A touch mischievous
When it comes to looks: very exciting! Because something stands out: the design style of the more-than-exciting Toyota Supra has been adopted 1-to-1! The Yaris has the same voluptuous lines and the same gills next to the headlights that make the Supra so exciting. In addition, the bonnet extends way down, making it appear longer. While previous generations of the Yaris had a well-behaved look, this fourth generation has an angry look in its headlights. The orange / red paint, black roof and big rims of the "Launch Edition" driven here complete the picture.
The new Yaris is 4 cm lower, 5 cm wider and a fraction shorter than its predecessor. Thanks to a longer wheelbase (+5 cm), interior space is said to have increased. In real life, however, the different layout of the space is noticeable. Because of the lower build, the seat is also lower and more downward, like in a sports car. The seats are nice and big, making the whole car feel bigger. Moreover, the seats offer plenty of lateral support, which enhances the sporty feel. The dashboard is noticeably low, which gives a better overview of the road, which translates into a greater sense of control over the car.
Because the front seats are large and more reclined due to the low roofline, space in the rear is moderate. Moreover, even entry to the rear seat is tight because the rear doors do not open particularly far. Note that that nice-looking rising line of the rear window reduces the visibility of small children from the back seat. At 286 litres, the boot space is similar to that of the previous Yaris and average for a car of this size.
Toyota joins the trend to operate as many functions as possible through a central display, thus reducing the number of buttons and levers on the dashboard. However, because the dashboard is full of unusual shapes, colours and materials, this does not result in the calm and tidy look that other cars give with a minimum number of buttons.
The equipment is modern and complete, with support for Apple Carplay and Android Auto ensuring that the Yaris is ready for the future. Special for a car in this class is the (optional) head-up display. This projects information to the driver in the field of vision, making driving less strenuous. The optional JBL audio system has a full, sparkling and musical sound. What the Yaris does not have is a smart assistant that understands freely formulated commands.
When it comes to safety, Toyota has a simple policy: all new models are fitted with all the safety features the brand has to offer. This means that the Yaris can now also automatically brake for crossing traffic on a junction. If necessary, the Yaris automatically brakes for cyclists and pedestrians, with the latter also being recognised in the dark. During the test, it was noticeable that all these systems are poorly tuned and therefore generate many warnings in heavy traffic. However, this is not always accompanied by a message on the display, leaving it unclear what the warning concerned.
Also new is the central airbag between the two front seats. This reduces the risk of occupants injuring each other in the event of a side impact.
As reported earlier, many car manufacturers emphasise electric propulsion and an internal combustion engine is seen as merely an afterthought. The Yaris is not available with all-electric drive, but it is available with a conventional combustion engine and as a hybrid. As a reason, Toyota gives that hybrid has a lower price and longer range than an electric car and therefore has a higher acceptance rate, saving more CO2 on balance. Also, because of the high CO2 emissions of their other models, other brands are forced to offset this with electric cars to avoid high fines from the government.
Because the Yaris is a very important model for Toyota, the hybrid powertrain has been completely redesigned. This starts with the battery that now uses lithium-ion instead of nickel-metal hydride, which Toyota has long stuck to because of its reliability. This new battery charges and discharges faster and is lighter (-12 kg). The new electric motor is also smaller and lighter. The new petrol engine has three cylinders instead of four, making for greater efficiency.
In practice, it is noticeable that the new hybrid responds much better to the throttle than before. This is not only because the response is actually more alert, but also because the increase in engine noise corresponds better to the increase in car speed. On the motorway, the new powertrain makes good use of the electric motor's pulling power ("torque"), allowing the Yaris to perform with the ease of a larger car. Even in economy mode, performance is good, but an occasional "ripple" through the powertrain can be felt as the systems are noticeably throttled. For comfort, the standard mode is therefore most pleasant.
In town, the new Yaris can drive electrically more often and for longer than before. Moreover, electric driving can now be quick, whereas the previous generation immediately gave the "excessive speed" message when accelerating a little too much and reverted to the petrol engine. When the petrol engine assists at low revs (e.g. when climbing in town), the characteristic, rumbling sound of the three-cylinder can be heard. In all other conditions, the hybrid powertrain is quiet and smooth.
The test route consisted of one-third motorways, one-third city traffic and one-third rural roads. Most of this involved using eco mode and the weather was ideal (warm and windless). Under those conditions, average consumption after a full day's driving was 3.5 litres per 100 km. This makes the Yaris Hybrid by far the most economical car in its class.
Toyota's great pride is the so-called "TNGA" (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform on which all new models are built. This base is light and strong, which serves several purposes. A light car is quick, economical and dynamic. Strength ensures quick reactions to driver commands and makes the car safe.
The TNGA platform provides the biggest advance over the previous Yaris and is the key differentiator from other compact cars. From the very first corner, the Yaris is noticeably capable and willing. The driver feels in the steering wheel and from the reaction of the car that the Yaris is capable of a lot. When taken advantage of, the Yaris comes alive and sporty driving is very rewarding. In short: the many promises of driving pleasure Toyota makes are completely fulfilled.
The communicative and dynamic character is partly due to the platform, but also to the suspension. It is downright firm and therefore every ripple can be felt on bad road surfaces. On speed bumps, the Yaris can jump if it does not slow down sufficiently. This pronounced character is partly explained by the setup of the test car. It is on the largest possible rim size (17-inch) with lots of metal and little rubber. Base versions are on smaller rims and also have a modified suspension. Then the Yaris enjoys the stable and safe handling that the platform gives, but there is more room for comfort.
Is the new Toyota Yaris as exciting as it looks? Yes, without a doubt. With the fourth generation, the Yaris is no longer a good yet unremarkable city car. The new Yaris has a distinct design and couples that with distinct driving characteristics (depending on the chosen trim level). Handling is lively and dynamic, which gives a lot of driving pleasure.
At the same time, the Yaris is a sensible choice thanks to its hybrid drive. This makes the car quick, quiet and economical. During a test drive in favourable conditions, the Yaris Hybrid was even more economical than any other (hybrid) car in this segment. The equipment is modern, with lots of attention to safety. Thus, although the Yaris is a tad naughty, it is still as thoughtful and familiar as any other Toyota.
- Distinctive design
- Excellent driving characteristics
- Quick and economical thanks to hybrid drive
- Poor space in the back
- Poor visibility due to wide C-pillar
- Many warnings, but not always clear why