First drive: 2014 Toyota Yaris
What is it?
Although this is basically a mid-life refresh of Toyota's supermini offering, the company says it goes much further than that, and with some justification. As well as the pair of new trim levels (Sport and Excel now join Active and Icon), the car's four powertrain options – two petrol, one diesel and a hybrid – have all been reworked and refined. (Interestingly, the hybrid accounts for more than a quarter of all Yaris sales in the UK these days.) More tech, improvements to the cabin and snazzy new exterior styling have all been thrown into the mix – and like its new smaller brother we drove a few weeks aygo (geddit?), this is a car with the X factor – a distinctive front grille that you'll either like or loathe.
What's under the bonnet?
Looking at the hybrid first, it's interesting to note that some jiggery pokery has brought its CO2 emission levels down to the 75g/km mark, making it exempt from the London congestion charge. It's uber-quiet, easy-to-handle and is increasing in popularity all the time. The 1.33-litre Dual VVT-i petrol and 1.4-litre D-4D diesel engines (both with six-speed manual gearboxes) have been refined to cut noise and vibration and the three-cylinder 1.0-litre unit has undergone similar treatment. Mated to a five-speed manual box, it's cheap to run and has a nice, torquey feel that comes in handy when you need to be quick off the mark in a busy city environment.
What's the spec like?
Like most manufacturers, Toyota has cottoned on to the fact that buyers these days expect big-car features in small-car packages, so there's some useful tech to be had as well as other welcome creature comforts. A leather-trimmed steering wheel, air conditioning and the latest Touch 2 multimedia system come as standard from Icon upwards (Active being the entry-level option). Climate-control is standard for all hybrid models and Yaris Excel. In case you're wondering by the way, Touch 2 includes Bluetooth, a rear-view camera, vehicle information, and management of settings for door locking and lighting. It's all very clever.
Not really. Only joking, but what a question to ask when it comes to the B-segment! Honestly. Among the main ones are the Ford Fiesta, Suzuki Swift, VW Polo and Mazda2. A key point here is price (we're stating the obvious – sorry). The new Yaris is available from £9,995 after Toyota's launch offer – exactly the same as the entry-level 'Studio' Fiesta. In other words, it could do with being a bit cheaper, bearing in mind the Blue Oval's cachet, award-winning Ecoboost engine and general dominance in the UK.
What's it like to drive?
We took the 1.33-litre version for a spin and were impressed by the level of power and willing acceleration. It's the best-seller in the range and Toyota expect this to continue. To be honest, I'm normally bewildered by the complexity of modern infotainment systems and find myself spending an age prodding buttons in an attempt to quickly familiar, but Toyota's system is actually very intuitive and useful from the off – almost Apple-like in a 'no-need-for-a-manual' kind of way. Good job, Toyota.
The AOL Cars verdict
Toyota has genuinely delivered something more far-reaching than your average mid-life facelift here. The company's European arm has had a lot of input into the look and feel of this car because of the B-segment's importance in this part of the world and we think they've managed to take the game on a stage pretty effectively. One area we seem to have forgotten to mention so far is the chassis improvements that will make the ride more comfortable and enjoyable on the UK's variable road surfaces. The new Yaris deserves to do well.
Model: Toyota Yaris Icon, 5dr.
Engine: 1.33-litre Dual VVT-i petrol
Power: 98bhp, 125Nm
Max speed: 109mph
0-60mph: 11.7 secs
MPG: 57.6mpg (combined)
Emissions: 114g/km CO2
Author: Dave Brown