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Toyota Yaris hatchback (2011 – ) expert review

By Ivan Aistrop & Andy Pringle, 24th July 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 and smartly styled
  • Solidly built and should be reliable
  • Five-year/100,000-mile warranty

Cons

  • Underwhelming to drive
  • Rather gutless engines
  • Some unappealing interior trim

Full Review

1. Exterior

A mid-2014 facelift has done wonders for the Yaris, turning what was a relatively nondescript hatchback into something far smarter and more attractive. The most obvious feature is the cross-shaped nose that apes that of the Aygo city car, and all models – petrol, diesel and hybrid – share the same basic look. However, if style is important to you, it’s best to avoid the most basic Active model. Not only is it the only one to miss out on standard alloy wheels, ‘projector’ headlights, front foglights and body-coloured mirrors and door handles, there are no option packs available to smarten it up. Step up to Icon and you get all the above features, while Sport adds LED front and rear lights, a rear spoiler and tinted rear windows. Plus, to further personalise your car, you can add a variety of option packs. The exact details vary depending on which trim you have to start with, but they allow you to add on things such as extra chrome trim, a panoramic roof and aluminium scuff plates.

Our rating: 3

2. Interior

Hand in hand with the changes to the body of the Yaris in mid-2014 came similarly major changes inside. Thanks to the new materials and a few redesigned bits and pieces, there’s no doubt that the cabin is now a far more appealing place than ever before – with a nice seven-inch touch-screen system on most models – but the changes are not a total success: there are still some hard and scratchy materials in prominent places in the cabin, and they detract a little from the otherwise welcoming ambience. 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 reach and rake steering adjustment that’s also standard across the range.

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 tighter. 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 (although there’s a much wider choice of five-door models), and you’ll need the latter if you regularly carry rear-seat passengers, as getting into the back seats in a three-door model is an awkward process. The 286-litre boot is competitive by class standards and all models come with split-folding rear seats to boost cargo-carrying capacity. However, when you fold the seats down, you’re left with a load floor that’s both stepped and angled, and the high lip is a pain when loading and unloading.

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 unsettled than it should be, even on apparently smooth roads. The light steering is handy at low speeds – making the Yaris easy to manoeuvre in tight spots – but it doesn’t gain much weight as you go faster, which can make the driver feel twitchy on more twisty roads and on the motorway. Overall, the Yaris is a much less refined, 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, unless you only ever drive in town. Beyond the city limits, it’s very slow to pick up speed and feels out of its depth on the motorway. The only diesel engine on offer, a 1.4 with 89bhp, has similar refinement issues, but at least it’s a little punchier and less hard work in everyday use. However, it’s an expensive option, and what that means is that the 1.3-litre petrol represents the best option for most buyers, as it has useful extra punch over the smaller petrol engine, and only gets noisy when you really work it hard. The hybrid, which combines a 1.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, juggles its two power sources smoothly and effectively, but the continuously variable transmission means it can get rather raucous: put your foot down and the revs shoot up to the limiter until you lift off the accelerator.

Our rating: 2

6. Running costs:

The high purchase price of the Hybrid will rule it out for some buyers, but compared with other hybrid cars, it is one of the cheapest; and, its 75g/km CO2 emissions mean it will appeal to company users, as well as making it exempt from the London Congestion Charge. 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 more than 85mpg, but the diesel doesn’t do much worse, with figures of 72.4mpg and 99g/km. The 1.0-litre petrol shares the same emissions figure and averages more than 65mpg, and although the 1.33 is the least economical, it still returns almost 58mpg.

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. Beyond that, there are also ISOFIX mountings on the outer rear seats, as well as a tyre pressure monitor.

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 (on the hybrid, you get climate control) 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. Sport adds LED daytime running lights, a DAB radio and a rear spoiler, while Excel gives the car a luxury feel, with climate control, part-leather seats, cruise control and automatic lights and wipers.

Our rating: 4

10. Why buy?

If you want a car that’s easy to drive, well equipped and 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 5dr

An affordable choice with plenty of luxury goodies.

Most economical:

1.5 Hybrid Icon 5dr

The smaller wheels make this version capable of more than 85mpg.

Best avoided:

1.4 Diesel Icon 5dr

Expensive to buy and too noisy.

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