, and the hybrid-only Toyota Prius, the Yaris Hybrid has a 1.5-litre petrol engine rather than the more common 1.8.

Unlike its key rival, the Honda Jazz Hybrid, the Yaris can run on electricity alone for short periods. With battery and engine working in unison, a 0-62mph time of 11.8sec is possible, albeit with a great deal of noise thanks to the CVT transmission. This is not a powertrain that you'll gain much pleasure from pedalling quickly despite that decent performance.


Toyota Yaris cornering

Alongside its repackaged interior, its with the Yaris' suspension setup where you'll find the most change. There's a more rigid body structure, a stiffer torsion beam at the rear and softer springs at the front, all designed to improve the ride of this updated Yaris.

It's partially successful, because while the latest car does have a softer ride on the road, it also feels unsettled at speed. There's also the same noise problem as before - with both road and wind noise still an issue when cruising.

The Toyota falls some way short of matching rivals like the Fiesta

Combined with light, easily manageable controls and a tight turning circle, the car makes for easy progress around town and is competent enough out of it to allow casual users to forget they’re driving it.

It’s in the likely more enthusiastic hands of the Ford Fiesta’s fanbase that issues flare. The same straw-weight steering that makes car parks a breeze becomes as uncommunicative at pace as a severed phone line, and despite a 15mm increase in the front track over its predecessor, the Yaris’s footprint feels smaller and less well controlled with a bumpy B-road beneath its tyres.

A sympathetic observer might argue that it’s harsh to highlight handling shortcomings in a car tuned for urban economy rather than cross-country speed, but other mainstream manufacturers – including Kia, with its capable Kia Rio – have shown that it’s possible to cover both bases more effectively than Toyota has done here.


Toyota Yaris

Hybrid aside, the 1.4 D4-D diesel's 72.4mpg and 99g/km CO2 output made this version the most frugal Toyota Yaris. Not that the 1.33-litre, petrol-fuelled car is disgraced here; its claimed combined-cycle mpg is 57.6, matched to a 114g/km CO2 score, and – unusually – our test car almost matched that claim on our touring test with a 51.2mpg result. The new 1.5-litre petrol unit is supposedly 12 percent more frugal than the engine it replaces with a claimed combined-cycle of 64.5mpg a CO2 score of 109g/km.

The petrol-electric model boasts up to 85.6mpg on the combined cycle, depending on trim level specified. We found a 65mpg figure easy to acheive, which is not something that can be said of some other hybrids. Emissions of 75g/km are excellent too.

Choose your hybrid model carefully. MPG and CO2 increase on high-spec models

While some manufacturers have taken the supermini to the premium end of the market, the Yaris remains faithful to the buyer on a budget. However, that doesn’t make the competition any less cut-throat. With skin-tight margins and plenty of first-rate rivals, value for money remains central to any newcomer’s appeal.

With CO2 emissions of 114g/km, the 1.33-litre engine plants this model firmly in VED band C which is competitive, as is the five-year/100,000-mile warranty. The firm’s gold-plated reputation for robust, reliable cars cannot be overestimated among its repeat buyers.

Save you money 198


Toyota Yaris rear quarter

The Yaris disappoints slightly not because it is bad, but because Toyota has allowed itself to be swayed from an original formula that might just have resonated with the younger audience it initially hoped to reach.

Had it trusted itself to create another supermini blessed with a modicum of carefree spirit and imagination, the car would probably have merited more praise.

Wouldn't you rather have a Fiesta, a Polo, a Honda Jazz or a Kia Rio? We would

Instead, it has produced a scaled-down version of its larger models, making the Yaris a sturdy prospect for long-term investment but hardly a candidate for the kind of eager impulse purchases that feed small car sales figures.

In facelifted form, Toyota has added an extra layer of style to the mix, and the car's upgraded interior goes some way to giving it a premium feel.

Value for money, spaciousness and build quality will earn the Yaris the same willing audience as before, but given its huge resources, Toyota could have been expected to do better than that.

Rivals like the more engaging Mazda 2 and the best-selling Ford Fiesta, unfortunately, still offer a more endearing and engaging overall package.

Those wanting something reliable and hassle-free, however, will find much to like about the Toyota Yaris.

Save you money 198

Toyota Yaris 2013-2020 First drives