We’re testing the newly crowned European Car of the Year this week in its hybrid form. The petrol powered Toyota Yaris comes with a choice of three, three-cylinder engines: 1 litre, 1.5 litre, 1.5 litre hybrid and there is also a fire-breathing, all wheel drive, high performance 3-door GR Yaris – but that’s another review. The French-built five-door hatch scooped the award’s top spot thanks in no small part to a top points score from the French jurors. Yaris remains a firm favourite in Ireland since the day it morphed from the legendary Toyota Starlet. It is a given that any new Yaris is bound to be good and there is a chunky ‘Cross’ version on the way too so all the boxes seem ticked. The trouble is that in the small car sector competition is fierce, just look at some of the rivals: Fiesta, Polo, i20, Micra, Clio, Fabia and 208 to name a few. That leaves the burning question has new Yaris got enough to dominate the class?
The fourth generation Yaris sits on a new platform. The front wheel drive car’s exterior is now much sharper than before and really quite striking. The Yaris looks utterly badass outside any bingo hall (sorry I couldn’t resist) – in fact its exterior styling is very sharp, youthful and ultra modern. Our two tone test car on 17 inch alloys looked great anywhere we went (15s are on the entry model). Yaris pricing starts at €19,110 (1 litre ‘Aura’) and €23,485 (Hybrid Luna). Our test car was the comprehensively equipped and some might say needlessly indulgent Yaris Hybrid ‘Premier’ edition at €26,475.
Inside the cabin remains compact and while up front there is good space the rear is cosy at best. I could sit behind my driver’s seat but it was quite snug. The dash layout is impressive but I was surprised at how many surfaces were hard to the touch and ‘plasticy’. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity is standard across the range.
The boot is good for a small car and like all hatchbacks you can pop the rear seats down. You won’t get a flat load area though as there is a pronounced step from the seats. As its nearly summer the garden demanded some heavy duty activity and the Yaris was a perfect companion – 10 40 litre bags of compost were easily carried – even if the car’s stance looked a little ‘modified motors’ with the rear weighed down a bit. Aura (entry 1 litre), Luna, Luna Sport, Platinum (Hybrid only), Style (Hybrid only) and Premier are the grades available in Ireland. Our little top of the range Yaris ‘Premier’ even came with a head up display (HUD) for goodness sake – in a supermini! Premier grade is quite astonishing for a small car and its’ list of standard goodies wouldn’t look out of place on a premium car a size bigger! Will this be the version the public buy en mass? Of course not, but boy oh boy it is a nice stealthy way to treat yourself and fly under the radar.
Under the bonnet of our hybrid is a 1.5 litre petrol engine that is based on the Toyota Corolla’s 2 litre. A 1.5 litre sounds like a lot in a small car but the engine has been tuned for economy. The Hybrid gets an electric motor with limited electric zero emissions driving ability as part of its power train. The Hybrid’s lithium-ion battery has 19% greater capacity than the outgoing hybrid. This hybrid combination boosts power output to 116hp. Fuel consumption is quoted at 3.9 l/100km, during our test we averaged 5.4 l/100km. Emissions are relatively low at 88g/km CO2. The 72hp, 1 litre produces 127g/km CO2 and the 125hp 1.5 produces 118g/km CO2.
The new Yaris is a safe car. Toyota ‘Safety Sense’ is the name for its suite of safety/driving aids with camera and radar technology to enhance safety for those in the car and outside it. Road sign assist, adaptive cruise control, Intelligent cruise control, lane trace assist, automatic high beam, pedestrian detection (day and night), cyclist detection, intersection collision mitigation (a Toyota first), emergency steering assist and a new centre airbag (standard) are available and it is no surprise the Yaris scored 5 Stars at Euro NCAP testing. On the road the Yaris Hybrid, like all hybrids is automatic and as such is very easy to love with. The usual hybrid gearbox noise is suppressed well. Yaris is fun to drive and nimble too. Nipping around urban spaces is a hoot and the car is always eager to please. Only the occasional speed hump (and bad surfaces) will remind you of the car’s place in the world as the suspension can reach its limits of shock absorption. On motorways the car can be a little susceptible to crosswinds, but still has plenty of ability to cruise and overtake with confidence.
The new Yaris is a great looking supermini that I’d happily have in the driveway.