First Drive

Toyota Yaris 2017 review

The Toyota Yaris has undergone considerable updates for 2017, with improved performance, ride comfort, handling and interior quality all among the promises

Words ByRory White

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When it comes to small car sales in the UK, the Toyota Yaris has long played second fiddle to the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa, while in recent years the likes of the Skoda Fabia and Volkswagen Polo have also been better rounded rivals.

But could that be about to change? Toyota has radically revised the Yaris for 2017, ditching the slow-selling three-door bodystyle and diesel engine option, and replacing the old 1.33-litre petrol motor with a more powerful but also more economical 1.5-litre.

The same 1.5-litre engine features alongside an electric motor in the Yaris Hybrid model as it did before, and the Hybrid's petrol-electric power remains unique in the small car class. This model also gets revised steering, suspension and various measures to reduce engine drone and vibration.

Rounding off the changes is a new trim level structure, more standard equipment – particularly safety kit – and more ways in which to make your Yaris look different from everybody else's.

What's the 2017 Toyota Yaris like to drive?

Strangely, Toyota believes buyers of the old 1.0 and 1.33-litre-engined versions of the Yaris had no issues with the way their cars drove, whereas Hybrid customers were less impressed – hence the reason the Hybrid has been focused on most in this update.

Its CVT automatic gearbox still flares the revs of the petrol engine when you accelerate, but it seems slightly quieter than it was before and is always smooth. Those who drive mostly in town will also benefit from near silent low-speed electric progress over short distances.

By contrast, the Yaris with the 69bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine feels extremely pedestrian on faster roads and sends lots of vibration through the controls when pushed. The 110bhp 1.5-litre petrol is smoother and faster but is really noisy when you rev it hard, which you still have to do to get anywhere in a hurry.

To make up for the Hybrid's extra weight, Toyota has stiffened its suspension. That sounds like it should be bad news for ride comfort, but in fact this model is the comfiest version of the Yaris, because it soaks up bumps well while controlling its body movements better than the floatier 1.0 and 1.5 versions. Prior experience suggests that the Yaris's smaller 15in alloy wheels are a comfier option than the range-topping 16in ones, too.

Unfortunately, the Yaris is still well behind the likes of the Fiesta and Fabia in terms of handling. Its steering is oddly weighted and numb, and the car never feels truly comfortable making sharp changes of direction, even though it grips relatively well. Noticeable road and wind noise on the motorway also frustrate.

What's the 2017 Toyota Yaris like inside?

Front space is impressive, but the fact that the driver's seat is set too high and the steering wheel doesn't offer much adjustment is disappointing. Rear space, although featuring better access as standard now due to the Yaris's five-door only form, is behind rival efforts; even two adults will find knee and head room pretty tight.

The Yaris's boot is bettered by the Fabia's for outright space, being noticeably shallower and with poorer access. At least it does have a handy divider.

This is the best Yaris so far for interior quality. There are plenty of soft-touch materials, piano black trim inserts and solid-feeling switches on show, even if the Fabia and Polo feel classier again.

Toyota's 6.1in touchscreen infotainment system, which features on all but entry-level Active trim, is poor. Its dated graphics, slow response times and lack of the latest smartphone integration functions (such as Apple CarPlay) all disappoint.

Verdict and specs >

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