What Car? says...
Looking for a small car but struggling to decide whether to stick with a petrol engine or go fully electric? The Toyota Yaris could be the model you’re searching for.
You see, as a regular hybrid car the Yaris lets you fill up with fuel, safe in the knowledge you're never going to suffer 'range anxiety', but also has a battery and motor, so you can do a few miles at low speeds on electricity alone.
Toyota was ahead of the game with this tech (you've been able to get it in the Yaris for years), which perhaps explains why this latest, fourth-generation model recorded one of the best efficiency figures ever in our True MPG testing. In fact, the only thing able to push it into second place is the related Toyota Yaris Cross small SUV.
Speaking of other variants, there's also a turbocharged, four-wheel-drive hot-hatch version, aimed at drivers more concerned about miles per hour than miles per gallon. That's called the Toyota GR Yaris and has its own separate review.
Anyway, back to the latest Yaris, which was designed from the ground up to be electrified, and has a smaller, lighter, yet more powerful battery than the previous Yaris. The battery works with two motors and the 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine to deliver the ground-breaking efficiency.
Here's the thing, though: while the Toyota Yaris has long been a frugal choice, it has struggled to push to the front of the small car pack. The big-selling Ford Fiesta has beaten it for driver appeal and the VW Polo has had a distinct advantage when it comes to comfort and quality.
So can this latest Yaris narrow the gap with those rivals – or even close it completely? And how does it compare with the Honda Jazz and other small hybrids?
That's what we'll tell you over the next few pages of this review, which covers performance, interior quality, running costs and more. We'll also tell you which Yaris trim offers the best value for your money.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Regardless of which trim you go for, the regular Toyota Yaris comes with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with 114bhp in total (helped by the two electric motors that work with it). When you squeeze the accelerator pedal, you instantly get power off the line, thanks to the immediate reaction from the hybrid system.
After that, acceleration is moderate and enough for a 0-60mph sprint time of 9.0sec in our own tests – half a second quicker than we achieved in the more powerful Ford Fiesta Ecoboost 125, but slower than the Honda Jazz.
There’s only one gearbox available, a CVT automatic gearbox. It’s responsive but holds the revs near the redline if you’re accelerating or climbing a hill. If you want a real turn of pace, that can cause quite a lot of noise.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Icon and Design trims include 16in alloys and regular suspension, and that combination delivers a fairly firm ride. The Yaris follows minor road contours and jostles you around in your seat more than the Jazz or the VW Polo. It never becomes overly fractious, though.
The same can’t be said for the Excel and GR Sport trims, which upgrade the wheels to 17in and 18in respectively. They make the ride even firmer, causing the Yaris to become more jarring over potholes and expansion joints, as well as jostling you around more.
If you’re after something that’s still fairly firm but more comfortable, the Audi A1 offers one of the smoothest and best-controlled rides in the small car class, and is priced pretty much in line with the Yaris.
The Yaris feels right at home when being driven briskly along a winding road, no matter which trim you've gone for. There's a reasonable amount of grip too.
However, while it's more fun to drive than the Jazz, it's not as entertaining as the Fiesta, the Seat Ibiza or even the Polo. Those rivals all have more feelsome, naturally weighted steering, and feel lighter on their toes – although the Polo does lean quite a bit through faster twists and turns.
Noise and vibration
You'll be impressed by the Yaris’s peaceful manners around town, where the petrol engine is frequently left to slumber while the electric motor does all the work. Toyota says the Yaris can run on battery power alone for up to 80% of the time, and if you're crawling in traffic that may indeed be true.
In normal driving – even in urban environments – the petrol engine remains on for long periods. It's relatively subdued when you're taking it easy, but if you accelerate hard, the engine revs soar and stay high until you're up to cruising speed. You also feel some engine vibration through the soles of your feet and the steering wheel.
This is a relatively noisy motorway cruiser, too. Tyre roar is the big bugbear – especially with the bigger wheel sizes – something there's more of than in the Jazz. If you want a really hushed small car, look at the Polo.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
All Toyota Yaris trims have a height-adjustable driver’s seat, plus a steering wheel that moves in and out as well as up and down. What's more, the wheel is neatly aligned with the pedals and seat, and the seat is, in the main, supportive – although on longer jaunts you might bemoan the absence of adjustable lumbar support.
The seating position is fairly standard for the small car class, so you don’t sit all that high above the ground. If that’s something that’s important to you, or you want to sit in a more upright position, try the Honda Jazz or the larger Toyota Yaris Cross.
The controls for the air-con are within easy reach of the driver, and they're proper buttons and knobs so there's no need to faff around with a complicated touchscreen just to tweak the interior temperature.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The Yaris isn't too tricky to see out of, especially if you're looking straight ahead, diagonally or to the side. Indeed, our only gripe is that we wish the rear windows were a little bigger, for better visibility when you glance over your shoulder.
The rear windscreen is quite small, too, but fortunately, for extra help while reversing, all versions have a rear-view camera as standard. Front and rear parking sensors are optional on Design and GR Sport trim and standard on range-topping Excel.
Automatic headlights with auto high-beam are standard on all trim levels, but Design trim and above get upgraded bright LED headlights. On top of that, automatic rain-sensing wipers are standard across the range.
Sat nav and infotainment
Depending on which trim level you go for, you’ll get a touchscreen infotainment system that’s one of three sizes: 7.0in with entry-level Icon, 8.0in with Design and GR Sport, or 9.0in with Excel. Whichever one you get, it will have physical shortcut buttons around the edge, which you can use to hop straight to specific functions, such as making a phone call or choosing a radio station.
