Published: 13:11, 05 September 2017
If you’d just forked out £76m on a facelift you’d expect a little more than just a nip and tuck. That is precisely the figure that Toyota have invested in the revised Yaris and, sure enough, the changes are more than just skin deep.
The cosmetic changes to the front and rear are just one small part of a comprehensive overhaul that saw the introduction of 900 new parts.
The front has, perhaps, received the most dramatic redesign. The deeply sculpted bonnet meets with the trapezoidal grille surround to form a prominent X. It’s a styling cue that has made its way across the Toyota range.
The changes have been implemented in order to give the Yaris a broader, more planted stance and a greater three-dimensional effect. To inject a little more emotion into the styling, more dynamism.
It’s a look that’s hard to describe as handsome, but it is dramatic and it does stand out in a crowded marketplace.
The rear mirrors the front with the same strong catamaran architecture flowing from the new bumper into the tailgate. Large light clusters wrap around the wings and onto the bootlid, enhancing the width, while reducing the perception of height.
At the bottom of what is a relatively small pile sits Active trim with 15-inch steel wheels and a CD player while at the other end of the spectrum you’ll find the Bi-tone tested here which, as well as its unique two-tone finish, gets front and rear LED lights and a honeycomb grille treatment.
There’s no three-door version this time around, just five-door models with a choice of three engines – 1.5-litre petrol and hybrid models, and a 1.0-litre petrol – with all but hybrid version, which gets a CVT transmission, coming equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox.
My test car was powered by the four-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine and it’s a competent, quiet little motor. It needs to be worked quite hard to get the best out of it but it’s happy either trundling around town or out on the open road, where its refinement is impressive.
The six-speed manual gearbox is light, accurate with a positive action, something that’s crucial as you’ll find yourself swapping cogs fairly frequently in order to keep the engine at optimum revolutions.
Though there’s plenty of grip and a nice balance, there’s not a great deal of information feeding through the steering wheel. That lack of feedback means that the Yaris doesn't feel quite as agile as some of its rivals. Nonetheless, it’s comfortable, consistent and pleasingly manoeuvrable.
Climb inside and you will be amazed – yes, you will – by the amount of space the Yaris has to offer. Enough, in fact, to give cars in the class above a bit of a scare.
The seats are supportive and offer a good view of the road thanks to the upright seating. The driving position is good but you’ll have to browse the options list if you want height-adjustable seats to complement the standard adjustable steering column.
There’s a decent amount of room in the rear, even for three people, thanks to the tall cabin and those upright seats. There are also plenty of cubby holes and compartments to stow the odds and ends that always accumulate in passenger vehicles.
The boot is, Toyota claims, 25 per cent bigger than the old model, offering 286 litres with the rear seats in place. That increases to 768 litres with the rear seats stowed but you don’t get a totally flat boot floor and there’s a raised lip that can make lifting heavier items in and out tricky.
The build quality is excellent. There are some hard plastics in evidence but they feel neither cheap nor brittle. The controls are ergonomically sound and feel robust enough to withstand the test of time, and use.
There’s a seven-inch touchscreen inset in the centre of the dash installed with Toyota’s Touch 2 multimedia system. The system is straightforward enough to operate but while the sat nav offers excellent detail and guidance, the screen itself isn’t very responsive
The Touch 2 system provides access to social media apps, should you require it, and Google Street View, and you can also add a mobile wifi hotspot to the options list.
Toyota have not held back with the styling and the new Yaris certainly has the looks to get itself noticed. It’s a strong statement that may not be to everyone’s tastes and it's a shame that sense of adventure doesn’t extend as far as the handling, which is best described as uninspiring. That said, the ride is good and there’s loads of space for five people and a decent amount of luggage.
The Yaris doesn’t offer the thrills that many of its rivals can provide but if you’re looking for a safe, long-term bet, this car is well worth a punt.
Toyota Yaris Bi-tone
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Max power: 111bhp
Max torque: 136Nm @ 4,400rpm
Max speed: 108mph
Acceleration (0-62mph): 11sec
Extra urban: 67.2mpg
Emissions (CO2): 109g/km
For more information visit www.toyota.co.uk
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