Toyota Yaris Reviewed

In Car Reviews, Toyota by Neil Lyndon

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My son, 32, needs a car. A new Toyota Yaris would seem tailor-made to meet his needs.

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He lives alone in an inner city and has a job in the arts (for which, read “poor pay”).

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He likes to drive and is very good at it (we once underwent an assessment with the Institute of Advanced Motorists and his mark was better than mine) but you’d find few young guys who are less under the spell of fashion or of laddish fads in cars. You’re not being introduced to Richard Hammond, here. My son wants something small, easy to park, unostentatious (therefore, unlike to be vandalised or stolen), inexpensive to buy, cheap to run and – above all- reliable. If it could also be enjoyable to drive, that would be an extra bonus.


Toyota Yaris Reviewed was the Icon 1.33  5-Dr Manual

He had to drive 600 miles in two days over the weekend in the period while the new Yaris Icon 1.33 was with me. I urged him to take the Toyota, thinking he might decide it was the one for him. For price and size, the Yaris is a class above the city cars like Kia’s Picanto and Ford’s Ka that he would normally be looking at; but I guessed he might like to consider the Yaris, even as a second-hand option.

He found the gearbox hard work and the engine “a bit rough” – to the point where he was surprised to find that it was actually running on unleaded rather than diesel when he stopped to fill up. He would have expected a quieter run from a petrol engine. He also noticed that the nylon stitching on the leather-bound steering-wheel was fraying slightly – a highly unusual sign of inattention to detail in a Toyota.

Otherwise, he was all in favour. Despite being 6’3”, he was able to make himself comfortable for the long motorway sections of his journey. He enjoyed the ‘Touch 2’ touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard and being able to control the stereo, phone, satellite navigation and an apps function with the facility to search online. The boot and storage capacity were more than adequate for his needs as a lone traveller.

His conclusion: “Yes, it would certainly be up there in my list of possibilities; but the Picanto’s transferable seven-year warranty has a big-attraction for me. If I bought a two year-old Picanto, it would still have five years left on the warranty, whereas five years is the maximum I could get on a new Yaris. There’s a lot of money to be saved there.”

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Out of the two of us, his verdict was the more enthusiastic. In my book, the Yaris felt like a weak substitute for the Fiesta and the Polo (which, at £15240 all-in for the car I borrowed it certainly doesn’t undercut in price). I like the perkier styling with the now trademark St Andrew’s cross on the nose but found that the body rolls markedly if the car is being pushed on at all through corners. I actually liked the operation of the gearbox, which I thought snicky and accurate rather than hard work; but, unlike my son, I found it hard to get comfortable in the driver’s seat; and I cast a more critical eye over the luggage and oddments storage capacity which seemed meagre.

I loved the fish-eye optical display of data behind the steering wheel on the original Yaris, which felt like peering through a periscope in the depths and am disappointed that something so radically original should have been replaced, in the new Yaris, with something so average as a touch-screen display in the middle of the fascia.

I am also disappointed by the Yaris’s now middling positions in current surveys of reliability and customer satisfaction. For many years, this car figured in the top 10 as regularly as Christmas came round in the calendar. Now it has sunk to the middle 40s out of more than 100 cars on the market. Skoda’s Fabia and even Audi’s A1 are streets ahead.

Normally speaking, nobody on earth is a more dedicated advocate than I am for the virtues of Toyota. With this Yaris, however, they seem to have settled for something less than their best efforts (the frayed nylon stitching is a telling sign) – which seems an odd approach at a time when the competitors in the market place are so ferociously, uncompromisingly good.

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About the Author

Neil Lyndon


Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK's national stage for 40 years, writing for every "quality" newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 - the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.

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Review Toyota Yaris Icon 1.33 5-Dr Manual

Price as tested: £15,240

Engine: 1329cc 4-cyl in line, DOHC, 16-valve VVT-i
Power: 98bhp at 6000rpm
Torque: 125Nm at 4000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front wheel drive
0-62mph: 11.7 seconds
Top speed: 109 mph
Fuel economy: combined 57.6 mpg
CO2 emissions: 114 g/km
BIK: 15%
Ved/Insurance band:  C / 9E

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