► First drive in the 2017 facelifted Yaris
► No more diesels, or three-door models
► We test the new VVT-iE 1.5 petrol engine
Given the levels of visual stimulation and appeal offered by Toyota's C-HR, it's interesting to speculate on how an all-new Yaris might look.
For the time being, however, we must make do with this European driven, £76 million facelift which includes over 900 new parts, the vast majority of which appear to have an entirely Garbo-esque attitude to the limelight.
Bolstered by the Yaris' status as the only model range offering a full hybrid variant to the busy-as-a-B-segment, those 900 parts aspire to lift Toyota's hatch above the fourth place it currently occupies in the sales charts, behind the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and VW Polo.
I am the Walrus
Immediately noticeable are new nose and tail treatments, the former asking us to recognise 'catamaran' hulls either side of grille styling that would more than pass muster on Freddie Mercury's upper lip.
A revised grade structure includes a new Bi-tone option which not only awards the car a black roof finish, but also visually enhances the interior through colour coding of dashboard elements and upholstery to the exterior paint. Works well, too.
Gone from the shopping list are any three-door variants, and also the 1.4-litre diesel engine. In the interests of kowtowing to the forthcoming Euro 6c emissions standard and RDE (Real driving Emission) homologation requirements, the rather engaging 1.33 litre petrol engine has also vanished, now replaced by a new 1.5 litre petrol unit which, we're told, has nothing to do with that already comprising a component of the hybrid powertrain. In what is now an all-petrol sponsored line-up, the enthusiastic 1.0 litre thee-pot remains.
Being humorously rev happy in the manner of most such units, it will also remain impossible for most mortals not to push it hard enough to destroy all hope of ever landing on the same continent as that in which the quoted fuel economy and emissions figures reside.
From an engineering perspective, the longest list of revisions is reserved for the hybrid model because these customers – who account for a third of all Yaris buyers in the UK – wanted a better driving experience.
So, whilst the new 1.5-litre variant must settle for just new engine mounts and retuned dampers, the hybrid further benefits from enhancements to the front subframe, anti-roll bars, driveshafts and electric power steering.
Click here to read CAR's review of the pre-facelift Toyota Yaris Hybrid
So, is the 1.5 litre unit the pick of the bunch, then?
Erm... On paper, it constitutes a significant improvement over the 1.33 litre unit. It's nearly a second quicker to 62mph. Allied to a water-cooled exhaust manifold, its ability to swap between Otto and Atkinson cycles makes it 12% less thirsty. And it boasts a 38.5% thermal efficiency. Thing is, however, it isn't particularly joyous to use.
If you wish to avail yourself of the 110bhp available, you'll have to push the engine all the way round the rev band to the point where noise becomes unpleasantly intrusive. For this reason, Toyota's rev-hounding CVT transmission is not an appropriate bedfellow. The six-speed manual transmission makes a better fist of quieter progress, but this remains an engine which doesn't reward a damned good thrashing. It doesn’t help matters that it feels even slower than the claimed 11-second 0-62mph time.
All of which makes it easy to speculate that even more buyers will now be steering towards the hybrid variant as a first choice.
At least the Hybrid's quiet, eh?
Yes, unless you push it, in which case - despite successive generations of Toyota's hybrid technology aiming for a closer match between engine revs and acceleration - those CVT-sponsored High Chaparral reruns start airing under the bonnet.
Take things easy and the experience is indeed largely smooth and pleasant, especially in an urban environment. Sadly, though, it's in just this environment where the overtly grabby nature of the regeneration system-accompanied brakes comes to the fore.
Lifting off the pedal as the car comes to a stop in the manner of a well-taught chauffeur will alleviate this issue to a point, but does require a fearsome degree of concentration unbecoming of the rest of the hybrid driving experience.
Whilst we're on the subject of quiet, despite the NVH attention lavished on the Yaris, the control over noise entering the cabin needs more work. Weight saving, though admirable, might perhaps be marginally sacrificed in the interests of better sound insulation.
Engine noise penetrating the cabin verges on the excessive at high revs in both the 1.5-litre car and the Hybrid. Wind noise levels are pretty high from the door mirrors, in fact the whole door area in general, and anything loose on the road surface clatters into the wheel arches with such a racket one suspects there's no insulation in there at all.
And how does it handle?
On a launch test route that did much to demonstrate how agreeably the Dutch live and very little to tax the Yaris dynamically, it's hard to say. Without further time behind the wheel, we would certainly shy away from attempting to identify the dynamic differences wrought by the hybrid's extra engineering over the conventionally powered versions.
Suffice it say, though, that the helm is perfectly accurate, and pleasingly light for low speed manoeuvring and parking duties. As speeds build, however, the level of communication it offers the driver does not.
Grip levels, too, seem respectable, and body control through corners is acceptable rather than admirable. Lob in a manual gear change that isn't the slickest in the segment and a near-infuriating clutch and this isn't a car which promises greater engagement or entertainment the harder you press it in the manner of a Ford Fiesta.
Ride quality, on the other hand, should satisfy most owners. The Yaris behaves itself respectably in the urban environment, and sleeping policemen are despatched with reasonable aplomb. But the body's propensity to fidget does rise at higher speeds, and, as a motorway cruiser, the Toyota, though not uncomfortably so, never feels as well-planted as a Polo or Fiesta.
Life on board...
...is largely wholesome. The driving position is somewhat hampered by rather limited reach adjustment to the steering. This does mean that one has to sit rather upright to get a good grip on the wheel. A pity, because otherwise the seats are comfortable enough.
Sitting behind yourself in the back there's sufficient legroom and plenty of headroom despite the stepped, stadium-style raised rear seat base level. There's adequate loadspace too, beneath a gently flimsy parcel shelf.
Key entry-grade standard equipment includes Toyota Safety Sense (now standard on all Yaris versions), an active safety package featuring a Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Warning and Automatic High Beam, as well as rain-sensing wipers, power front windows, Bluetooth and a six-speaker DAB audio system. Hybrid models also feature automatic air-conditioning and projector headlamps.
One grade step up adds new 15" alloy wheels, cruise control, air-conditioning, a 4.2" colour multi-information screen, the Toyota Touch 2 multimedia system and a rear view camera. The Toyota Safety Sense features are also expanded to include Road Sign Assist.
Visual and tactile and build quality is certainly not an issue, and the instrumentation and switchgear layout is generally very good. We say ‘generally’, because the touch screen has a real problem with glare. It either needs a cowl or re-angling so that it's easier to read. On a bright day, the navigation screen can be something of a struggle to understand.
Navigation instruction itself is also somewhat slow; on every variant we tested the location on the map was a little behind reality, and the onboard voice regularly called turns after they had happened.
The affordability premise of Toyota's Touch 2 infotainment system is entirely laudable, but the system itself is a little let down by a slow response speed, and by the absence of posher smartphone integration as offered by the likes of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
With a current model range clearly more biased towards sense and sensibility than smear and smile, we'll have to wait for the arrival of the Gazoo Racing-inspired GRMN armed with a 205bhp supercharged 1.8-litre engine to see how the Yaris fares as genuine hot hatch material.
In the meantime, this revised Yaris does enough to hold its position in the B-segment's highly-competitive pecking order without shining in any particular department. But it is starting to feel somewhat pricey in anything other than entry level guise, and whether enough has been done to move it up the order remains to be seen.
Check out all of our Toyota reviews