What’s Hot: Fresh and fun styling, easy to use touchscreen, standard reversing camera.
What’s Not: Auto isn’t up to scratch, too thirsty for its size.
X-FACTOR: Small, spunky and plenty of appeal for younger city drivers, the new Yaris is a big improvement on its ho-hum predecessor.
Vehicle Style: Five-door light hatch
Price: $21,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 80kW/141Nm 4cyl petrol | 4spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.3 l/100km | tested: 8.0 l/100km
A nip here, a tuck there, and Toyota’s refreshed Yaris range is ready to compete against the updated Polo, the all-new Mazda2, and the essentially unchanged i20 that keeps beating it in the sales race.
With changes limited to a new front end, some additional safety and convenience technology, and a simplified model range, the new Yaris doesn’t exactly tear up the rulebook.
It does, however, offer solid value with some very desirable features.
The streamlined range sees three-door models discontinued. The range-topping ZR now comes as a five-door, and takes the place of the previous YRX model.
And all in the Yaris hatch range now feature a touchscreen display with reversing camera as standard (something the Mazda2 lacks). The ZR also picks up standard LED headlamps, still a rarity at this end of the market.
We last tested the Yaris ZR in 2012 (as a three-door manual) and we like where Toyota is heading with this updated model. That said, we discovered there may still be a chink or two in the Yaris’ armour.
Quality: With the 2015 update the Yaris gets a heavily-revised interior.
It may not look too much different on the surface, but there’s been an intensive re-work of the car’s finishes, textures and materials.
Dash plastics are still hard-finished, but the decor panels across the dash wear a cool new metallic finish and the passenger side hides a second glovebox.
There’s padding in the front doors but none in the rear.
When subjected to some rough-road testing, the well-assembled interior was impressively free of rattles and creaks and feels solid enough to cope with some rough handling.
Comfort: The striped seat-trim inside the ZR looks a little like something you might find on a Country Road tote bag, so here’s hoping it matches your luggage.
Jokes aside, the soft fabric trim feels rather nice and the firm seat-edges are more supportive than expected.
The seating isn’t too narrow either, there’s a little bolstering to the seatback (but not the base), and enough room for broad shoulders.
Access to the back seat is easy, and it offers enough room to be useful for two adults or three kids.
The littlies however might not enjoy the roof-mounted centre seatbelt which tends to rest across the neck of shorter passengers.
Equipment: Leading the charge is the 6.1-inch touch-screen with access to satellite navigation, plus Bluetooth connectivity, driven through a six-speaker stereo.
Also standard: cruise control, remote central locking, privacy glass, power windows and mirrors, single-zone climate control plus steering wheel phone and audio buttons.
Outside you’ll find LED headlights and, a rear spoiler, side skirts, rear diffuser, 15-inch alloy wheels and unique to ZR ‘afterburner’ taillights.
Storage: There’s a decent amount of nooks inside the Yaris. Dual gloveboxes, front cupholders with a removable divider, a driver’s side pocket next to the steering wheel, and a shelf in front of the passenger.
While all those little ledges and gaps are great, they’re not grippy, so expect almost everything you place in there to slide around.
Head to the boot and there’s a dual-level boot floor.
The boot yields 286 litres of space with the rear seats up, but they also fold flat with a 60:40 split for added versatility.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Working for the Yaris ZR is a naturally aspirated 1.5 litre engine that produces 80kW at 6000rpm and 141Nm at 4200rpm. Not too shabby for an engine of its size.
The sole transmission offered with the ZR is a four-speed auto. Some may gripe that Toyota’s powertrain technology is a little dated, but at least the engine outputs are similar to its contemporaries.
Behind the wheel the Yaris certainly feels light and lively. Willing enough around town, and able to keep pace in cut-and-thrust city traffic.
There’s enough fizz to keep it ticking along if you keep revs up, but drive more sedately and the very obvious lurch-and-pause feeling between gears is apparent.
Something newer six speed and CVT autos don’t suffer from.
Get out of town and, yet again, the Yaris holds its own. It’s no real powerhouse though, and overtaking or steep hills require a long lead-in to tackle with confidence.
