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Toyota Yaris

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Road Test

Toyota Yaris

Model/Engine size: 1.33 Dual VVT-i 6MT

Fuel: Petrol

Fuel economy combined: 52.3 mpg

Beating Spirit rating: 7/10

The new Toyota Yaris is one of the most efficient petrol superminis, but does it set new class standards as a whole?

Firstly, let’s understand the new Yaris range, and the respective green credentials. There’s the 1.0 VVT-i, which manages 58.9 mpg, and emissions of 111 g/km CO2, which is excellent for a petrol model.

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Then there’s the 1.33 Dual VVT-i. In manual form, this manages 52.3 mpg, with emissions of 123 g/km CO2. This engine is also available with a Multidrive S continuously variable transmission (CVT) transmission, and in this form it’s more economical than the manual, returning 55.4 mpg and 118 g/km CO2 (slightly less in both cases in SR spec).

Finally, there’s a diesel – the 1.4 D-4D – which manages 72.4 mpg along with 104 g/km CO2 emissions. This is the most economical model in the range, but people just don’t buy superminis with diesel engines. The diesel makes the Yaris more expensive and heavier, and for a car that is likely to spend most of its time covering relatively short mileages around town, the diesel model doesn’t make much sense, and is expected to account for only around 4% of Yaris sales in the UK.

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What will make a lot more sense is the hybrid version, however it will be next year before that’s available.

Apart from the hybrid, the engine line-up is unchanged from the last Yaris. So what has changed? Well, the design is all-new. Externally, the Yaris has evolved from a short, tall and rounded car to one that now appears longer, lower and sharper, and which looks much more planted to the ground. It not only adopts Toyota’s new styling cues, but it’s also said to lay the foundations for the design direction of future Toyota models.

The new Yaris is actually 100mm longer than the previous model, but it’s still a relatively compact supermini, and it does a good job of packaging more space into this small body. In particular, the boot is larger, now offering class-leading space for a supermini.

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Inside, previous generations of the Yaris had a central instrument ‘tunnel’, but the instruments are now directly in front of the driver, which is where we think they should belong, so that drivers avoid having to take their eyes off the road ahead. The dashboard has interesting textures on the plastics, which may appeal to some younger buyers, but overall the plastics don’t feel particularly high quality.

However the interior is where the big news is. On all but the base model, the new Yaris comes with a new ‘Touch’ multimedia system as standard. This incorporates Bluetooth, a USB port and a rear-view camera. This can be upgraded to ‘Touch and Go’ to provide satnav, advanced Bluetooth functions – such as SMS messaging – and access to a range of connected information services (if you have a smart phone). Satnav and the camera are certainly useful. The SMS connectivity is an interesting feature for a car that has traditionally appealed to buyers predominantly around the age of 60. As you may have guessed, the texting capability is a ploy by Toyota to attract a younger buyer, but is this goal supported by a driving experience that would appeal to a younger market?

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If there was one word to describe the experience of driving the car, it would be ‘revvy’. Not revvy in the sense of some tuned performance car, but instead a tendency to be revvy while driving despite not aiming for this outcome. Cars with a CVT transmission have such a tendency anyway, and the Yaris with CVT is no exception, especially under enthusiastic acceleration. However the revs seem very happy to climb skywards even in the 6-speed manual version. The engine is undeniably highly efficient, but it can sound as though it’s straining – and this is an even more pronounced sensation with the 1-litre engine.

Once underway then the Yaris has an acceptable yet firm ride, it corners without too much roll, and the steering is sufficiently sharp to make a trip down a winding B-road reasonably enjoyable. These elements of the car feel quite direct, which is a good thing. However performance isn’t particularly strong and you’re always left with the feeling that the car just sounds a little stretched and noisy under pressure – such as under acceleration or on motorways.

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The new Yaris is slightly lighter than the outgoing model, despite having more equipment, which is good for economy. However one surprise is that it doesn’t have a stop/start system. For a car that aims to be amongst the class-leaders in terms of green credentials, it seems strange that the engine keeps running and churning out emissions when sat at traffic lights.

The UK Yaris range includes three and five-door models, and four grades: T2, TR, SR and T Spirit. The range starts from £11,170 for the 1.0 VVT-i T2 three-door, but costs £13,260 in 1.33 Dual VVT-i 6MT spec. The Touch and Go multimedia system represents good value, but overall we’d like the Yaris to have a more quality feel for this price point.

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Summary

The new Yaris may be up there with the class-leaders in terms of efficiency, but it falls short of being a class-leader in terms of the driving experience. This suggests that Toyota may not succeed in its aim of attracting younger buyers, who are likely to go for something that is more of a fun driver’s car.

So despite the technology of the new car, the Yaris seems likely to continue to appeal to older drivers who will spend most of their life driving short distances. The CVT transmission option is probably the best one to go for, and according to the official figures, it’s marginally more economical than the manual. The 1.3-litre version offers slightly better performance than the 1-litre three-cylinder unit, while still maintaining decent economy.

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Thanks to the Prius, Toyota has to be acknowledged as being a leader in green technology, and you can’t argue with the reliability and durability of the brand’s vehicles as a whole. But the Yaris isn’t a huge leap forward, although the hybrid will provide a bit more interest next year. The problem is that there are other cars out there that are as efficient, or more so, and they drive very well – such as the new Kia Rio, which in diesel form can manage 88 mpg.

The new Yaris therefore gets a Beating Spirit rating of 7 out of 10. Its efficient powertrain helps it to achieve this score, and buyers can expect it to be dependable – but it suffers from the fact that the car doesn’t look particularly special and the driving experience doesn’t move the class-standards forward.

Paul Clarke

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Fuel economy extra urban: 62.7 mpg

Fuel economy urban: 41.5 mpg

CO2 emissions: 123 g/km

Green rating: VED band D – first year £0

Weight: 1005 Kg

Company car tax liability (2011/12): 10%

Price: £13,260

Insurance group: 7

Power: 98 bhp

Max speed: 109 mph

0-62mph: 11.7 seconds

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Toyota Yaris review, Toyota Yaris road test