New Toyota Yaris review

* New Yaris supermini driven * Prices 11,170-15,385, on sale now * MPG 52.3-72.4/CO2 104-123g/km...

23 August 2011

New Toyota Yaris review

What is it? The third generation of Toyota's Yaris supermini, which the car maker says is the most grown-up version yet.

It promises to be more luxurious on the inside, with extra space, classier materials and plenty of luxury kit. With revised suspension, more responsive steering and a lighter, more rigid body, the new Yaris should also be much better to drive than the car it replaces.

What's it like to drive? To begin with, three engines will be available. Petrol options are a 68bhp three-cylinder 1.0-litre and a 98bhp four-cylinder 1.3-litre, while the range is completed by a 1.4 diesel with 89bhp.

We've only driven the 1.0-litre so far, it's rather disappointing. You'd never expect this version to be a ball of fire, but even the quoted 0-62mph time of 15.3 seconds feels optimistic. You have to work the engine to its limits for any reasonable acceleration, and even when you do, you're still left wanting a lot more.

Obviously, the strain you'll find yourself putting on the engine has an impact on refinement, and acceleration is always accompanied by a loud thrum and plenty of vibration. This is even more noticeable when the engine is idling you feel it coming through the seats and controls. The engine buzzes away at motorway speeds, too, but it's wind noise that does most damage to the Yaris's cruising abilities.

It's not the smoothest supermini, either. You feel more of motorway expansion joints than you should, and at lower speeds the ride can be jittery and unsettled on scruffy surfaces.

Turn into a bend and the Yaris is grippy enough, but there's a fair amount of body roll. The steering, meanwhile, is quick to react, but it's also disconcertingly light, which gives the car a slightly twitchy feel. To make matters worse, you get no feedback through the wheel.

What's it like inside? The Yaris was always one of the roomier superminis, and the new car does even better than its predecessor, thanks mainly to an extended wheelbase and thinner seats. There's loads of space in the front, and although rear headroom is little more than adequate, rear kneeroom is impressive. The boot isn't quite so generous, but at 286 litres it's about par for the course.

The instruments are now in the conventional position behind the steering wheel, rather than in the middle of the dashboard as they were in the previous car. Three out of the four trims come with a touch-screen stereo, too, which cuts down on the number of switches you need. It's pretty simple to operate, and for just 500, you can upgrade the system to support satellite-navigation.

Despite the gizmos, though, the Yaris still has a low-rent feel. There are one or two soft-touch panels, but there's barely any give in them and the scratchy finish is hardly a feast for the fingertips. Everywhere else, you'll find hard, grey plastic that's even less appealing. It should be durable, but it's also drab.

Should I buy one?
In its favour, the Yaris comes with lots of space and an impressive amount of standard kit. Granted, entry-level T2 models are a little basic, but TR models get air-con, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and the touch-screen stereo with Bluetooth, and a rear-view camera. SR cars add part-leather seats, privacy glass and sports suspension, while T Spirit models have climate control, keyless entry, automatic lights and wipers and a panoramic glass roof.

We can't think of many other reasons to recommend the Yaris. It's nowhere near as fun nor as comfortable to drive as a Ford Fiesta; and it isn't as classy as a Volkswagen Polo. With the engine we've tried, it's slow and noisy, too. There is a lot of competition in the supermini class right now, and there are quite a few models that are more worthy of consideration.

Ford Fiesta
Volkswagen Polo review

What Car? says