Toyota Yaris hatchback (2011 – ) expert review

By Ivan Aistrop, 1st May 2014

The verdict

The Toyota Yaris should be completely reliable, plus it’s well equipped and easy to drive. However, many other superminis perform other roles much better than the Yaris, so we’d point you towards one of them instead.

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Expert rating:

3.0

Pros

  • Well equipped
  • Solidly built and should be reliable
  • Five-year/100,000-mile warranty

Cons

  • Underwhelming to drive
  • Rather gutless engines
  • Unappealing interior trim

Full Review

1. Exterior

Looking at the Yaris, there isn’t a great deal to get excited about. The squat dimensions and boxy lines give it a rather bland, nondescript appearance, with the detailing at either end showing very little sign of design flair. That said, it does looks like a very sensible and grown-up little car, which will appeal to some buyers. The entry-level Active trim has steel wheels, and black door handles and mirror housings, but the second-rung Icon trim comes with alloys and more body-coloured items to smarten things up. Icon Plus trim adds front foglamps, LED rear lights and some additional chrome bits, while Trend trim chucks in chromed door mirrors and side sills. Hybrid models have reworked front and rear lights, plus blue badging, to denote their special status within the range.

Our rating: 3

2. Interior

Much like the outside of the Yaris, there isn’t much to get excited about on the inside. Most of the cabin plastics have a hard, scratchy finish, which puts the Toyota way behind rivals from other manufacturers for quality and class. That said, there’s no faulting the way that the materials are bolted together: the assembly is rock solid. The straightforward design also makes the various controls easy to find and use, but the touch-screen infotainment system – which comes with all but the entry-level car – has confusing menus and a screen that isn’t sensitive enough. All versions have a height adjustable driver’s seat to help you find a comfortable driving position, but there could be a greater range of movement in the steering adjustment.

Our rating: 2

3. Practicality

The Yaris has plenty of room for those up front, and there are lots of handy cubbies to stash odds and ends in. Those relegated to the rear seats will enjoy very generous legroom, but headroom is a little on the tight side. Tall passengers might find themselves having to hunker down in their seat, but they’ll still be pretty comfortable. The Yaris comes in both three-door and five-door formats, and you’ll need the latter if you regularly carry rear passengers. The 286-litre boot is competitive by class standards and all models come with split-folding rear seats to boost cargo-carrying capacity. However, you’re left with a load floor that’s both stepped and angled.

Our rating: 3

4. Ride and handling

The Yaris can feel ruffled by British roads, its suspension failing to soak up the worst bumps. It stops short of being uncomfortable, but the ride is more tiresome than it should be. The light steering is handy at low speeds, but it doesn’t gain much weight as you go faster, which can make it feel twitchy on more challenging roads and on the motorway. Overall, it’s a much less polished and satisfying drive than rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta.

Our rating: 2

5. Performance

We’d steer clear of the entry-level engine, a three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol with 68bhp. It’s very slow to pick up speed and feels out of its depth on the motorway. It’s also really noisy and causes vibrations in the cabin. The only diesel engine on offer, a 1.4 with 89bhp, has similar refinement issues, but at least it’s a little punchier. The 1.3-litre petrol represents the best option for most buyers. It has some useful extra punch over the engines mentioned previously and it only gets noisy when you really work it hard. The Hybrid, which combines a 1.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, is the punchiest of the bunch and juggles its two power sources smoothly and effectively. The continuously variable transmission means it can get rather raucous, though: put your foot down and the revs shoot up to the limiter until you lift off the accelerator. The high purchase price of the Hybrid will also rule it out for some buyers, but compared with other hybrid cars, it is one of the cheapest.

Our rating: 2

6. Running costs:

Hybrid aside, the Yaris is priced competitively with other mainstream superminis. It’s not cheap, but it represents decent value when you consider the generous amount of equipment you get. Resale values are fairly par-for-the-course compared with other superminis, too. Unsurprisingly, the Hybrid is the version that gives the most efficient motoring, with official fuel consumption of up to 80.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 79g/km (the versions with bigger wheels do slightly worse). That also makes it a cracking company car due to the cheap tax bills it qualifies for. The diesel doesn’t do much worse, with figures of 72.4mpg and 99g/km, while the 1.0-litre petrol returns almost 60mpg and the 1.3 betters 50mpg.

Our rating: 3

7. Reliability

Toyota has a stunning reputation for reliability, which should give you peace of mind that your Yaris won’t let you down. As should the fact that the car also features in the list of the Top 10 best performing cars in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, with Toyota among the front-runners in the manufacturer standings. If that weren’t enough, the Yaris comes with Toyota’s generous five-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

Our rating: 5

8. Safety

All Yaris models come jam-packed with safety equipment, including an impressive seven airbags and driver aids that include electronic stability control. This generous roster of safety kit helped earn the car the maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests.

Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

You might want more luxury than the entry-level Active trim can provide – it comes with electric front windows, remote locking and steering wheel audio controls, but misses out on air-conditioning. Icon trim checks that all-important box and adds alloy wheels, leather coverings for the steering wheel and gearstick, plus the touch-screen infotainment system that includes Bluetooth and a reversing camera. The system can also be upgraded to offer sat-nav for a reasonable price. Icon Plus trim adds more goodies, including powered rear windows and cruise and climate controls, while the Trend model has dual-zone climate control and a bespoke interior.

Our rating: 4

10. Why buy?

If you want a car that’s easy to drive, well equipped and that won’t let you down, the Yaris could fit the bill. However, other superminis such as the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo do a better job in most areas, so we’d recommend that you look at them as well. We can see the wisdom in buying the Hybrid, though, because it’s one of the cheapest cars of its type.

Our rating: 2

Expert review 3.0stars

  • Exterior3
  • Interior2
  • Practicality3
  • Ride and handling2
  • Performance2
  • Running costs3
  • Reliability5
  • Safety4
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?2

Our recommendations

Pick of the range:

1.33 Icon

An affordable choice with plenty of luxury goodies.

Most economical:

1.5 Hybrid Active

The small wheels make this version capable of 80.7mpg.

Best avoided:

1.4 Diesel Icon Plus

Expensive to buy and too noisy.

The Yaris can feel ruffled by British roads, its suspension failing to soak up the worst bumps.