► Yaris ‘Design’ gets ‘wrap-around roof’ option
► We test 1.33 petrol; hybrid and diesel also available
► Worth picking over a Polo or a Fiesta?
The words ‘design’ and ‘Toyota’ aren’t exactly the most natural bedfellows – the classic 2000 GT excepted – but nonetheless, here they are brought together on the range-topping Yaris specification. Yes, this car is called the Toyota Yaris Design; it replaces the preceding Yaris Sport, which was perhaps equally unlikely.
We’re testing it with the 1.33-litre petrol; at £14,995 this is the cheapest engine choice in Design line-up. Given the alternatives are a 1.4-litre diesel and the hybrid, it’s also the most appealing.
What kind of excuse have they come up with for the name then?
In an effort to emphasise the angry-looking front end treatment copied over from the Aygo, the Yaris Design is available with an Eclipse Black metallic ‘wrap-around roof’ finish. This carries on the top of the scowl from the headlights, up the front wings and into the windscreen pillars. Said blackout also takes in the top of the grille and door mirrors.
Note the use of ‘available’ – it’s a £795 option only offered in combination with Vermillion Red or Glacier Pearl White paint. Which means slightly more reticent types can do without it. Though we think it looks rather striking. For a Yaris.
Putting the Bi-Colour option to one side, all Design customers get a roof spoiler and 16-inch black alloys with machine-polished faces as standard.
Sounds thrilling. What’s it like to drive?
A lot less baggy than you might expect. The steering is quite direct, it grips well and there’s not much body roll, all of which lends the Yaris an air of determination that we’re not often used to experiencing in Toyota’s run-of-the-mill machinery. It isn’t as joyous as a Fiesta, by any means, but you feel that you could easily keep pace with the Ford cross-country – assuming you’re prepared to get acquainted with the Toyota’s redline.
The little 1.33 doesn’t offer any particular objection to this – it’s a revvy thing, which commendably avoids sounding thrashy – but don’t equate such accommodation with performance. The engine produces 98bhp but a comparatively meagre 92lb ft of torque at 4000rpm; you can buy a Fiesta 1.0T with an equivalent power output and price that produces 125lb ft at just 1400rpm, meaning you won’t have to work it so hard to make spirited progress.
The Toyota also suffers from a notchy gearshift action, slightly sticky steering weighting – though this is an improvement over the vacuous over-assisted feel of previous Yarii – and a busy ride. This gets smoother as you go faster, but as soon as the surface deteriorates you’ll start to notice it again.
What’s the Yaris like on the inside?
There’s no getting away from it: the Yaris’s interior is plasticky – in a much more plasticky way than, say, a Polo or even a Fiesta. There’s nothing especially wrong with the quality (the lack of rattles when dialling up the really rather decent stereo attests to that), but the oddly biological-looking design puts us rather too much in mind of a David Cronenberg film; the sinewy tops to the front door panels, for example, are just weird.
Standard equipment is generous, with ‘Touch 2’ touchscreen, reversing camera, DAB radio, Bluetooth and cruise control amongst what’s included. Our car was fitted with the optional Toyota Safety Sense package, including pre-collision alert, automatic high beam and lane departure warning – the sorts of things you’re dismayed to find fitted to a supermini, until you attempt to input an address into the equally optional satnav add-on to the fiddly touchscreen and the lane departure warning saves you from unintentionally inputting into a central reservation.
Impressive rear legroom is tempered slightly by the limited headroom. The major secondary controls, such as those for the air conditioning, are a little pokey but easy to understand; less so the steering wheel buttons, which, in an oversight that left us feeling short-changed, lack any form of illumination.
The latest Yaris is by no means a bad car, and this combination of power unit and specification almost conspires to muster a little sparkle. But you still get an overwhelming sense of ‘that’ll do’ about the overall package.
It ought to make a no-nonsense, reliability-is-key used buy in about five years’ time, but if you’re looking for cheap thrills you should still head to Ford – just as those with delusions of grandeur remain best served by Volkswagen.