Test drive: Toyota Yaris SR 1.33 CVT Auto

Test drive: Toyota Yaris SR 1.33 CVT Auto

The TotallyMotor Verdict


You might remember the Toyota Yaris as an altogether more cute ‘n’ cuddly little supermini with a friendly face and curves galore. Good space inside, a reasonable price; tough Toyota reliability, and that aforementioned cheeky character, bought Yaris sales success and a building reputation.

Well, times have changed, and so has Yaris, in the face of stiffer competition from a multitude of other manufacturers. Cute still cuts it in supermini-world, but new car buyers want even more in terms of inner space, high-style fit and finish and, of course, the very sippingest of modern engines. 

Yaris for 2012 is all grown up; bigger than ever; still with that focus on generous inner space and dependable value. But, depending on your personal taste in cars, the cuteness is replaced by a sterner, more businesslike face of Toyota modernity. So, is it good business as usual in terms of everything else, from the latest Yaris? 

Test drive: Toyota Yaris SR 1.33 Auto

First impressions:
What a difference a decade makes; from small and rounded to bigger and bolder, the new Toyota Yaris – in £14,835 near-top-spec SR trim here – packs and altogether more serious visual punch these days; towing the Toyota family design language line. (Compare it to the Toyota Auris Hybrid, for example).

Large, upswept headlights flank a single-bar, brand-badge-dominated front grille that between them mark an upwards march through this TotallyMotor test car’s four passenger doors and into a high shoulderline and squarely truncated rear end. It’s a tall, modern-looking sharp-shape that best boosts interior space – and gives a more elevated view of the road ahead – and while it might not make you say “ahhh” as much as the original Yaris shape; it certainly impressed upon me a look of solid and well-finished design. 

The deep coat of Burning Red metallic paint no doubt adds a touch of extra class, for an extra £450.

Into the interior:
There are four trim levels for your new Yaris; T2, TR, SR and T Spirit, and this radiant red tester you see here is the near-top SR spec with a starting price of £14,835. The metallic paint is extra, but other than that; what you see in our location pics is what you’ll get down at the Toyota dealer. The latest Toyota sat-nav / multimedia screen nestled in this here dash, called Touch and Go, is currently a zero cost option until the end of November 2011. Just so you know. 

So, in SR trim we get, as standard, 16-inch 7-spoke alloys in a dark chrome finish, manual air-con, that 6.1-inch colour touchscreen, 6-speaker multimedia unit (with handy reversing camera), partial leather seating and lowered sports suspension, plus lots of dress-up touches sprinkled liberally inside and out. Testing the new sat-nav to avoid a jam revealed a good level of intuitive usability, and a quick and clear route around said snarl-up. 

There's plenty of inner cabin space to be found in this latest Yaris, thanks to its bigger than ever footprint and tall roofline, and I did find an airy feel around me and a solid feel to the build quality on first landing in the subtly detailed, pleasingly designed driver’s seat.

Driver’s leg and knee room is good and while the idea is that a higher seating position improves road visibility ahead, I like to sit low in the car, and could’ve used an inch or two more on the downward drop of the seat adjustment. The same goes for steering wheel rake adjustment, but I’m a fair touch taller than the average driver. The seating is quite firm and leans more towards long-distance comfort that overly-supportive bolstering. Rear passenger room is near very-class-best, and while the boot is nipped a little either side by the rear suspension turrets, it is practically large. 

The leather-wrapped steering wheel is pleasant to hold – and behold – and syncs nicely with the heavily-shrouded, red-needled and red-lit sports dials. There’s more red-stitched black leather on the gear shifter, too. 

While the space and build quality boxes get a solid tick inside the new Yaris, during sunny spells I did spot the ghost of a reflection in the windscreen from the “brushed aluminium” finish plastic on the dashboard top. I thought it was road dirt and zapped it with the very well-engineered single windscreen wiper – with in-blade water wash system – only to find that it was a sun-bounced reflection. But, fear not, it’s not that sunny that often in good ol’ Blighty! 

The drive:
I like the sound of the SR’s lowered sports suspension, and the 98bhp, 1.33-litre petrol motor should be pretty peppy, but I wasn’t so sure how a lower and sportier ride would work with the cruise-ready CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic gearbox. However, initial grace was saved with the appearance of an up and down paddle on each side of the steering wheel giving a manual gateway to a box of six ratios. 

A CVT gearbox basically means that the engine gets the most opportunity to spin at a lower speed for fuel economy, or is “locked” at higher revs (where it’ll make its best power) to provide as much grunt as possible during full throttle acceleration. 

In “ECO” mode – as highlighted by a green ECO light on the dash, and at say 50mph, the motor is quietly cruising at just 1500rpm. Floor it and the tacho needle will sit at a rather raucous 6000rpm as the motor pumps with all its might. Things are a little sluggish until around 3000rpm when the Yaris will start to pick up quickly enough, and it really lets loose over 4000rpm when the peak, 125Nm torque hits home. 109mph is yours at the top-end. 

Using the gearbox as a manual doesn’t slash time off the 12.3secs to 62mph sprint time, but it does give you the option to hang onto the gear of your choice when attacking bends with gusto, with the surprisingly quick-shifting paddles clicking up and down the six manual speeds at your finger’s command. And when you hit the unfortunately inevitable traffic jam, the smooth, eco-focused auto ‘box does the seamless shifting for you. It’s a good compromise if your Yaris – like this one did on our week-long test – spends much of its time in tailbacks. 

The in-dash mpg-metre read, on average, around the 45mpg mark in, to be fair, some pretty heavy commute-biased driving, and the tailpipe-price for this perky petrol motor is 121g/km, which just nudges into road tax band D at £95 per year. 

The sport suspension is indeed firm and sporty; just the way I like it, and while very rough surfaces can get a little jiggy inside the Yaris, its pointy front-end grip and pretty much zero body-roll more than made up for the odd pothole jar. This Yaris felt on its toes and eager to please, with corner-grip aplenty. 

Ten second sum up:
The all-new Toyota Yaris still enjoys impressive levels of inner space and overall good value appeal, and also gets a little extra eco-focus on fuel economy. The cute looks may have been ironed out in line Toyota’s latest family styling; replaced by sharp and modern lines, and perhaps shifting the Yaris more into the realms of a head-purchase, rather than a heart purchase. But, when economic times are tough, it's the head that rules the heart; looking after the pennies and the pounds. 

Prices and availability:
The Toyota Yaris range starts at £11,170 for the entry-level T2 model, rising to £14,385 for the rage-topping T Spirit model. Price as tested, £14,835 (plus metallic paint at £450), for the Yaris SR 5-door. Available now. 


Words & pics: Daniel Anslow

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