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Toyota Yaris review (2011 onwards)
What: Toyota Yaris
Where: Copenhagen, Denmark
Date: August 2011
Price: £11,170 - £15,385
Available: On sale now, first deliveries September 2011
Key rivals:Ford Fiesta, Hyundai i20, Kia Rio, Mazda 2, Vauxhall Corsa, Volkswagen Polo
Summary: The new Toyota Yaris is roomy, high-tech and apparently more masculine - but is it good enough to really compete in today's vast and diverse supermini sector?
We like: 1.33 Multidrive S auto smooth around town, comfortable and relatively spacious inside, strong levels of standard kit
We don't like: wind noise, diesel refinement, joyless driving experience, some dubious interior plastics, general aura of the uninspired
The Toyota Yaris has never been especially exciting. But it's always been kind of cute, and eminently - almost overwhelmingly - sensible and reliable, a combination that has won it a loyal following.
This brand new third-generation Toyota Yaris, however, is entering a market sector that is rapidly transforming. The B-segment or supermini class is the biggest in Europe, and more and more manufacturers want a serious slice of the action.
As such, the new Yaris now has a much greater fight on its hands if it wants to attract attention, since it dives into a pool of talent here that covers everything from driving fun to premium quality to value without compromise.
And usually you get at least two out of three in a single car.
Toyota is targeting affordability - based not just on list prices but the amount of fitted equipment and the monthly charges of its available Personal Contract Purchase finance agreements, which mean higher spec TR, SR or T-Spirit costs little more than an entry-level T2 on a per month basis.
At the same time, it's also after younger buyers - the current average age is 60 - and attempting to redress the traditional Yaris skew towards female owners. This explains the angular new looks, which are supposedly more masculine.
Together with the enlarged dimensions, they also make it surprisingly easy to mistake for an Auris. There are further claims regarding increased interior quality and agility, while a forthcoming Hybrid version promises to provide a halo glow.
The new Yaris is available with just three engines - 69hp 1.0-litre petrol, 99hp 1.33-litre petrol and 90hp 1.4 D-4D turbodiesel. Bestseller by a mile will certainly be the 1.33, now available with a Multidrive S CVT automatic gearbox for inner-city ease.
As standard it comes with a snappy six-speed manual - an arrangement that works well in terms of its smooth acceleration, even if feels a little gutless. With more noise than actual performance, 0-62mph takes 11.3 seconds.
The £1,000 CVT is shoutier still, if you stretch it, and especially in Sport mode. But as a replacement for the old and clunky MultiMode auto, when used as intended to potter around town it makes sense; Toyota's London dealers are reportedly very excited, and you can understand why.
No thrills, then, but we suppose that's not the point. And either way, the 1.33 petrol is a nicer car than the 1.4 diesel we also sampled; technically the fastest Yaris of all, with 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds, it's also the least refined.
This is not so much in terms of engine noise - although every new Yaris we drove suffered with this and unexpectedly intrusive wind noise, given aerodynamics claims - rather vibrations, which could be faintly felt by both front occupants.
We didn't get a chance to try the 1.0-litre, but this is set to sell only in very low numbers (it's also rather slow, with 0-62mph taking 15.3 seconds). The overall impact here is one of basic competence rather than a determination to impress.
Ride and handling
This theme continues with the chassis. Toyota says it has made the new Yaris more agile, and with increased use of high tensile steel it's 20kg lighter than the car it replaces, too, despite extra fitted kit.
Like the engines, the handling is at its best when you don't make too many demands of it. The steering is surprisingly direct - so straight-line motoring (ie: motorways) offers little chance to relax - and initial weighting is positive.
But as you turn the wheel further this doesn't increase, creating a kind of mildly disconcerting tipee-toey feeling about the way the body rolls through the corner; the diesel felt squishier at the back, too, exacerbating this sensation further.
On the plus side, the turning circle is best in class, making it easy to park and scoot about town, and the Yaris demonstrated soothing long distance comfort on the mostly smooth road surfaces of the Denmark launch route.
So, again, it works well at a potter; but as soon as you start to challenge it all, the Yaris is swift to concede its shortcomings - whether that be bouncing over trying town centre tarmac (boding badly for the UK), or swaying its way through twisting country lanes.
And this is not only with European specific suspension, but the sportier set-up of the SR, which features reduced ride-height and 16-inch alloys. With the Yaris' chassis showing so little depth of talent, a Fiesta feels like a sports car in comparison.
Anyone familiar with the previous Yaris will immediately spot that the dial cluster is now placed behind the steering wheel, rather than in the middle of the car. This move to conventionality should help appease people downsizing from bigger vehicles.
Instead the centre of the dashboard in all but the basic T2 (which also lacks aircon, natch) is given over to the new 'Toyota Touch' infotainment system; neat, works well, and offered with a free satnav upgrade for a limited launch period.
This full Toyota Touch and Go gizmo has a number of tricks up its electronic sleeve, including the integration of Google Local Search and the ability to check fuel prices. It will also allow you to send text messages and check Facebook...
Which raises a few safety eyebrows. As for the rest of the interior, we were taken by the roominess front and rear, general visibility (optional panoramic roof included), and the fancy finish on the seats, steering wheel, handbrake and gearknob.
Toyota is also saying convincing things about improved build quality. But the new dash-top material has an appearance that reminds us of a cheap polyester suit, and some of the door plastics have the finesse of supermarket value-grade household goods.
The range of adjustment in the steering wheel seems mildly pathetic, too - but at least it goes up and down as well as in and out. It's easy to see where Toyota has spent money inside the Yaris, and where it hasn't; the result is a little incohesive.
Economy and safety
The engines available are relatively lightweight for their displacements and usefully efficient, so fuel consumption and CO2 figures are competitive if not outstanding. Best of all is the diesel, with a claimed 72.4mpg combined and 104g/km CO2.
The Multidrive S CVT auto is more efficient around town than the manual, so manages 55.4mpg and 118g/km compared to 52.3mpg and 123g/km; the bigger wheels of the SR grade means this suffers slightly on both counts.
Toyota UK has elected not to take the start-stop system on the 1.33 at this stage for cost reasons (it saves 4g/km), and although there is no sub 100g/km version at launch, the Yaris Hybrid will be class-leading when it arrives - beating even the 85g/km Kia Rio diesel.
Safety kit includes standard Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control, and seven airbags. Five EuroNCAP stars are anticipated. However, we remain unconvinced that enabling texting and Facebook on the move is a clever plan.
The MSN Cars verdict
The new Yaris represents a significant upgrade over the previous car, and now Toyota offers a five-year 100,000 mile warranty, this, the attractive finance packages and the free satnav offer should stimulate a queue of loyal buyers.
But that's about all it's going to stimulate. The new Yaris is bereft of the kind of joy that makes driving and owning small cars fun. It feels built to a carefully calculated price, and not in a cheerful way; it lacks charm, and character.
This would be fine if Toyota still had the rational end of the sector to itself - but now you can buy a Hyundai i20 or the brand new Kia Rio, and either does at least as good a job as this for less money.
There are so many other superminis out there now, and almost all of them are simply more appealing than this; the Yaris remains sensible, and ultimately it's likely to be very reliable, but we're no longer sure that's really enough.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||1.0, 1.33|
|Power, hp||69 - 99|
|Torque, lb ft||68 - 151|
|0-62 mph, secs||10.8 - 15.5|
|Top speed, mph||96 - 109|
|Mpg combined||51.4 - 72.4|
|CO2, tax||104 - 127g/km, 10 - 15%|
|Ratings||Toyota Yaris SR 1.33|
|Ride & handling||***|
|MSN Cars verdict||***|
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