The last incarnation of the Yaris was chided for its lack of “carefree spirit and imagination” but, on the basis of this road test, Toyota seems to have rediscovered both characteristics.

Yes, there are still sweeter superminis to drive, not least those built by Ford and Mazda, and few will be prepared to argue that several rivals – mainly French ones – are not easier on the eye. But in hybrid-only form, the fourth-generation Yaris is potentially more frugal than them all and it is better to drive, is more interesting to look at and has a more distinctive cabin than its predecessor.

Grows not only in stature but also in ability and subjective appeal

Like the 1999 original, this Yaris will deserve most of the attention it will surely get. But perhaps not all of it. Buyers will need to opt for higher trim specifications with care because the larger wheels bring stiffer suspension that saps fluidity from the ride quality.

Real-world pace has improved but the hybrid powertrain remains an unenthusiastic performer and, considering the increase in wheelbase, more space for back-row passengers and in the boot would have been welcomed. Nevertheless, this characterful new Yaris represents something of a return to form.