MSN Cars
08/07/2009 05:53 | By MSN Cars

Toyota Yaris 1.0 VVT-i review (1999-2005)

Toyota Yaris 1.0 VVT-i (© Toyota)


Bodystyle: Hatchback
Engine: 1.0 in-line 4-cyl
Fuel Type: Petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of Test: May 2002

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What is it?

Fashionable supermini from a Japanese manufacturer with serious European aspirations. So keen is it to sell more models over here, it’s even set to build the Yaris at a new factory in France, thus bypassing import restrictions which still partly apply. It’s a huge advance over the terminally-dull Starlet it replaced, with a lively style and innovative interior - though some consider it more of a ‘city car’ since the launch of the bigger Ford Fiesta and Citroen C3. The 1.0-litre VVT-i engine is advanced for this sector, featuring variable valve timing.

Where does it fit?

Toyota’s smallest model, the 1.0-litre Yaris features its smallest engine, too. This makes it a true small car with a correspondingly small price; rivals may have grown bigger, but many of them are a lot more expensive, too. But don’t judge by this that the Yaris 1.0 is underpowered, for the VVT-i valve system gives a 0-62mph time of 14.1 seconds, and a top speed of 96mph - more than adequate for a city car, especially given the 50mpg average economy figure. The three-door bodyshell is sporty, boosting appeal to younger drivers; there are even some suitably vivid colours too!

Is it for you?

If you’re after a supermini which will never break down, last forever and barely show its age even after a decade of hard use, the Yaris could well be for you. There isn’t a better example of precision engineering available for the money, proof of which comes from all the owner satisfaction surveys consistently topped by the Yaris.

What does it do well?

As well as never breaking down, the Yaris 1.0 has many other talents, too. The engine is a free-spinning gem, which is a delight to use on the road, despite its on-paper lack of punch. The gearchange is precise, clutch travel is short, there are few easier cars to drive. Handling is fun and accurate and while the ride quality is not the world’s best, it’s still perfectly acceptable as long as you haven’t driven a VW Polo or Citroen C3. In the back, there’s a sliding rear seat that offers a choice between boot or rear passenger space.

What doesn't it do well?

Although it’s not cramped, space is lacking in the Yaris compared to newer, larger superminis. Although the benefit of this is lower prices, some may still find it too small for their needs. The engine is also overpowered by passengers somewhat, requiring plenty of revs for acceptable performance. It’s a bit buzzy on the motorway too, due to the ‘short’ gearing. Some trims look plasticky, though build quality is not in doubt. The Yaris’s fine reputation means used values are kept high and dealers are often unwilling to haggle over the list price.

What's it like to live with?

Utterly painless - due to its unshaking reliability and build quality. Few owners report any problems, meaning even the earliest versions are still almost as good as new. Good fuel economy and low insurance ratings also help running costs, and while Toyota dealers may not be the cheapest, the service they provide is superb. And, as we’ve mentioned, the Yaris is so loved by owners, it boasts some of the lowest depreciation rates in its class; you’ll never be out of pocket with one of these - and you’ll never be stranded, either.

Would we buy it?

If it wasn’t to be used as a family hatchback substitute, we’d certainly consider it. The Yaris may not be as sporty as some others, but it rewards over the long-term in a manner rare for superminis. It may sound dull, but when a car never misses a beat, never rattles and always looks fresh, no matter how you treat it, it can’t help but please. Not that the Yaris is a dull car - far from it. It just happens to be a clinically efficient one, too.

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