Vehicle Style: Five-door light hatch
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.7 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.5 l/100km
Toyota’s Yaris has been a perennial favourite in the light car category. While now beaten into fifth place in the segment, behind the Mazda2, Getz, new Swift and Jazz, the ageing Yaris can still pull more than a thousand sales a month.
However, while still strong in rental (it’s those strong Toyota residual values), there’s not as much appeal for private buyers.
The spec list is a bit slim and doesn’t mesh with the Yaris YRS’s ‘highish’ price tag; the styling is also now at the end of its lifespan. (click here for news on the all-new 2012 Yaris.)
Quality: The interior trim and seat fabric is reasonably appealing, and the interior style is not without its own quirky appeal.
Tactile surfaces too are generally good, if a little ‘plasticky’, trim-panel gaps are consistent and build quality appears solid and hard-wearing.
Comfort: There’s reasonable legroom both front and rear, and the tall roof-line means headroom isn’t an issue in the Yaris. Two adults can comfortably sit across the rear bench, although the centre seat is best reserved for children.
While the steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, the centrally-mounted instrument cluster - an ergonomic nightmare - is not so driver-friendly (though you can get accustomed to it over time).
Equipment: Standard features on the Yaris YRS include power windows front and rear, air conditioning, a single-disc CD tuner, USB/aux inputs, steering-wheel mounted audio controls and Bluetooth phone integration.
Storage: The hatch can swallow up to 272 litres with the rear seats in place, or 737 litres with them folded.
There’s no covered centre console storage, but lidded cubbies in front of both driver and front passenger compensate for this.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Yaris’s 1.5 litre inline four is a willing engine, but performs best when pushed into the upper reaches of its rev range.
Its output of 80kW and 141Nm may not sound like much, but those figures put the Yaris near the top of its segment. And it shows; the Yaris can be briskly hustled along and has no trouble keeping up in the red-light derby.
The four-speed automatic functions fine in traffic, but slow kickdown response and widely-spaced gears hamper performance. We’d prefer the five-speed manual.
Refinement: The Yaris is solidly built and doesn’t suffer from the tinny feel of many of its competitors, but, inside, it’s still quite noisy at highway speeds.
Suspension: Ride comfort is good thanks to a soft suspension tune. It’s not too soft, mind you, and besides some body roll in corners the Yaris handles well.
The power steering lacks feedback, but the wheel is light and the turning circle nice and tight.
Braking: Aside from a small amount of dead travel at the top of the pedal’s movement, we have no complaints with the Yaris’ disc/drum brake package.
ANCAP rating: Five stars
Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control and stability control are standard, as are dual front airbags, dual side airbags and full-length curtain airbags.
All seats are equipped with three-point seatbelts.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Service costs: The first six services are capped at $130 dollars each under Toyota’s Service Advantage scheme.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Nissan Micra Ti auto ($18,990) - The Micra packs an impressive kit - Bluetooth, keyless entry and ignition, climate-control, trip computer and alloy wheels - for the same price as the Yaris.
It feels lighter and less refined than the Toyota, but is undeniably better value. (see Micra reviews)
Mazda2 Maxx auto ($19,340) - The Mazda2 is the segment leader (by a long chalk), and for good reason.
Excellent driving dynamics, a well thought-out interior and solid resale value make it a top choice, but you pay a premium. (see Mazda2 reviews)
Ford Fiesta LX auto ($20,990) - The expensive choice in this company, but performance from its 89kW petrol four and six-speed twin-clutch transmission make the Fiesta one of the best drives in its segment. (see Fiesta reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With other light cars on the market that offer more features or better performance for similar money, it’s difficult to recommend the Yaris - especially with an all-new replacement just around the corner.
The Yaris remains a good car, but time has caught up with it. Cars like the Micra are better value, while others like the Fiesta and Mazda2 offer a much better driving experience.
If you’ve got your heart set on a Yaris, we’d recommend waiting until the handsome next-gen model arrives here later this year.