Push hard enough for a kick-down on the highway and again, thanks to the limited gear ratios, the four-speed auto doesn’t quite feel cultured enough.
Despite all of that, the Yaris remains a decent drive.
The large glasshouse and slender front pillars mean visibility is very decent, and the reverse camera helps take the strain out of backing into, or out of tight spots.
Fuel consumption isn’t really ideal. After our testing cycle, which included some generous highway running, the Yaris averaged 8.0 l/100km.
Around town the little Yaris’ thirst rivalled that of much bigger cars, and casts a real shadow over suitability as a city commuter.
Refinement: Generally the Yaris is well behaved, but the more you push the more apparent the buzzy engine becomes. It needs a decent shove to deliver its best too, adding to the engine noise.
Open road cruising reveals that wind and road noise are both reasonably well-suppressed. Maybe not the most peaceful in its class, but certainly hushed enough for many comfortable hours behind the wheel.
Ride and Handling: The front bumper might look racey, but the Yaris is no corner carver. A little roly-poly through bends, but just right comfort-wise - better at speed humps than switchbacks.
Steering is light, and a breeze to use. The set-up feels best for tight laneways and darting around multi-deck carparks. On the open road there’s a bit of an off-centre twitch that can see you ‘chasing’ the Yaris about to follow your intended line cleanly.
Braking: Braking comes courtesy of ventilated front disc-brakes with rear drums. One or two quick hard jabs on the brake pedal will pull the Yaris up smartly.
In the tiresome stop-start traffic grind the brakes are gentle enough to pull up smoothly - something we wish a few Euro competitors were better at.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 34.41 out of 37 possible points under the 2011 test regime, which differs slightly from current testing procedures.
Safety features: Seven airbags (head, side, curtain and driver’s knee), antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), emergency brake assist (EBA) and electronic stability control (ESC). Pretensioners are fitted to the front seatbelts, with height adjustable head restraints in all positions.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km, whichever occurs first.
Service costs: Toyota’s Service Advantage capped-price servicing program covers up to six standard scheduled services at $140 each.
Service intervals fall every six months or 10,000km, up to a vehicle age of three years or 60,000km.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Polo 81TSI Comfortline ($20,790) - The Polo shines with impressive dynamics and a well presented interior. There’s class leading safety available too, but as part of an extra-cost option pack.
The seven speed DSG transmission can still feel a little jerky, and the interior colour scheme is a little drab by comparison. (see Polo reviews)
Mazda2 Genki ($21,990) - Mazda mixes great handling, a clever six-speed auto, and modern interior fittings to great effect in the new 2. The infotainment system is best in class, and the dash design feels richly contemporary.
Rear seat passengers are pinched for room, and the boot is on the smaller side, but the 2 puts style first and practicality second. (see Mazda2 reviews)
Honda Jazz VTi-L ($22,490) - For a few extra dollars the top of the line Jazz offers the cleverest interior of any light car past or present. Magic folding sets allow just about anything to be squeezed into a Jazz.
The Jazz’s big touchscreen is a little clunky to use at times, and a little more seat comfort wouldn’t hurt, but just think of all the flat-pack you’ll be able to carry! (see Jazz reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Toyota has not been heavy handed with the nip-and-tuck for the Yaris, and that’s no bad thing. It has always been an honest, reliable, hard working little hatch that gets the job done.
The changes that have been made inside really do keep things fresh.
It’s enjoyable enough behind the wheel, looks fairly decent, particularly in the more eye-catching shades like this Vivid Yellow, and offers a decent safety package.
While it may not offer the driving thrills of the Mazda2, or the interior versatility of the Jazz, the Yaris ZR does straddle both areas well enough.
At the same time the awful infotainment system of the previous ZR has been banished in favour of a system that is far more user friendly.
Fuel consumption around town may not be a strong point, which should be a consideration for city-bound commuters, but comfort and ease of use do help make up for that.
The Yaris doesn’t sit atop the favourite's list at TMR, but remains a good fit for buyers chasing something simple, well-built, and not too spartan.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Ascent - from $15,690
- SX - from $17,790
- ZR (auto only) - $22,690