Every Yaris comes with DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB sockets for charging up your devices, but built-in sat-nav is only standard with Excel trim’s 9.0in system (it’s optional on all the other trims). The Icon and Design trims come with a four-speaker stereo, while GR Sport and Excel trim give you a slightly more powerful six-speaker system.
The Yaris certainly doesn't feel low-rent inside, and it's a cut above the Hyundai i20 and Ford Fiesta. However, while everything feels sturdily screwed together, the interior lacks the upmarket feel of the Peugeot 208 and the VW Polo – let alone the Mini 5-Door Hatch.
There's some squidgy plastic on the Yaris's dashboard and the switches and stalks all feel well engineered, but there's also plenty of scratchy plastic on show. The best small cars, including the Jazz, either avoid having that or hide it better.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Storage space is average, too. There's a cubby in front of the gearlever that can easily swallow a mobile phone, wallet and keys, plus a small tray above the glovebox for pens and other loose items. Every Yaris has a cubby under the front centre armrest, but the door bins are quite small.
How much space is enough? That’s the question you ought to be asking yourself here, because What Car? research tells us that only one in three small car buyers consider interior space a top priority.
So, the Yaris might suit you just fine. It comes with five doors as standard and a couple of six-footers will fit in the back. They just won’t be very comfortable, because there isn’t a great deal of head or leg room. The rising windowline doesn’t let much light into the rear seat area either, making it feel even more cramped than it really is.
If you're looking for a small car that can comfortably carry taller adults in the back, you'd be much better off with the Polo or the MPV like Jazz.
Seat folding and flexibility
Every version of the Yaris comes with 60/40 split folding rear seats and the seatbacks are easy enough to fold down. There are no other clever features, such as the cinema-style flip-up seat bases you get in the Jazz.
Front passengers are treated to height adjustment for their chair as standard on GR Sport and Excel trim but that’s about it.
We managed to fit four carry-on suitcases below the Yaris's parcel shelf, while all the rivals can swallow at least five. Ultimately, that means you’ll easily fit a decent-sized shop in there but if you regularly need to carry more, there are better choices available.
What’s more, unlike the Polo and some other cars, there's no option to have a height-adjustable boot floor, meaning there's a big (160mm) drop down to the floor of the boot from the entrance.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Toyota Yaris is one of the cheapest non-electric small cars to run, and also makes a low-cost company car because the low CO2 emissions (from as little as 92g/km) translate into a low benefit-in-kind tax rate.
What's more, the Yaris is, for the second year running, the second most efficient car we've put through our scientific True MPG test (behind the related Toyota Yaris Cross small SUV). It averaged a whisker under 60mpg and managed an astonishing 80mpg around town. That makes even the Honda Jazz look thirsty.
That’s good, because as a cash purchase, the Yaris is pricier to buy than many other mainstream rivals, including the Seat Ibiza and VW Polo, and pretty much in line with the Audi A1 and Jazz. Depreciation is predicted to be slow, though, and Toyota PCP finance offers are usually competitive.
Equipment, options and extras
Even in entry-level Icon trim, the Yaris is well-equipped. In fact, it’s our favourite trim because it keeps the cost down but still gives you automatic air conditioning, electric front windows, 16in alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, heated door mirrors, automatic headlights and a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system.
If you don’t mind spending a little extra, the next trim up, Design, is worth a look. For a reasonable fee, it adds electric windows in the back, rear privacy glass, LED headlights and a larger 8.0in touchscreen.
GR Sport and Excel sit at the top of the tree, giving you even more kit, including dual-zone climate control and keyless entry and start. Both cost the same but GR Sport adds sports seats and sportier styling (inspired by the Toyota GR Yaris hot hatch), while Excel gives you a larger, 9.0in infotainment screen, and front and rear parking sensors.
The latest Yaris was too new to have featured in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey but there’s reason to be optimistic: Toyota finished in second place (out of 32 brands) in the overall manufacturer league table. For some context, Honda finished 12th and Volkswagen came 22nd.
A three-year warranty comes as standard with the Yaris, but there is the option of extending it up to 10 years and 100,000 miles if you service your car at a Toyota dealership every year. That's longer than any other brand gives you (three years is the norm), but Kia and Hyundai offer seven and five years.
Safety and security
Toyota’s Safety Sense package is standard on all versions of the Yaris and brings automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance and road-sign display. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional on GR Sport trim and standard on range-topping Excel.
Euro NCAP awarded the Yaris five stars (out of five) for safety, although the organisation did highlight that adult crash protection in a frontal impact could be better. The Jazz scored slightly higher marks in this part of the test.
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There’s only one engine available, and we think the best trim to pair it with is entry-level Icon, because it includes plenty of kit for a good price. That includes 16in alloy wheels, a 7.0in touchscreen, adaptive cruise control, climate control, automatic wipers and a rear-view camera.
The difference is in the price and the amount of equipment you get as standard. Entry-level Icon trim is well-equipped, but the more expensive Yaris Hybrid Design comes with a few more luxuries – including a larger 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system, rear privacy glass, electric rear windows and LED headlights.
The Toyota Yaris Cross sits on the same underpinnings as the Yaris and is essentially the same size inside. However, the Yaris Cross is 24cm longer and 2cm wider as a result of its chunky bodywork. It also sits 9cm higher thanks to its quasi-SUV stance.
|RRP price range
|£22,630 - £29,705
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|MPG range across all versions
|65.7 - 68.9
|Available doors options
|3 years / 60000 miles
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£986 / £1,415
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£1,973 / £2,830