Toyota Yaris (2014) Review

Yaris Hybrid Front

The Toyota Yaris was a big seller back in the early 2000s when it was a brilliant little budget car. Through the years though the Yaris seems to have climbed the corporate ladder and now sells itself as a more premium B-segment hatch. Filling the space at the entry level market is the Etios and Etios Cross we drove a few months ago. This facelifted Yaris has had 1 000 new parts engineered for it that covers a vast amount of the car, it feels more than just a mid-life facelift as we spent a week with the Yaris Hybrid and the 1.3-litre manual.

1000 New Parts

The facelift pertains to more than just the usual headlamp restructuring and interior modifications. The face of the Yaris gets the full redesign and the ‘X marks the spot’ front end is a trait embedded in all new Toyotas. There are new daytime running lights for the range with the Hybrid getting special LED daytime running lights. The rear bumper has been modified to make the Yaris appear lower and there’s an aesthetically placed diffuser. The changes go on and on as Toyota aims to make the Yaris look cooler, younger and edgier.

Interior

The highlight of the new interior is the updated touchscreen that looks much better than the previous, blotchy Nintendo graphics one. The touchscreen measures 7-inches and covers all the features and media needs from USB, Bluetooth, text message receiving and iPod connection. The Hybrid has a cool fuel economy readout that shows when electric mode was used during your journey and the resulting fuel gains from it. Noise reduction has been improved and the car is notably quieter at freeway speeds.

The top spec Hybrid has some pretty cool sausage style seats that combines cloth and leather to make a sporty feeling seat. Overall the interior is smarter and a more well thought out place. The boot has a cool false floor section which, you can lift up to make the most of the 286 litres of boot space that’s good enough to fit two large suitcases.

Performance

We had a chance to drive the 1.3-Litre, four-cylinder petrol with 75 kW and 125 Nm of torque and the Hybrid 1.5-Litre, which has 74 kW and 111 Nm. Most of the Yaris’ competitors have gone the small turbocharger route, Toyota however, has stuck with natural aspiration. The lack of torque is noticeable compared to its competitors and the Yaris has to be revved a little higher to keep it on the boil. The good news is that due to the lightweight nature of the Yaris (it weighs 1 040kg) fuel consumption isn’t affected too much.

The 1.3 claims 5.6L/100km and we got pretty close to that figure during our week long test. The Hybrid is particularly impressive when it comes to fuel usage, especially when in town. The electric motor takes over for the periods when the petrol motor would generally use the most fuel, like pulling off. This cuts fuel consumption drastically and we easily achieved under 5L/100km. The CVT gearbox is a bit whiney and doesn’t like to be raced. The six-speed manual on the other hand likes a good thrashing and feels typically Toyota in that it will last forever.

Ride and Handling

The Yaris is a fun car to drive around at pace, the strengthened chassis in this facelifted version has led to the Yaris leaning less in the bends and feeling more solid over bumps and ripples in the road. The steering could provide more feedback but the feel is acceptable and it helps the Yaris feel nimble and agile around town. In the manual model I struggled to find a nice smooth balance between clutch and accelerator. Over time it will likely get easier and smoother, but normally Toyotas are particularly easy to get into and go.

Toyota Yaris - Verdict

This facelifted Yaris is a marked improvement over the previous offering and it’s easy to spot that Toyota have improved the value for money offering. There’s loads more standard equipment and the interior has caught up technically with its competitors. Toyota could still do with adding standard safety essentials such as stability control and traction control that are only available on the Hybrid.

The new changes to the exterior have made it more noticeable especially with the chrome accents on the front and rear. 15-inch wheels are also standard across the range. Even so, the Yaris is still a bit pricey with the range starting at R167 900 for the 1-Litre three cylinder. The Hybrid tops off the range at R276 300 and is too expensive to ever offset the gains made in fuel consumption. Toyota though, should be commended for offering a hybrid in such a small package. Right now though the Yaris sits in a battle with the VW Polo, Renault Clio, Ford Fiesta and the Suzuki Swift. It’s a tough group to choose from so make sure you do your homework before throwing your cash at it.

Second Opinion

I really enjoyed driving both the Yaris Hybrid and the Yaris 1.3. The Hybrid was a comfortable cruiser and returned excellent fuel economy, and the car felt solid and composed on the road. The hybrid however needs to be driven with a gentle foot to get the best out of it, so don't expect too much in terms of performance.

The Yaris 1.3 on the other hand, was more willing to push on and the smooth ride and nippy handling made the drive enjoyable. Both cars feature comfortable, well kitted interiors and the bold, aggressive styling has gone a long way to improving the Yaris' appeal. The Yaris is a good product and is well worth consideration if you have slightly deeper pockets. - Gero Lilleike

We like: . Big upgrades for a facelift . Interior has improved standard spec . Improved handling and ride

We Don't Like: . Hybrid is the only model with traction control and stability control . Range gets quite pricey . Engines don't compete at altitude

Also Consider: Volkswagen Polo Renault Clio Ford Fiesta Suzuki Swift

Compare the Yaris against the Clio and Polo here

Toyota Yaris 1.3 Quick Specs

Engine 1.3-litre, 4-cylinder petrol
Power 73 kW
Torque 125 Nm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Wheels 15-inch Alloys
0-100 km/h 11.7 seconds (claimed)
Fuel economy 5.6-litres/100km
Fuel Tank 42 L

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