From £10,114
Thoroughly improved, Yaris is impressive — but appeals more to head than heart.

Our Verdict

Toyota Yaris

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?

Richard Bremner Autocar
20 October 2005

There’s no mistaking this Toyota for anything other than a Yaris – even though it’s virtually all-new. That’s no accident; one of Toyota’s aims for this new version was to maintain the DNA of the old one, and with good reason: the outgoing model is selling better than ever in its sixth and final year, and it scores higher-than-average ratings from its owners for styling, technology, quality and reliability.According to the German TUV, which performs the equivalent of the MoT test on cars in Germany, the Yaris is the most reliable four-to-five-year-old car you can buy.Still, every car can be improved: these days, the outgoing Yaris is looking slightly cheap inside, and it’s also small for its class – small enough that it sits too close to the Aygo. It’s 11cm longer now, and just over an 2.5cm taller and wider, but like the last car, impressive for its space-efficiency.Toyota also wanted to polish its sophistication, refinement and quality, from the way it drives to the sound the doors make when they’re closed, as well as improving its versatility, comfort, safety and performance.Despite its growth, the new Yaris remains usefully shorter than the opposition, particularly the new Fiat Punto and Renault Clio. But you’re not short of room aboard the Toyota, in part because you sit quite upright, two decently sized adults sitting comfortably behind two similarly dimensioned companions. This is all the more impressive considering the struggle manufacturers are having with the new pedestrian impact test, which is creating cars with unusually long noses. The Yaris is an exception, its bonnet mounted high over the engine to provide the necessary crush zone. Toyota anticipates three stars for pedestrian protection and five for occupant protection, incidentally.Winning extra space has clearly been a major preoccupation. A flatter floor tunnel improves comfort for the middle-rear occupant, the front seat runners are spread further apart for extra rear footroom, the seats are thinner, the folding rear bench employs Toyota’s neat Easy Flat system – liberating the largest seats-down stowage area of any supermini, it’s claimed – and there’s 18.2 litres of stowage in the fascia. Oh, and the rear bench is split 60:40, each section sliding back and forth independently.There’s been progress elsewhere too. The bodyshell is 50 per cent stiffer, the suspension has been redesigned, the electrically assisted steering delivers the tightest turning circle in the class, the doors are double-sealed for improved refinement, its drag coefficient has been chiselled to an excellent 0.30, it’s easier to repair post-shunt, the top-of-the-range versions have keyless-go and climate control and the cupholders are 12 per cent closer now. If this last suggests pedantry, well, that gives you a clue to the thoroughness of this renewal.Propulsion comes from two petrol engines – a 1.0 three-cylinder and a 1.3 four – or a 1.4 turbodiesel, and each can be had with either a five-speed manual or a five-speed auto. The 1.0 is new, the others carry over. But the best-seller is expected to be the 1.3 manual five-door in T3 trim – there will be T2 and high-spec Spirit versions besides – and it was this model we tried first.Climb aboard and you’re confronted by an unusual dash, as with the last car. The instruments still lie deep within an angled well in the dash’s centre, but there’s more of a 3-D effect and you also get a trip computer. The fascia is neatly fashioned from hard-feel plastics, with splashes of aluminium, but the effect isn’t quite as classy as the new Clio’s or as colourful as the Punto’s.The comfortable driving position, the airily deep screen, the Yaris’s compactness and the ease of driving it make it an excellent city car, tainted only by an over-sharp clutch. Yes, you can tell that the steering is electrically assisted – it feels slightly artificial – and the gearchange is a little willowy, but the brakes feel good and the whole thing gels well.The 1.3 engine pulls with some verve, and if it gets thrashy towards the top end it’s pretty civil most of the time, including at a cruise.The Yaris’s road behaviour is slightly less advanced than its packaging. It’s capable, but far from a riot to drive – roll and an occasional sharpness over bumps ensuring that it’s nothing to get excited about. The same was true of its refinement, we thought, until we tried the Japanese-built 1.0-litre, which was noticeably more civil than the 1.3. Toyota says the 1.3 is at an earlier stage in the pilot-build process. If the 1.0 turns out to be typical, then the Yaris’s refinement is impressive. The three-cylinder thrum is endearing, and if your motoring is mostly one-up and city bound, it’ll be all you need. The chattery oil-burner will only make sense if diesel prices fall or if you travel huge distances.In its more likely mode as a city car, the Yaris is effective because it’s so practical, easy to live with and cheap to run. It’s a little short of dynamic character, the cabin still falls behind the best in terms of finish and the seats, which ultimately lack give, eventually becoming uncomfortable. But if you can live with this, the Yaris has to be one of the canniest buys in the class. 

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Alfa Romeo Stelvio
    The new Alfa Romeo Stelvio. We've tested it on UK roads for the first time
    First Drive
    18 August 2017
    First tilt on UK roads reveals a chassis almost as absorbing as the Giulia’s, though the Stelvio’s comfort and quality levels may disappoint SUV clientele
  • Car review
    18 August 2017
    Amid a broader vRS refresh, Skoda has built its most powerful Octavia yet to take on the established order
  • Jaguar F-Type Convertible 2.0 i4 on the road
    First Drive
    16 August 2017
    Having been previously impressed by the agile four-cylinder F-Type, now is our chance to try it in the UK and in open-top form. But can this entry-level Jaguar sports car hold off the impressive Porsche Boxster?
  • Aston Martin V8 Vantage AMR
    The Aston Martin V8 Vantage AMR is a swansong for the Vantage - but the first model to sport the AMR title
    First Drive
    16 August 2017
    Aston Martin's swansong for its venerable Vantage sports car allows it to bow out with its head held high, yet the performance AMR sub-brand's first outing leaves you feeling short-changed
  • Range Rover Velar 2.0D
    First Drive
    15 August 2017
    Can the newest Range Rover deliver the goods when it's being powered by a four-cylinder, 2.0L diesel engine? We tried it on UK roads to find out