Wednesday, 27 June 2012

2012 Toyota Yaris ROAD TEST (Josh Ross)

When the original Yaris launched back in 1999 its styling, dynamics and packaging quickly elevated the car to the top of its class. Journalists and buyers fell head over heels for the cheeky appearance, digital dash display and novel sliding rear bench. Perpetual praise followed, with Yaris winning the covetable Car of the Year title in 2000 – the first of its many awards.
Previously Toyota had been associated with worthy but unexciting cars – Celica and MR2 withstanding. But with Yaris their approach was far more ambitious. Offering a brace of smooth and tractable VVTI engines Toyota proved that its dynamic DNA could also work effectively in the volume sector – the units employed the same torque optimising technology as the 1.8s offered in MR2 and Celica. Never before had a small car been so complete; Toyota’s renowned reliability complementing a carefully honed chassis and spacious innards.
The then ageing Fiesta offered comparable smoothness, character and performance from its Zetec S engines but in a noisier and cramped bodyshell. Volkswagen’s Polo played the quality card but provided little driver enjoyment. Rivals such as the Clio & Punto meanwhile were unengaging to drive, attractive to look at and until Yaris arrived, viewed as the cool choices along with Polo.
Clearly Toyota has created a winning recipe with Yaris for despite a new nameplate and its unremarkable Starlet predecessor, the car rapidly became a sales success. Up to the end of 2011 368, 185 Yaris’s found homes.
Launched last year the model tested is Toyota’s third Yaris. The second model was introduced in 2005 replacing the then six year old original.
Aesthetically, this car deviates most from its two forebears. Where the Mk1 and 2 were soft, rounded designs that also used curvier shapes for the dash this car is more angular and edgy. There are similarities between the Mercedes SLK & CLS lights and Yaris’s diamond shaped units while the side profile, with its sharply rising window line and high set handles, is another striking and attractive styling feature.

Step inside and you quickly settle into the soft and comfortable half leather seats. For a B segment car interior space is impressive and the boot offers a class competitive 286 litres of capacity.

The dash is clearly laid out and effectively combines both form and function. Where its direct predecessor opted for a tightly stacked, vertical console, this model uses a slender, horizontally ordered dash. The large screen for the Touch and Go system (incorporating rear view camera, sat nav and both iPod and internet connectivity) dominates the dash and sits logically above the climate controls. These are perfectly placed allowing you to adjust the temperature on the move. And with so little dash space more cabin room is created – a particular advantage for those with larger frames. Quality is faultless and the materials also have a hard wearing feel. That said, some softer touch plastics and a greater variation in colour would improve the cabin ambience.

Driven at sedate speeds the Yaris accounts well for itself. The steering is light and responds quickly to your inputs, while throttle response from the lively 1.33 unit is as keen as one would hope given its predecessors. Up the pace and the Yaris continues to hold its own, though wind noise is a little intrusive at motorway speeds and sharper bumps can upset its composure. Luckily, the chassis counters with a tightly controlled body and reasonably quiet ride. As an SR specification model the ride is lowered by 10 mm over lesser specified cars. This helps firm the suspension up which pays dividends through the corners.

Those of  sportier dispositions are also catered for with the CVT transmission. They will appreciate the steering wheel mounted paddles that allow drivers to shuffle between the ratios – this is achieved with minimal interruption in both automatic and manual modes.


Those after a small, well built and sharp looking car should definitely check out Toyota’s new Yaris. Multimedia connectivity, excellent construction and improved dynamics characterise this 3rd generation model, elevating it to the highest echelons of the class.

Words and Photos by Josh Ross (www.

Technical Data

Price as tested: £15,185
Engine: 1.33 16v 98bhp - 0-60mph: 12.3 secs - Maximum Speed: 109mph -
Economy: 44.8mpg (urban) –61.4mpg (extra-urban), 53.3 (combined) - Emissions: 121g/km (Band D) - VED (12 months): £120
Dimensions: Length 3885mm - Width: 1695mm - Height: 1500mm - Wheelbase: 2510mm

*data from Toyota UK

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