The latest Toyota Yaris is bigger, sharper and less blobby than before, but it remains a straight and sensible supermini rather than something radically leftfield. It is, furthermore, small. A given, you’d think, with it being a supermini and all that. Not necessarily though, as most of its rivals have swelled in recent years. But the Yaris remains compact, which pays dividends in town.
The Yaris’s tiny footprint and lack of unnecessary weight make it quite fun to boot about, even though this is resolutely not that sort of car. Far more important to Japan’s no-nonsense brand is a decent level of refinement, which arrives courtesy of some very frugal, small petrol engines (they make the 1.4 D-4D diesel virtually pointless. A clever hybrid is also available offering short-range EV running (in near-silence, of course) and a Prius-lite driving experience.
Much of the facelift work has focused on the chassis. The ride, although still a bit jittery alongside a VW Polo, is better than it was, and handling isn’t as vague as it was before either. It’s improved enough to now be an average drive, characterised by light steering and ease of use. Faint praise? Well, not really: before, it was decidedly below average…
On the inside
Again, Toyota has spent big on the interior with this mid-life facelift. Goodness knows, it needed to. The old one was woefully let down by cheap, shiny plastics and, while they’re still in evidence here, the bulk of it has improved significantly. It’s also brought about another step up in kit, with the Toyota Touch infotainment system improved once again – the large, high-res screen is very impressive. You can even get apps for it, although few of them are apps we’ve actually heard of.
What hasn’t changed is the Yaris’ acclaimed roominess. The tall cabin is spacious and, thanks to better seats up front, more comfortable than it was. Even noise levels have been cut on this new one.
This is perhaps the point at which you plump for a Yaris, regardless of any criticism. You regularly hear about people taking Toyotas round the clock with nothing more than regular servicing, and there’s nothing to suggest that you couldn’t do that here. Running costs are low, whichever engine you choose (all have improved by a few mpg), with the Boris-dodging Hybrid now claiming 85.6mpg and 75g/km CO2 – it’s the cleanest conventional-fuel new car on sale, albeit only in Icon spec; Excel adds bigger wheels and 7g/km to the CO2, negating London Congestion Charge exemption. An important distinction, Londoners…