From £10,1147
Comprehensive updates for the 2017 Toyota Yaris focus on the supermini's engines, design, ride comfort and refinement
11 April 2017

What is it?

Toyota's latest Yaris might appear to have had only a light facelift on the outside, but beneath the surface are extensive revisions that, the firm says, include more than 900 new parts as a result of around £76 million of development. And as Toyota is keen to point out, its European team took the lead. 

So, yes, there's a sharper look at both the front and rear, but also a new 1.5-litre VVT-iE petrol engine, which replaces the outgoing 1.33 VVT-i and is claimed to be more powerful as well as more frugal. Toyota has also done away with its 1.4-litre diesel engine and removed the option of a three-door bodystyle. Instead, the unique-for-the-class full-hybrid model has received the most attention, with adjustments to the power steering, anti-roll bar, driveshafts, engine mounting, dampers and front subframe in the pursuit of better handling and refinement. Happily, a 205bhp supercharged 1.8-litre petrol GRMN Yaris hot hatch will follow later

Inside, Toyota has worked to upgrade dashboard materials and improve standard infotainment and safety equipment. The car's trim structure and personalisation options have been given a shake-up, too. An impressive list, then, but do these many small changes add up to a supermini that's finally capable of outshining class stars such as the Ford Fiesta and Skoda Fabia?

What's it like?

With the new 1.5-litre engine comes new engine mounts and retuned dampers, so there are genuine differences to report here, even if the long list of revisions has not been applied to the 1.5 model. Why not? Because customers of the old 1.33 and entry-level 1.0 apparently had no complaints. Instead, it was Hybrid customers (who account for around 33% of Yaris buyers in the UK) who wanted a better experience.

Be that as it may, this 1.5 is 0.8sec quicker from zero to 62mph than the 1.33 it replaces.  Meanwhile, its commendable 38.5% thermal efficiency, ability to swap between Otto and Atkinson cycles (the 'E' in VVT-iE standing for electronic variable valve timing) and water-cooled exhaust manifold - a first for Toyota - all help to make it 12% more frugal than the old engine. Unfortunately, though, it still feels dated and relatively pedestrian next to turbocharged rivals units. 

There's a competitive 110bhp available, but it's firmly at the top of the 1.5's rev range, so bursts of acceleration require a downchange and patience. Even at middling revs, there's a fair amount of boom in the cabin, which means it isn't a particularly pleasant experience pushing the engine hard. Even so, once you're committed, there's just enough performance to confidently carry out motorway slip-road sprints and well-planned B-road overtaking.  

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On our millpond-smooth Dutch test route, it was difficult to assess ride quality in any real depth, but on the few-and-far-between patches of rough tarmac we came across, our 16in-wheeled Yaris displayed a similar set of characteristics to the old model. Bump absorption is largely quiet and the worst of sharp-edged obstructions are kept from the cabin, but the Yaris's body is too readily unsettled, especially when travelling at higher speeds. 

The Yaris remains largely uninspiring to thread down a B-road, too, with steering that feels oddly weighted and devoid of communication, and a body that doesn't feel particularly comfortable with sudden changes of direction. The steering is, at least, fairly precise, and grip levels are decent, but the Yaris feels very much a car offering function before fun. 

Inside, the Yaris feels better than ever before in terms of quality, with more soft-touch plastics, piano black and chrome accents and solid-feeling switches and air vents. It's certainly a more upmarket cabin than the current Fiesta offers, although a Fabia manages to achieve a classier ambience again. It's a shame, then, that the driver's seat feels set too high, the wheel doesn't adjust far enough and the pedal and gearlever weightings feel inconsistent in comparison with rivals'.

Toyota's Touch 2 infotainment system lets the side down further, sporting dated graphics, confusing menus and on-screen buttons that are too small and take too long to respond. That it lacks more advanced smartphone integration such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is also disappointing. 

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Should I buy one?

Toyota makes choosing a Yaris much easier when the head begins to rule the heart. For instance, it's impressive that every car gets features such as Bluetooth, automatic headlights and wipers, automatic city braking and lane departure as standard, and the likely best-selling Icon trim adds air-con, 15in alloy wheels, cruise control and a rear-view camera displayed on the colour infotainment screen. The firm's sterling reliability record and standard five-year warranty are big draws, too.

So if you're happy to accept that the Yaris's ride, handling, quality, infotainment and space are behind its rivals', the Yaris presents itself as a competent, safe and well-equipped buy. But in this extremely competitive class, that's not enough to move it up our supermini leaderboard, especially when its economy figures, list price and finance quotes fail to offer any compelling reason to overlook the car's drawbacks.

Toyota Yaris 1.5 VVT-iE Excel

Location Amsterdam, the Netherlands; On sale Now; Price £17,495; Engine 4 cyls, 1496cc, petrol; Power 110bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 100lb ft at 4400rpm; Kerb weight 1125kg; Gearbox 6-spd manual; 0-62mph 11.0sec; Top speed 109mph; Economy 56.5mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 112g/km, 21%; Rivals Ford Fiesta, Skoda Fabia

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Comments
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Davechappie 19 October 2017

Trim

Sometimes little things count for a lot. My wife just bought a Yaris Hybrid Icon Tech. I love the ride and most things about it. I just think some finesse is lacking where one would expect it to be present.

With regards to the front seat mountings. Bare nuts and metal, where most cars would have plastic moulded covers hiding them.

The beading around the rear window frames have rather large Knobbly joints. 

Also surprised that as it is an Icon tech, the rear windows are manually controlled.

 

Bakerboy3685 12 April 2017

3 Star At Best

Seems a bit generous with the amount of sacrifices you have to make on handling, infotainment etc.

I like that new CHR a lot and its suppose to be quite sharp to drive so why are the Yaris and Auris so dull.

Einarbb 12 April 2017

The 0-62 time appears exactly right for the power to weight

The car does weigh 1125kg. and has 110bhp. Making 11 sec. about right. The Mazda must have less weight to carry if it does 0-62 in less time with mere 90bhp.