New car review

Toyota Yaris test drive

The Toyota Yaris has become a by-word for efficiency and value-for-money. Can this latest version do the same?

This is the new, fourth-generation Toyota Yaris. It’s a car which bears a nameplate that has come to represent value-for-money, no-frills motoring for many years now. This latest version aims to do the same, but with the added bonus of more interior technology and a great emphasis on efficiency too.

It’s why a hybrid powertrain remains, but this Yaris sits on a new platform that promises more space and practicality than the previous model. We’ve been behind the wheel to see if the change has been a fruitful one.

We’ve also put the new Yaris under the microscope on The Car Expert’s unique Expert Rating index, which compiles new car reviews from more than 25 of the UK’s leading automotive websites. Although it’s still early days and there are many more reviews still to come, the Yaris currently holds a rating of 75%. That puts it right in the middle of a field of 16 different superminis in our database.

What’s new?

As we’ve already mentioned, this latest Yaris sits on a new platform called GA-B. It’s key to the Yaris now, as it means that it should be able to bring more spaciousness while also helping to keep the car’s centre of gravity lower and improving its cornering ability. The new model is actually shorter than the one it replaces, yet has more space inside.

Elsewhere, there’s been a big push on safety with a wide-sweeping set of assistance systems incorporated into the Yaris’ set-up in order to keep it as safe as possible.

The exterior of the car also benefits from some cutting-edge styling which has helped to turn the Yaris into a far more interesting car to see out on the road.

How does it look?

Toyota has done a fine job of making the Yaris look genuinely striking without resulting in a car which looks far too over the top. It’s a great looking car in the metal, in fact, with a lot of exciting angles and design touches helping to keep each part of the vehicle looking exciting.

That said, it’s not so overstyled that it’ll put off those who prefer a car that looks a little more under the radar.

What’s the spec like?

There’s a wealth of standard equipment available with the Yaris, with entry-level cars – which start from £19,910 – gaining features such as 16-inch alloy wheels and automatic air conditioning, though our Dynamic specification gained many additional touches.

The wheels are upgraded to 17-inch versions and you get a premium audio system too. The seven-inch infotainment screen which comes as standard is bumped up to eight inches too and though it’s not the most attractive of systems, it’s simple and easy to operate.

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When it comes to the exterior, Dynamic cars also benefit from attractive LED running lights as well as full LED headlights and indicators. All of this does boost the price up to over £21,000 which, though a fair degree more than the entry cost, does represent good value for money considering the high level of standard equipment which accompanies the car.

Safety-wise, the Yaris is class-leading. It’s the first vehicle to be put through the latest Euro NCAP crash-testing programme, where it scored five stars and performed strongly in all four testing categories (adult protection, child protection, vulnerable road useer protection and accident avoidance).

What’s it like inside?

The cabin of the Yaris represents a great example of how to make a well-built and well-finished interior without going too overboard. The materials are of a good quality – with some harsher plastics used in places – but the general fit and finish is excellent with no squeaks or rattles to be found. The seating position is good too, with plenty of adjustability ensuring that you can find the ‘right’ spot easily.

It’s compact in the back – but remember, this isn’t a large car – while the boot space is adequate despite not offering quite as much as the previous-generation Yaris. There’s still 286 litres to play with – which you can extend by folding down the rear seats – but this falls some way under the amount of luggage room offered by rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta.

What’s under the bonnet?

The Yaris uses a mild-hybrid setup which combines a 1.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor. It’s not a plug-in hybrid, so generates charge through regenerative braking. However, Toyota claims excellent efficiency figures with up to 68.9mpg and CO2 emissions of between 92 and 98g/km ensuring that the Yaris remains a very cheap car to run.

Its performance figures aren’t too bad, either. While 0-60mph in 9.5 seconds might not sound the quickest, it’s more than quick enough for all situations while the added zip that the electric assistance gives means that the Yaris feels a fair degree quicker than its numbers might suggest. It’ll also top out at 109mph if you have the space – and are legally allowed – to do so.

What’s it like to drive?

Setting off in the Yaris, things are typically hybrid-y. It’s quiet, and runs on EV power alone for far longer than you might expect from a conventional hybrid. Gain a little speed and the engine chimes in with little fuss – it’s hard to notice it waking up, in fact – while there’s little wind noise to interrupt an otherwise quiet and serene cabin experience.

The steering is a triumph; well-weighted and accurate, it manages to make the Yaris feel genuinely nimble at slower speeds yet stable and composed at higher ones. The suspension certainly fits on the firm side of things and though it does mean that the ride can feel unsettled over broken surfaces, it does give the Yaris a healthy dose of confidence-inspiring body control through the bends.

Verdict

As we’ve mentioned earlier, the Yaris is a car that is well-known for its ability to offer low-cost motoring for those who don’t want to break the bank to get around. It’s good news, therefore, that this latest car can deliver the same positives. However, this package is only bettered further thanks to an involving driving experience and head-turning styling which will appeal to most.

On The Car Expert’s unique Expert Rating index, the Yaris’ score of 75% (based on 20 UK reviews) is only middling for the supermini class, and a fair way behind class-leading rivals like the SEAT Ibiza and Ford Fiesta. This is a bit lower than we’d expect, but we are still gathering additional reviews as they are published, so the Yaris could close the gap to the leaders over coming months.

Though practicality levels may be down ever so slightly, the Yaris remains a truly attractive proposition in the small car segment.

Similar cars

Citroën C3 | Dacia Sandero | Ford Fiesta | Honda Jazz | Hyundai i20 | Kia Rio | Mazda 2 | Mini hatch | Nissan Micra | Peugeot 208 | Renault Clio | SEAT Ibiza | Skoda Fabia | Suzuki Swift | Vauxhall Corsa | Volkswagen Polo

Key specifications

Model as tested: Toyota Yaris Dynamic
Price: £21,920
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol with electric motor
Gearbox: Continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT)
Power: 114 hp
Torque: 120 Nm

Top speed: 109 mph
0-60mph: 9.5 seconds
Fuel economy (combined): 68.9 mpg
CO2 emissions: 92-98 g/km
Euro NCAP safety rating: Five stars (2020)
TCE Expert Rating: 75% (as of October 2020)

Jack Evans
Jack Evans
Articles by Jack Evans are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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