Toyota Yaris 1.4 D-4D T Spirit
New exterior styling shares similarities with the bigger Corolla
- Roomy cabin is comfortable for passengers
- Attractive dash design is simple to use
- Clever storage solutions make for a practical car
- Diesel engine is torquey and economical
- Multi-mode transmission is jerky and slow in automatic mode
- Styling is modern but not as attractive as some competitors
- Cost-cutting measures make the interior feel cheap in places
- Safe and predictable to drive but little fun on offer
The original Toyota Yaris proved to be a popular choice with buyers in the fiercely competitive supermini segment since its launch in 1999. The second-generation car has been designed to improve the car in all areas while remaining faithful to the original.
Unlike many new offerings in the supermini sector, the Yaris is not significantly bigger than the previous generation model. Many rivals have launched significantly larger cars, where the Yaris offers increased interior space without straying too far from the ideal compact dimensions. The new car is three centimetres taller and wider than the original, and 11cm longer, yet the boot is now 13cm longer than before.
The car's styling has undergone radical change in order to maximise interior space. This Yaris is very close to a 'one-box' shape, where the bonnet and windscreen almost form a single line, and hatchback is near vertical. The wheels are pushed to the extremities of the car, all of which contribute to interior more space. The potential downside is that the new Yaris is less distinctive, and it has less of the cheeky charm that contributed to the success of the original.
Mechanical changes to the Yaris include the introduction of the 1.0-litre VVT-I three-cylinder petrol engine, already seen in the smaller Toyota Aygo. Despite its small size it has a 67bhp output and a spirited nature, which makes for enjoyable driving with good economy. The 1.4-litre D-4D diesel engine been has been improved, with increased horsepower and torque levels.
Toyota has also made improvements to the Yaris as an ownership prospect. Revisions to the vehicle structure make it easier to repair in the event of an accident, reducing repair costs and also contributing to an overall reduction in insurance ratings, although this is offset by the more powerful version of the diesel engine. The end result of this focus is that Toyota claims improved residual values for the new car compared to the old.
Our verdict on the Toyota Yaris 1.4 D-4D T Spirit
As a replacement for a popular contender in this segment, the second generation Yaris manages to be more modern, more space efficient and better value than the old car, make it one of the strongest contenders in the class. The few negatives are the thrummy diesel engine and the lack of finesse in the driving experience, but for many buyers these are minor issues that will not spoil an excellent small car.
Factors such as the economical engine range and high security levels should make the Yaris a very cheap car to run and maintain. Servicing times have been reduced over the old mode, and longer-life components reduce the cost of maintenance. Although the initial purchase price is slightly above some rivals, this may well be offset over a period of ownership.
Space and practicality
The Yaris' shape is designed to give maximum interior space for the size of the vehicle, and it does this to good effect. The 'cab-forward' shape moves the front seat passengers towards the front of the car, yet results in good head and legroom. In the rear, the addition of a sliding, reclining and folding rear seat is a huge boost to the car's practicality, allowing rear passengers to benefit from maximum legroom, or alternatively providing increased luggage space whilst still accommodating passengers in the rear. There are also a number of useful storage areas, including an unusual compartment behind the steering wheel.
Controls and display
The central digital display in the Yaris is informative, and its positioning makes it easy to read while maintaining forward vision. However, the green illumination is not as classy or attractive as a regular set of analogue dials. The centre console has a set of circular controls and displays that are well-designed, making them easy to use and attractive.
The Yaris is focused towards providing good ride quality rather than superior handling, and this results in a good standard of comfort. Most road imperfections are dispatched with ease, although a series of small sharp bumps will find its way into the cabin. Road noise and wind noise are well suppressed, contributing to comfort levels, although the diesel engine is relatively noisy for a modern design.
The Yaris is equipped with a number of security devices. The boot has electric lock activation making it impossible to pick, while the doors have fully shielded locks. A reinforced steering lock and an ECU located deep within the car make it very difficult for any intruders to succeed in taking the vehicle.
Toyota has increased the safety specification of the Yaris, fitting it with some features that are uncommon in this class. As well as ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, the Yaris has Brake Assist, which maximises braking power in the event of an emergency application of the brakes. T3 and T Spirit versions come with additional airbags including a driver's knee bag.
Smoothness and comfort are the key strengths of the Yaris in terms of driver appeal, as the refined drivetrain makes progress simple and undisturbed. That said, the Multi-Mode transmission is a little disappointing in automatic mode, as large pauses in between gearchanges cause an unpleasant lurch. Smoother shifts are achieved in manual mode or by choosing the manual gearbox. The diesel engine provides useful torque and good acceleration, making the Yaris feel nippy in town and on the open road, although the amount of diesel clatter may be off-putting.
Family car appeal
With good interior space and a flexible load area, the Yaris would make an excellent family car. The adjustable rear seats would be very useful for accommodating various combinations of passengers and luggage, while the diesel engine should make short work of pulling a full family load.
First car appeal
The Yaris would make an ideal first car, given its easy driving style, practicality, low running costs and reliability. Only the initial purchase price may be an issue for some first time car buyers.
Quality and image
Overall the Yaris creates a good impression of quality, with the vast majority of the car appearing to be of a good standard. There are some areas however where it appears pennies have been saved, such as the way in which the door trims are split into three parts, and the central instrument display is more of a cost saving device than an ergonomic advantage. In terms of image the Yaris comes across as a smart and modern supermini, though it can't match the style of some of its rivals.
A high roofline and large doors makes gaining access to the Yaris easy. The same can be said for the boot, although the boot handle feels tacked on. Rear seat passengers on the three-door model benefit from a sliding and tilting front seat.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
Standard fitment on Yaris T3 models is a six-speaker CD/tuner with MP3 and Windows Media Audio compatibility. A small, central display provides CD text where available and incorporate a simple satellite navigation system. The sound quality is respectable, while the steering wheel mounted controls are a useful addition.
Colours and trim
A mix of light and dark materials inside the Yaris help to create an airy atmosphere. Although the majority of the dashboard is black, the centre console has a silver flash running through it, and the door panels are punctuated by light grey door trims. Overall the Yaris cabin creates a good impression.
The unconventional shape of the Yaris makes it a little more difficult than normal to judge its extremities, although the near vertical rear window is a help. Otherwise the light controls make parking the Yaris a simple affair.
Space saver spare wheel mounted under the boot floor.
Three engine options - 1.0-litre petrol(67bhp), 1.3-litre petrol (86bhp) and 1.4-litre diesel (89bhp). All fitted with five-speed manual transmission, multi-mode automatic transmission available on 1.3-litre petrol and 1.4-litre diesel. Trim levels are T2, T3 and T Spirit, available with all engine options.
Renault Clio Good ride and interior room, fun to drive
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Nissan Micra Endearing oddball styling and smart interior
Honda Jazz Not the cheapest or best equipped, but cabin is spacious and versatile