The current Toyota Yaris was launched in 2011, and although we thought it was a spacious and well equipped small car, its refinement, handling and interior quality all let it down. So, for the car's mid-life face-lift, Toyota has spent £70 million on redevelopments.
The changes include a stiffer bodyshell, tweaked steering and suspension for better handling, and work to improve its cabin refinement. Toyota has also focused on lifting perceived quality in the cabin, too.
The engine line-up, while in some cases cleaner and more efficient than before, remains unchanged. That means there's the choice between a three-cylinder 1.0-litre or four-cylinder 1.3-litre petrol, a 1.4 diesel and a range-topping Hybrid model with emissions down to a congestion charge-beating 75g/km.
Small cars are the best-selling models in the UK, and the Yaris will go toe-to-toe with some of the best, including Ford's Fiesta and Volkswagen's revised Polo.
What’s the 2014 Toyota Yaris like to drive?
The entry-level 1.0-litre engine is lifted straight from the Aygo city car, so there's little surprise that it struggles to get going in the bigger, heavier Yaris. You have to work the engine extremely hard to make decent progress, and multiple down-changes are required when overtaking, or driving uphill.
Of the petrols, the 1.3 is the better bet. It's hardly quick, and still needs to be pushed up steep inclines, but its better throttle response and extra power make it easier to live with, both in and out of town.
The 1.4 diesel is even stronger, pulling hardest from low revs, and providing a decent turn of pace when asked. That said, you won't feel its torque arrive until around 1900rpm so there's always a slight danger of getting caught out by being in the wrong gear.
Finally we tried the hybrid, which switches between electric and petrol power in town, and feels suitably brisk with its electric motor and engine working together, if a little short of breath on the motorway.
Unfortunately all four engines become very noisy in the cabin when they're (inevitably) revved beyond 3000rpm, but the larger petrol and Hybrid models send less vibration back through the pedals and gearlever than the 1.0 petrol and 1.4 diesel. The Yaris' manual gearbox is also frustratingly notchy.
The retuned steering still offers little sense of what the front wheels are actually doing, and feels vague around the straight ahead, even if it now weights up more consistently as turn in to a corner. The Yaris's body tends to roll a bit much, too. A Ford Fiesta handles much better.
On the plus side, in softening the Yaris' suspension, Toyota has ensured it deals well with large bumps such as sleeping policeman. However, at speed, even our smooth European test route revealed the Yaris constantly fidgets around, and broken surfaces jostle occupants.
That said, there was never a thud or crash, although we'll have to wait and see how it copes with poorer UK roads before making a final judgement on the revised suspension.
At a cruise on the motorway, the Yaris manages to keep road noise to a minimum, but there's a fair amount of wind noise whipped up by its door mirrors, along with the intrusion from the engines.
What’s the 2014 Toyota Yaris like inside?
Toyota has overhauled the Yaris' dash, changing the way it looks, and upgrading the materials. The result is much more appealing than before, with a strip of soft touch plastic across the middle dominating the front of the cabin, even if the plastics lower down still feel hard and scratchy.
Efforts have been made to keep things simple, too. The climate controls are simple rotary dials and neat buttons, and are kept separately from the infotainment system, which sits higher up the dash.
All our test cars were fitted with the Yaris' new 'Touch 2' system – standard on Icon trim and higher – which is made up of seven-inch touchscreen through which you control the radio, your phone via Bluetooth, and view the reversing camera. It's one of the best systems in the small car class, being clear, responsive and easy to navigate. Still, it's disappointing that adding sat-nav costs an extra £650.
The Yaris has never struggled with space, and the face-lifted model gets the same dimensions inside. That means plenty of room and seat adjustment to help two adults to stretch out in the front. The low window line makes the car easy to see out of, too.
In the back, there's room for two adults or three children, although tall passengers will find their knees touching the front seatbacks. It's also frustrating that the three-door models' front seats don't fold and then slide forward to help rear access.
Boot space is slightly meaner than that in both and Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio, but there's still plenty of room for the weekly groceries. The boots is a good, square shape and the opening is large. The rear seats then split 60/40 and fold, but don't lie perfectly flat. There is an adjustable boot floor that minimises the step-up left by the rear seatbacks, but this costs an extra £100, regardless of trim level.
Entry-level Active cars come with 15-inch steel wheels, electric front windows, USB and aux connections, seven airbags and a tyre-pressure monitor as standard. Icon models then add 15-inch alloys, a leather steering wheel, and the Touch 2 infotainment system.
Sport models get a sharper exterior, including larger 16-inch wheels, LED daytime running lights, rear privacy glass and a rear spoiler, while DAB radio is also thrown in. Range-topping Excel cars feature luxuries such as part-leather seats, cruise and climate control and automatic headlights and wipers.
In addition, Toyota has created five option packs - named Protection, Style, Design, Appearance and Smart, which offer more features including rear parking sensors, a panoramic roof and keyless entry.
Should I buy one?
The Yaris is now a better prospect than before. It's cheaper to run, nicer inside, better equipped, and has a slightly more forgiving ride. Our pick of the range is the 1.3 petrol five-door in Icon trim, because it strikes the best balance between performance, economy and value for money.
However, it still fails to meet the high standards set by the Ford Fiesta, which is considerably better to drive, rides better, and is similarly spacious for people and luggage.
In our favourite 98bhp 1.0-litre Ecoboost Zetec form, the Fiesta is also faster and more efficient than a 1.3 Icon Yaris, and costs just £450 more to buy. That translates to very little extra a month on a finance deal.
A Renault Clio TCe 90 ECO Dynamique Media Nav 5dr also has a more forgiving ride, a spacious cabin, lower running costs and more equipment, and costs £350 more, so while it has improved, the Yaris still lags behind the front-runners in this competitive class.
What Car? says…
1.33 Dual VVT-i
1.5 VVT-i Hybrid