Toyota Yaris Review 2021 | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

Toyota Yaris

£ 13,315 - £ 20,834
Published: 12 Aug 2020
Efficient, interesting looking and updated inside, but the Yaris remains forgettable to drive

Good stuff

A supremely efficient and acceptable looking supermini

Bad stuff

Cheap plastics and the CVT gearbox let it down, forgettable to drive


What is it?

Nobody buys small cars anymore, right? Well, not exactly. Toyota may have recently pulled the covers off the jumped-up, plastic-arch clad Yaris Cross, but it still expects its smaller sibling of the same name to make waves in Europe. In 2019 alone it sold 224,000 third-generation cars on the continent, taking a 7.6 per cent share of the B-segment market in the process. That’s not bad form at all considering the rivals – the Renault Clio, Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta are all guaranteed sellers on our shores. 

Now, in another show of support for the small hatch, the Yaris has been redesigned from the ground up for its fourth generation. It’s a good-looking thing isn’t it? The folded rear end and the optional two-tone paint job (£1,180 in pearlescent form) mean it’s recognisably Toyota, and you’ll spend most of your time behind the wheel looking at those swollen rear arches in the wing mirrors. Nice.

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It’s based on an all-new, 37 per cent stiffer compact car platform known internally as GA-B – essentially a downsized version of the GA-C platform used for the latest CH-R and Corolla – which has also allowed Toyota to make it 5mm shorter than the outgoing model, though the wheelbase has grown by 50mm and the whole car is 50mm wider and 40mm lower. 

That means the old Yaris seating position, which was presumably inspired by the Routemaster, is no longer present either. Here you sit 60mm further back compared to the previous generation, and the hip point is over 2cm lower too. 

In the UK we’ll only get one powertrain to choose from (if you discount the totally reinvented GR Yaris as we’ll have to here) as the Yaris follows a heap of other Toyota products in going hybrid only. So, propulsion here comes from a 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine connected to a small lithium-ion battery and an electric motor for a total output of 114bhp and 89lb ft of torque. Said power is sent to the front wheels only through our old friend – the e-CVT gearbox. 

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Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

Efficient, interesting looking and updated inside, but the Yaris remains forgettable to drive

In fairness, if you drive this latest generation how a Yaris should be driven (i.e. how your nan drives) then it’s a more than acceptable mode of transport that can be quiet, efficient and – thanks to very eager active systems – safe.

Unfortunately, it’s once you start to get a move on that things get a little messy and your confidence in the dynamics dwindles. It’s never going to be the most exciting or engaging thing to drive and couldn’t stack up to the Fiesta in that regard. 

But then again, if you want something that looks like this and is a little more memorable to be behind the wheel of, then you’d be best getting your name down for a GR. That’s surely what the madcap four-wheel drive Yaris was built for, and the more people that buy that thing the better.

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