Toyota Yaris 2011
Review It’s a testament to the enduring popularity of the first two incarnations of Toyota’s little Yaris that between them they lasted for 12 years before the third version rolled off the production line. But has Yaris 3.0 still got what it takes to cut the mustard in the super-competitive B segment?
At first glance, there's little to get excited about. Put the new Yaris and the new Kia Rio side by side and remove the badges, and I dare you to tell them apart. Still, the new and more angular body is certainly slippery - according to Toyota the 0.287 drag coefficient is the best in its class.
The ride and road-holding are not at all bad
Where the Yaris steals a march on the opposition is in the gizmo department. Standard on all but the poor man’s T2 version is the 6.1in touchscreen Toyota Touch system. This includes iPod and USB music sourcing, Bluetooth phone connectivity, six rather fine speakers and a reversing camera - a first for a car in this segment.
The posh models have Toyota Touch and Go which adds European satnav to the mix as well as speed camera locations, live traffic updates and Google local search via your phone’s data link. It also comes with a more advanced Bluetooth implementation which lets you read and send text messages using the touch screen.
The rear end is well designed
I’ll leave it to you to ponder the wisdom of reading and writing SMS messages while driving, though it’s a temptation removed from Android owners because the texting part of the system refused to work with either the Sony Ericsson or HTC handsets I tried. A Nokia E72 did work, so it’s only an issue with certain mobile operating systems.
That bug aside, Touch & Go works with the sort of effortless speed and simplicity you expect to find in systems fitted to more expensive cars. The only negative is the slightly hectoring tone of the female voice used by the satnav, a voice you are stuck with.
From the side, it still looks a bit generic
On the open road, the 98bhp four-cylinder 1.33 litre 16V engine provides adequate rather than vigorous performance. The 0-60 sprint can be covered in 12.3 seconds, while the top speed is 109mph. To get to that, I suspect you will need a long road, a favourable gradient and a bit of a tail wind.
Despite the official combined fuel economy figure of 55.4mpg, during a week spent driving on predominately rural roads I only averaged 44mpg, which was a little disappointing. CO2 emissions are, at 118g/km, par for the course.
If you want to get more from each gallon you’ll need to either buy the lesser but utterly gutless three-cylinder 1.0 litre version, the diesel - or wait until next year for the hybrid model.
The front end is a sharper and more angular take on the Yaris 2
All these figures are for a car with Toyota’s new CVT gearbox, which is one of the best examples of the breed. This one disguises the inherent and unsatisfying revs-before-action tendencies of the design better than any other small CVT-equipped car I’ve driven.
That is thanks to various features all with names starting with Flex - Flex Lock-up Control, Flex Start Control and Flex Ratio Control - that between them keep the engine and transmission firmly on the same mechanical page. The end result is a gearbox that feels more like a semi-automatic manual than a CVT-auto.
If you want to take more control, you can use the column-mounted seven-speed paddle gear selectors either as a temporary override or as a full manual by snicking the drive selector into the M-for-manual slot. There’s also a handy S-for-Sport button that sharpens up the gearbox’s response time and accelerator inputs.
The ride is a little firm but never uncomfortably so and it passed my A672 potholes-from-hell test with flying colours. Road holding isn’t in the Ford Fiesta class but it certainly goes around corners with more composure than Nissan’s Micra.
The hip line gives the shape some distinction
But it’s in tight spaces that the Yaris shines. It needs a mere 4.7m to turn around, another figure Toyota claims is the best in class. Combined with excellent all-round visibility, the Yaris is extraordinarily easy to drive.
The Toyota Yaris 2011 in Pictures
The light grey areas are squidgy
A six-and-a-bit inch touchscreen is rare in B-segment motors
Room in't back
The rear seats fold but don't tumble
Boot up to class standard
The cabin feels airy and spacious especially, in part thanks to the full length panoramic glass roof. For a small car there is plenty of room in the driver’s footwell.
There's plenty of room in the driver’s footwell
The two-tone dark and light grey colour scheme won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I’ve seen much worse, and the plastics are solid and squeak-free. The light grey areas are ever so slightly spongy giving some tactile as well as visual relief.
Pockets, ledges, cubbyholes and cup-holders abound, while the thin-backed seats manage to be supportive, comfortable and space-saving all at the same time. With 286 litres of space in the boot, the Yaris is a pretty good cargo hauler, though the rear seats only fold rather than tumble forward which is a bit of a missed trick.
The single wiper works well... for the driver
Something else I noticed during my rain-soaked travels was how well the Yaris’ single wiper works. OK, the noticeably good job it does of clearing the driver’s side is balanced by areas left unwiped on the passenger’s side, but that’s a reasonable trade-off.
Prices for the new Yaris start at £11,170 but for that you get next to nothing in terms if equipment and the 68bhp 1.0 litre three-cylinder engine, which I suspect will offer worryingly poor performance on the motorway.
If you want the 1.33 litre motor, the trick CVT transmission and all the toys such as Touch and Go, the panoramic glass roof, rain-sensitive wipers, dual-zone air con, keyless entry and ignition, and automatic lights, that will set you back £15,385.
That looks expensive at first glance, but spec up a Ford Fiesta or Nissan Micra to a similar level and it’s not that far from the going rate. ®
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