Review: Toyota Yaris

Simple to drive, well-kitted out and is ultra-reliable

22 Jun 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Stylish supermini

  • Economical

  • Standard models are well equipped

Cons

  • Small boot

  • Steering is too light

  • More desirable competitors

Our expert rating

The Toyota Yaris is a supermini that entered the European market in 1999. It's available in three- or five-door hatchback body styles. Stylish, with a relatively tall, spacious body, the Yaris met with huge acclaim.

In 2000, the car became only the second Japanese vehicle to ever win the European Car of the Year title. The latest model arrived in 2011, which in 2014 received a front facelift.

Performance

On major roads you’ll find that Toyota’s small petrol engines struggle to keep up to speed with the rest of the traffic. The 2011 Yaris, in particular, is agile, but it is still far from the most enjoyable car to drive in the supermini segment.

The 1.4 diesel engine on offer from 2011 onwards is very noisy, but it is economical with enough punch for everyday use - and it can cope with motorways.

Toyota Yaris front and back

Ride and handling

All Yaris’ have incisive handling but they can’t match, say, the Ford Fiesta for finesse. The Toyota model grips well through bends but its ride is too firm for our pot-hole peppered British roads. The light steering makes low speed town driving a breeze, but the downside is it can make the Yaris feels fidgety at high speed.

Interior space

Whichever generation Toyota Yaris you go for, you will find the cabin provides the sort of space associated with cars from a class above. The front seats offer very good comfort too, but getting in and out of a three-door Yaris’ rear seats is a hassle.

What’s more, the boot is a decent shape, but rather small.

Toyota Yaris interior

What to know before you buy

Watch out for droning gearboxes on old Yaris’ up to 2005. Most of these will have been replaced under the manufacturer’s three-year warranty, but more common on the Toyota are slipping clutches.

You will know the clutch is slipping if the engine sounds like it's revving when you accelerate or start moving from a stop on your test drive. Also, if the clutch pedal feels stiff and requires force to depress it, the chances are it is on its way out.

Toyota Yaris back

What to know before you buy

Watch out for droning gearboxes on old Yaris’ up to 2005. Most of these will have been replaced under the manufacturer’s three-year warranty, but more common on the Toyota are slipping clutches.

You will know the clutch is slipping if the engine sounds like it's revving when you accelerate or start moving from a stop on your test drive. Also, if the clutch pedal feels stiff and requires force to depress it, the chances are it is on its way out.

It is also crucial for the coolant fluid level to be maintained, especially on early diesel engines, which are prone to blown head gaskets. Check this by opening the bonnet and taking off the oil filler cap. If there’s a white emulsion on the underneath of the filler cap, it’s a sign of possible damage, so walk away.

Additionally, uneven tyre wear is an indication of misaligned suspension, so look for kerb-scuffed wheels. Check for chips in the paint on the front edge of the bonnet too. It’s very noticeable with solid colour Yaris’.

It should not be a deal breaker but get the chips painted over, or rust will easily set in. Generally though, the Toyota Yaris is a long-lasting supermini with a higher than average rating for reliability.

Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta

Alternative cars

Taken as a whole, the Yaris, whichever generation you look at, is decent, but it is a much less sophisticated machine than legendary supermini hatchbacks like the Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo. The Ford has long been the best-selling car in the UK – but it is not quite as roomy as the VW Polo.

Overall verdict

If you want a small secondhand car that’s simple to drive, well kitted out and is ultra-reliable, then the Toyota Yaris should be on your list of motors to view.

On the other hand, there are superminis such as the aforementioned Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta that outshine the Japanese car in most areas.

Expert rating

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall