2016 Toyota Yaris 1.33 VVT-i review

This is our first time out in the facelifted 2016 Toyota Yaris. Have Toyota’s updates breathed new life into the firm's popular small car and made it a more competitive class contender?...

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What Car? team
15 Jan 2016 15:10 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 00:03

Toyota has refreshed its popular supermini, the Yaris, for 2016 with revised trims, improved specifications and an eye-catching new Bi-Colour exterior paint option.

The headline trim changes are that Design has replaced Sport, on offer alongside Active, Icon and range-topping Excel versions. Inside you’ll find revised seat trims and cruise control and a DAB stereo fitted as standard. 

The £795 Bi-Colour paint option allows you to individualise your Yaris with a two-tone paint scheme. Essentially the lower half of the car can be chosen with either Vermillion Red or Glacier Pearl White, while the top half, including the wing mirrors and upper grille, is painted in Eclipse Black.

Here we are testing the mid-spec Icon, fitted with a host of optional extras, including Toyota’s Touch 2 with Go satellite navigation system and Google Local Search connectivity.

What’s the Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon like to drive?

The ride is too firm around town, proving fidgety and uncomfortable, and the Yaris also ultimately fails to handle in a way that will worry the likes of Ford's Fiesta. However, it contains body roll well and has reasonable front-end grip, while the steering is accurate but inconsistent in weight. Weirdly for a small car, the steering is surprisingly heavy at low speeds.

The 1.33-litre four-cylinder engine sounds strained at motorway speeds and its eager throttle response can make smooth, quiet progress difficult at times. Road and wind noise are all too evident in the cabin from low speeds, but, at least, the six-speed manual gearbox is slick and easy to use.

As for performance, there's enough urgency from the little petrol engine to make town and faster B-road driving pretty comfortable, although accelerating down a motorway slip road requires more commitment. Once on the motorway, you frequently have to change down a gear when climbing steep hills or attempting to overtake. 

What’s the Toyota Yaris 1.33 Icon like inside? 

The Yaris has an easy to use and reasonably stylish dash. The instrument binnacle is particularly clear and simple, a theme repeated throughout the cabin. You sit relatively high up, which, combined with large windows, provides excellent all-round visibility.

However, the rigid seats are uncomfortable and lack essential mid- to lower-back padding. The cabin is smart without being luxurious, with a central console design similar to that of the Renault Clio. The infotainment screen is located a little low down on the centre console rather than mounted on the dashboard, which means you need to take your eyes from the road to use it.

Toyota’s optional Touch 2 infotainment system is clear, simple to use and works very well. Likewise, the satellite navigation is easy to use; the graphics are clear and it is quick to redirect you around traffic problems.

The Yaris's steering wheel has reach and rake adjustability, although the rake is very limited. The front of the cabin offers plenty of space, while in the rear there's a good amount of room for two adults, with excellent head, shoulder and leg room. The boot is a reasonable size for the class and quite deep, although the rear seats don’t fold completely flat.

What lets the Yaris down most is its interior quality. The rear doors sound tinny on closing and the majority of the dash is constructed from hard plastics, despite a frontal area that's swathed in soft-touch material. It's solidly built, but it fails to wow in a steadily improving class.  

The Icon’s improved standard equipment includes 15in alloy wheels and rear privacy glass, enhancing the car’s looks. The range-topping Excel trim, which is available only in Hybrid form, now adds 16in alloys, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, rear electric windows, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a chilled glovebox. All cars now come with a space saver spare wheel as standard.

Should I buy one?

You should consider it. The 2016 Yaris offers more chance to personalise and comes with a longer list of standard equipment, and it remains decently spacious inside and solidly constructed. Toyota's superb reliability record will be attractive, too.  

However, compared with its main rivals the Yaris fails to provide a convincing case for class leadership. A Skoda Fabia is a better all-rounder, a Honda Jazz is roomier, and the Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza are sharper to drive.

So, ultimately, a small improvement in specifications and options has failed to deliver the overhaul that the Yaris needs to challenge for the top of its class.

Matthew Griffiths

What Car? says...

Rivals**

Skoda Fabia

Ford Fiesta

Toyota Yaris 1.3 Icon

Engine size 1.33-litre petrol

Price from £14,265

Power 98bhp

Torque 92lb ft

0-62mph 11.7 seconds

Top speed 109mph

Fuel economy 57.6mpg

CO2 114g/km